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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2004

Schumer Announces Support For New Fast Ferry Plan; “It’s Now Or Never”

Schumer praises the Mayor's Australian-backed proposal to get ferry back up and running and asks CATS to drop opposition to new plan Schumer urges Council to vote for approval and pledges any help possible from Washington

Standing outside Rochester's Fast Ferry terminal, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today declared his support for Mayor William Johnson's new plan to revive Rochester to Toronto ferry service, and pledged to provide whatever federal help is possible. Schumer praised Mayor Johnson’s Australian-backed proposal to get the ferry running again and urged CATS to drop its opposition to the new plan.

“This plan puts us back on track to restart the engine of the Rochester fast ferry and I’m going to do all that I can to see that it succeeds,” Schumer said. “Now is the time to get the ferry back up and running and I hope that all parties involved will support the plan and move it through quickly. It may not feel like it when you look at your thermostat, but the busy summer season will be here before you know it and with everyone’s support we can bring ferry service back to Rochester by that time.”

This fall, Schumer encouraged the top official at Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC), the Australian lender that will lead the city’s new finance plan for the fast ferry, to work out a plan that would allow the fast ferry to regain its financial viability. Last week, Mayor Johnson announced that he has developed a finance plan that EFIC will back for the return of Fast Ferry service to Rochester.

CATS, the American company that operated the ferry, abruptly suspended operation of the ferry in September. The ferry, which made two round trips daily between Rochester and Toronto, received rave reviews from passengers. However, CATS cited Canadian customs costs, pilotage fees, and the lack of a permanent terminal in Toronto as reasons for suspending service. This fall when Schumer talked to Angus Armour, the Managing Director of EFIC, the Australian lender that loaned CATS the money to build the ship, he encouraged the lender to work out a deal that would get the ferry back up and running. EFIC's mission is to increase Australia's exports by providing internationally competitive finance services to their clients. They work in a similar fashion to the US's Export-Import Bank.

Last week Mayor Johnson announced that such a finance deal with the backing of EFIC has been reached. The plan now goes to the City Council for approval. Schumer today encouraged Rochester City Council to act swiftly to approve the plan and said that he would provide whatever help and support is necessary from Washington. Schumer also urged CATS to drop its opposition to the new plan, saying that the company should back the Mayor’s plan so that the ferry can resume operation.

“CATS deserves our gratitude for bringing Rochester the fast ferry, but unfortunately their system just wasn’t working. And when something’s not working you have to fix it for the good of Rochester,” Schumer said. “The Mayor has put forth a well thought out and financially sound plan and I hope that CATS and the rest of the City Council will get behind this plan so we can get the fast ferry up and running again as quickly as possible.”

Schumer has long been an advocate for a successful fast ferry in Rochester. Schumer has weighed in with federal customs officials on issues ranging from truck transport to staffing. He has helped to secure $6.6 million for the ferry project, including $4.5 million from the 2002 federal Ferry Boat Discretionary Fund that was used for infrastructure improvements to the river wall, the terminal, and the area around the terminal.

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