NYC Ferry regularly had to cancel trips because of issues with its piers that closed dozens of times in recent months, an amNewYork Metro analysis has found.
A review of NYC Ferry’s notices of landing closures on Twitter revealed that pier closures occurred on 47 days in the past six months, or more than every four days across its network of 25 stops.
That’s on top of the constant suspension of the Greenpoint landing in Brooklyn, which, unlike the other stops, is private property. This stop has been out of commission since May and won’t be fully repaired until at late June, according to its owner Lendlease.
The most common cause was generically described in the social media posts as a “mechanical issue,” which accounted for 35 closures, or nearly three-quarters of cases.
Service Alert – DUMBO Landing Closure – 1/30/22
Due to a mechanical issue, the DUMBO ferry landing is suspended until further notice. During this time, all ferry services on the East River and South Brooklyn routes will bypass the DUMBO landing in both directions.
— NYC Ferry (@NYCferry) January 30, 2022
The NYC Ferry account did not consistently post when service was restored on its Twitter page, but data provided by EDC showed that 85% of mechanical issue closures were resolved in less than three hours.
Ten cases were due to “extremely high winds,” and all boat service stopped during the Jan. 29 winter storm.
“NYC Ferry is a complex network of vessels and landings subject to severe weather conditions, which are monitored at all times and maintained with ongoing inspections and repairs when needed,” said EDC spokesman Brian Zumhagen in a statement.
“Weather-related outages are considered important operational decisions that place safety first. With this said, NYC Ferry regrets disruptions to service, and in each instance, our operations teams have moved as quickly as possible to repair any issues,” the rep added.
The Astoria landing in Queens had the most closures and was shut down 10 times due to electrical outages — all of them in January. The frequent outages there were first reported by Patch.
“I heard it was out but I thought it was because of the weather,” said local Effie Hegazy as she was about to board a boat to Manhattan Tuesday morning.
Another area resident, Mary Olm, said she rides the ferry about three times a week and noticed an issue with one of the pier’s two walkways, where yellow tape cordoned off the front end of that plank.
She said there had been issues “for two weeks” and speculated that the cold weather was causing the retractable pathways to freeze, and that she had seen ferry workers have to manually roll them out.
The Queens local still said she prefers the boats over the city’s subways and buses.
“It’s very clean, the people [working on the ferries] are very nice,” said Olm. “It isn’t so crowded, that’s what I like about it.”
Zumhagen said the EDC is “working diligently to diagnose the cause and identify a permanent solution” for Astoria.
The heavily-subsidized waterborne transit service is run by private operator Hornblower and overseen by the city’s quasi-public business boosting arm, the Economic Development Corporation.
Among the other piers with frequent outages were some the EDC recently opened or renovated, such as the St. George stop on Staten Island’s North Shore, which debuted in August connecting to Manhattan’s West Side as part of a $44 million expansion, but has since had to close down six times.
The South Williamsburg pier in Brooklyn has closed seven times, despite getting a $6.7 million makeover in July, as well as DUMBO, which shuttered five times after a $4.7 million revamp in June.
The brand new piers needed time to adjust to their upgraded electrical equipment, according to EDC.
The Roosevelt Island stop was out for four days in a row due to mechanical issues starting on Jan. 8, and the Bay Ridge jetty was closed six times, but mostly due to strong winds blowing through its exposed location.
Councilmember Lincoln Restler, who represents the Brooklyn waterfront from Greenpoint to Brooklyn Bridge Park — including six ferry stops — said the outages were a “real cause for concern.”
“I’m going to reach out to EDC on what the heck is going on,” said Restler. “Because if the city is going to invest real money in the operations of these piers, like we recently did at South Williamsburg and DUMBO, then we deserve reliable service.”
“We need to provide real oversight to make sure that each and every pier is safely maintained,” he added.
The ferry system has expanded over the past year to include the new Staten Island route — taking off right next to the iconic and free Staten Island Ferry — Throggs Neck in the Bronx, and daily trips to Governors Island.
Another pier is slated to come to Coney Island Creek in southern Brooklyn later this year.
The pricey transit operation was a pet project of former-Mayor Bill de Blasio, who sent a $23 million infusion of funds to the EDC at the end of last year to keep the system afloat amid sunken ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City reported.
EDC’s board in December approved up to $62 million in spending, including sourcing from tax dollars from the first time, according to the news site. EDC previously financed the ferry through proceeds from its real estate holdings like Times Square.
Every $2.75 ride on the boats is subsidized by $8.59 of public funds, compared to $5.46 per trip on the Staten Island Ferry, which is run by the separate Department of Transportation.
The EDC’s service has drawn criticism for its steep cost and the fact that it predominantly serves wealthier whiter areas of the city, and former Comptroller Scott Stringer has called on DOT to take over the ferries for more transparency.