City suspends ferry service at Brooklyn stop after private owner restricts pier access

Photo by Todd Maisel

Ferry service has returned to Greenpoint on Monday after a 36-hour hiatus that began when the jetty’s new private owner restricted access to the boats, according to officials.

“Unfortunately access has been restricted by the new owner of the pier. We are working diligently to resolve the issue,” said a rep for the ferry service in an Oct. 18 tweet signed off with the letter “M.”

Officials with the maritime transit system posted an alert online that service to the north Brooklyn stop at India and West streets will be suspended until further notice.

“Due to temporary restrictions to the Greenpoint pier, ferry service to and from the Greenpoint landing will be suspended until further notice. We will post updates on http://ferry.nyc and the NYC Ferry app when service will resume. We apologize for any inconvenience,” the post read

But when some unsuspecting straphangers arrived at the ferry stop for their waterborne commute Monday morning, they were left stranded at the shore as a ferry passed them by without docking. A boat worker then shouted about the closure from aboard the vessel, according to a video captured by local Councilman Steve Levin’s staffer and 2021 candidate for his seat, Elizabeth Adams. 

“Greenpoint @NYCferry stop out of commission ‘indefinitely’ [because] the developer sold the property. This isn’t how public transit functions,” Adams wrote in the Oct. 19 tweet. “And here’s how commuters are being notified this morning: from a boat operater [sic] calling out to people as the ferry goes by. Seriously @NYCEDC?”

Construction and development multinational Lendlease bought the waterfront lot at the pier at 18 India St. for $110.8 million in cash on Oct. 7, with plans to build a mixed use apartment building with 800 rental units, according to property records and a report by The Real Deal. The developer could not be reached for further comment on the service outage.

While service was shut off, the EDC had deployed shuttle buses bringing riders to the next ferry stop in Queens, according to an agency rep. 

By Monday afternoon, when service had returned, several locals had slammed both the EDC and Lendlease for the the snafu, including one Council candidate who suggested the city should take control of the pier. 

Another local politico and nearby resident slammed bureaucrats for failing to secure rights to dock and called on officials to make sure the situation doesn’t happen at any other stops. 

“It seems like an absurdly stupid mistake made by the city,” said Stu Sherman, a candidate for the local council seat who lives a block away from the stop. “I think the city needs to review all the docks to see if this can happen with the other one’s suddenly without any warning.”

The quasi-public EDC — which contracts the ferry service out to the private operator Hornblower — didn’t provide information on how many of the ferry’s docks were privately-owned or could face similar sudden service interruptions if their properties changed hands. 

The Greenpoint stop has been a headache for years, with regular flooding forcing commuters to scale fences and build bridges out of construction barriers to get onto dry land, and when its ramp collapsed into the water in 2014.

The city has sunk tens of millions of dollars into the ferry system to keep it afloat, eating up large chunks of rent EDC collects on publicly-owned properties in Manhattan, The City reported.

A pet project which Mayor Bill de Blasio launched in 2017, taxpayers subsidize each $2.75 ride with about $9, according to calculations by the watchdog group Citizens Budget Commission, despite serving mostly well-heeled commuters living long wealthy waterfront areas. 

An executive for Lendlease responded Tuesday confirming they’d resolved the issue with Hornblower and apologized for the service interruption.

“After working collectively to resolve the issues at hand, Hornblower and Lendlease have resumed regular NYC Ferry services to and from Greenpoint,” said the company’s executive general manager for New York development, Melissa Burch, in a statement. “We apologize for any inconvenience that this interruption to NYC Ferry service caused for riders. We look forward to serving all New Yorkers throughout the NYC Ferry network as service resumes.”

This story has been updated to reflect the return of the ferry service on Monday afternoon.

This story first appeared on our sister publication brooklynpaper.com.