Locals float ideas for even more ferry routes

BY GABE HERMAN | Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City speech on Jan. 10 included an announcement of expanded NYC Ferry service, which received mostly positive feedback — but also some calls for expanded service to other parts of Manhattan that were not mentioned.

The 2020-21 expansion plan includes a Staten Island route that will connect to Battery Park City at Vesey St. and Midtown West at Pier 79, at W. 39 St., and a stop in Coney Island that will connect to Bay Ridge and then Pier 11 in the Wall St. area.

In announcing ferry expansions in his State of the City, de Blasio remarked, “Every day, millions of us lose minutes — sometimes hours — just getting to work or to school or wherever we have to be. It shouldn’t be this hard to get around in the greatest city in the world. And so we’re giving people more and better options.”

Along with new and expanded routes, the plan will see the city invest $100 million in the system, including for new boats, construction of new landings and investment in existing landings.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement about the expansion, “Our city’s ferries have proven to be a great alternate mode of transportation and a useful utilization of our waterfronts. I’m thrilled that ferry service is being expanded across the city, and that residents on the West Side will now have a direct link to Lower Manhattan and Staten Island. I want to thank the Economic Development Corporation and the administration for their commitment to expanding ferry service in the city.”

There have been some calls in Manhattan for NYC Ferry to expand more to the West Side, which is less represented in the system even as the service expands to all five boroughs.

“What about West Siders that want a watery commute — why no connection to Wall St.?” tweeted Jeffrey LeFrancois, the Meatpacking District Business Improvement District’s director of operations and community affairs.

LeFrancois, who was Johnson’s former chief of staff, recalled his joy when the ferry system was first announced six years ago.

“Have been pushing since that day for lateral west side service in Manhattan,” he added. “Today we learned that fight will continue on behalf of neighborhoods that are undergoing tremendous development (Hudson Yards, 11th Ave. in Hell’s Kitchen, Hudson Square) with next to ZERO support coming via increased public transit. A connection from Pier 79 to Wall St. is a start, but not the real solution the west side needs to make transit more equitable for even more New Yorkers.” Also on Twitter, local Patrick Alba added about the ferry expansions, “Any plans to use the piers on west 125th in the future? There’s no westside love here.”

Pier 57 in Chelsea is being renovated, and along with outdoor public space and office space leased by Google, there will be a marina there. But the city was not specific in its plans for which existing landings citywide it might invest in going forward.

With the city proposing to close East River Park to protect it from flooding, local Naomi Schiller wrote on Twitter, “If the East River Park is shut down for 3 years or more to create coastal protection, NYC Ferry should run free trips from Corlears Hook and Stuy Cove to Governors Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park. People need parks!”

District Leader Daisy Paez, who represents the Lower East Side, replied, “I made that suggestion! I stand firm on having families from the LES taken to Governors Island. I will continue to press the issue.”

NYC Ferry ridership has generally increased since its May 2017 launch, with the third quarter of 2018, the most recent period for which there is data, having the highest ridership numbers yet, with more than 2 million total riders from July to September. The city just increased annual ridership projections for 2023 from 9 million to 11 million.

From the ferry system’s mid-2017 launch through September 2018, there have been 6.7 million total riders. An average weekday sees ridership around 21,000. For comparison, 5.5 million people rode the subways in 2017 on an average weekday, and the daily number for the same span is 1.9 million for buses.

While ferry admission is the same $2.75 as for subways and buses, the city heavily subsidizes the ferry system and each ride has cost the city $8.96, according to Crain’s New York.

The ferry system operates with about a 90 percent on-time performance, according to city data, compared with the subway’s on-time rate being around 68 percent in 2018.

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