It was a dream come true for Staten Island when the very first NYC Ferry “fast ferry” docked in St. George a few weeks ago. It was our borough’s first new ferry connection in more than half a century. How appropriate that the vessel was named “Dreamboat.”
Finally, a true five-borough NYC Ferry system. It was a long road to get here, and I’m not talking about the hours of endless traffic many Staten Islanders sit in as we endure some of the longest commutes in the country — on average more than 40-45 minutes each way. But this should be only the beginning of connecting our transit-starved borough.
The other boroughs got to sample what Staten Island travelers regularly endure when Hurricane Ida recently flooded the subway system and forced them to find alternative transit. Thankfully, though, our fast ferry was up and running the morning right after the storm, along with the other routes within the system. Ferries are critical to New York City’s resiliency and recovery, as was noted in the City’s 2018/2019 NYC Ferry feasibility report.
Ferry transportation is also important as we continue to battle COVID, including the more contagious Delta variant. With a capped capacity, ferries allow for appropriate social distancing and even provide some outdoor seating.
This new transit route brings a much-needed boost for our local businesses, including the City’s first and only outlet mall on Staten Island’s North Shore. It offers the 250,000+ people who have begun to trickle back into Times Square a quick and efficient way to get there, and to experience some of the crown jewels of Staten Island arts, culture, and parkland, including our historic St. George Theatre, Snug Harbor, the Postcards 9/11 Memorial, a ballpark, and so much more.
It also offers Staten Island residents a welcome way to get directly to the heart of Midtown Manhattan to visit all the art, culture, and entertainment there.
As a next step, we should look to increase ferry service. A way to start would be to undo the wrongs of the past and restore a ferry connection between Staten Island and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which would conveniently connect to other ferry lines and the subways. This simple addition would be a step in the right direction toward some parity in travel costs for Staten Islanders.
At $2.75 per ride on the fast ferry, some travelers could avoid paying up to $20 roundtrip over the Verrazzano Bridge or $13 for a roundtrip express bus ride. And, as City agencies have cited, the more connections we have, the lower the cost per rider. Then, there’s the added bonus of potentially taking some cars off our over-burdened roads.
We have to connect the dots. Let’s continue to expand ferry service on Staten Island.
Linda Baran is the president and CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.