The city launched a new ferry service from Staten Island to Manhattan Monday, which for $2.75 per ride will ship commuters faster to Manhattan than the iconic, 116-year-old, and free Staten Island Ferry.
“We all know that one of the great icons of this city is the Staten Island Ferry, but we all know that Staten Islanders deserve more, more options, more places that you can get to by water,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio on Aug. 23 at the new St. George pier which lies about 1,000 feet from older ferry’s terminal.
The new route of NYC Ferry, which is run by the city’s quasi-public business-boosting arm the Economic Development Corporation, departs from St. George and takes 18 minutes crossing to Battery Park City and half an hour to get to Pier 79 at W. 39th Street near the Javits Center and Hudson Yards.
View from the new @NYCferry Staten Island route pic.twitter.com/cNN4oOGU0E
— Kevin Duggan (@kduggan16) August 23, 2021
Local pols praised the new transit option as a quick one-seat ride from Staten Island up the Hudson River and said it shaves about 20 minutes off commutes, compared to riders taking the original ferry and a subway.
“Today the citywide fast ferry system truly becomes a citywide fast ferry system,” said Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo.
The old and the new
Ferries have run between Staten Island and Manhattan since the 18th century and in 1905 the city’s Department of Docks seized municipal control over existing boat transport services. Fares started out as a nickel and rose to 50 cents until 1997, when then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani made it free for riders, including thousands of tourists who come to take in stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor.
The Department of Transportation now operates the famous boats which pre-pandemic carried some 25 million passengers a year on the 5.2-mile crossing between St. George and Whitehall near the Battery, which takes about 25 minutes.
The new NYC Ferry service is forecast to transport about 2 million riders annually, according to a 2018 feasibility study conducted by EDC to determine new routes.
Staten Island Ferries can carry between 1,107-5,200 passengers depending on the boat size, compared to NYC Ferry which has 150-350 seats on its vessels.
St. George is part of an ongoing $118 million expansion by NYC Ferry, a heavily subsidized four-year-old pet project of de Blasio’s. EDC plans to add more stops at Coney Island Creek in Brooklyn and Throggs Neck in the Bronx next.
According to the 2018 study, EDC projected the new route to cost $44 million to build and $13 million in annual operating costs. An EDC spokesman did not provide the final cost of the project by press time.
De Blasio wanted to tag the NYC Ferry fare to the price of a MetroCard swipe for the subways and buses, which are run by the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
However the ferry tickets don’t offer free transfers and the city pays almost $10 for each $2.75 boat ride to subsidize the trip, nearly double the $5.46 in taxpayer support for each free Staten Island Ferry ride.
What riders think
Staten Island commuters had mixed reviews of the new service, with one local saying it offers a solid alternative for those seeking a fast and easy ride.
“For me personally, it takes over an hour just to get into the city,” said Tasfia Ali aboard the original Staten Island Ferry Monday. “I got used to it, but for people who maybe don’t want to spend two hours or the hour getting into the city it’s a good option.”
Another waterborne commuter thought the city went overboard with the new boats given the existing public transit network.
“They can take this [the original ferry] and they’ll be in Manhattan already,” said Frank S. at Whitehall Terminal. “If they want to go the West Side, all they got to do is take the subway a few stops and that will be it.”
Another resident of the Rock, Gerardo Garcia, was boarding the new ferry with his girlfriend and kids and said he wanted to give it a try, but will probably keep using the free boat.
“They say it’s new and I think, ‘Let’s go different,’” he said. “I think I’m going to stick to the free one.”