The city is missing out on ferry opportunities in Coney Island and Canarsie, according to elected officials.
Politicians and community leaders rallied at the steps of City Hall Tuesday to bring NYC Ferry service to the two Brooklyn neighborhoods, which they say are underserved by mass transit.
“Understand the impact that [poor subway service] has on students, on working families, on seniors,” said Councilman Mark Treyger. “There are businesses that are hesitant to invest in our neighborhoods because of the transportation problems.”
State Sen. Diane Savino commended Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to bring ferry service to other underserved areas, like the Rockaways and Astoria, but she said the “transit deserts” of Coney Island and Canarsie deserve the same type of relief.
“It shouldn’t take two hours to get to work from Brooklyn,” Savino said. “The city needs to step forward and implement a real five borough ferry plan.”
The city’s EDC put out a call to all councilmembers representing waterfront districts in 2013, according to Baez, asking if the representatives would like the city to study ferry service in their areas. Coney Island was studied and a route from the neighborhood was originally included in the city’s plans. But building a landing in Coney Island’s shallow waters was deemed to be too difficult and costly, said Stephanie Baez, a spokeswoman for the Economic Development Corporation, which oversees NYC Ferry service. The councilman representing Canarsie at the time, Lew Fidler, did not request his district to be studied, according to Baez.
Fidler said in an email that "no staff member remembers being contacted by EDC" regarding NYC Ferry. He noted that he believes ferry service could be a "viable economic option" for Canarsie.
NYC Ferry launched this May, when it absorbed East River Ferry service and brought a new route to Rockaway, Queens. It’s since expanded to Bay Ridge and has plans to bring new routes to Astoria, Queens, the Bronx and the Lower East Side over the next year.
“Our plan has always been to successfully roll out phases 1 and 2, then analyze ridership data and landing capabilities to determine the feasibility of expanding to more communities,” Baez said. “The City is thrilled at the overwhelming response to our initial expansion of ferry service from 7 to 21 landings, and we are determined to deliver the best possible service for our current and future riders.”
Treyger believes it would be easier to implement ferry service than to score improvements through existing service through the MTA, a state agency.
“The ferry system is a system that does not need any Albany approval,” Treyger said. “It does not need any state approval. We don’t have to go through layers and layers of bureaucracy.”
The city is spending $335 million to launch NYC Ferry on top of an additional operating cost of $30 million per year. Last month, the service surpassed its 1 million rides milestone.