NYC Ferry docks under construction for two new routes opening this summer

NYC Ferry dock construction was discussed by Mayor Bill de Blasio at Corlears Hook on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018.
NYC Ferry dock construction was discussed by Mayor Bill de Blasio at Corlears Hook on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Photo Credit: Jim Staubitser

Four new docks are under construction as the city plans its NYC Ferry summer expansion into the Bronx and Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Mayor de Blasio announced Wednesday.

The mayor said the two new routes in the East River will help serve “historically isolated” neighborhoods, and continued to pitch the network as an antidote for crowded subways and streets — even though the ferry network is built to carry only a small fraction of city commuters each year.

“One of the central ideas of NYC Ferry was to open up opportunity; to connect people to jobs; to connect people to education; to give them a chance to get around their own city in ways they just don’t have right now,” de Blasio said near the construction of one of the docks for the new Lower East Side route, at Corlears Hook. “This is a great example of what we’re doing here on the Lower East Side.”

Both routes, called Soundview and Lower East Side, will come online at some point this summer as planned, the mayor said, though an exact date has not been set.

The Soundview route will make four stops at new and existing docks during what is expected to be a 54-minute journey from end to end: Clason Point, East 90th Street, East 34th Street, Wall Street/Pier 11. The Lower East Side route will make five stops during an approximately 32-minute trip: Long Island City, East 34th Street, Stuyvesant Town, Corlears Hook and Wall Street/Pier 11.

After the mayor’s event, he and others signed one of the construction piles that will be driven into the ground to help anchor the Corlears Hook dock in place. A few construction workers buzzed in the background.

“The ferry barge itself is actually built already and is being stored in Brooklyn. Right now we’re basically installing what are the anchor piles that will hold it in place,” said Tim Gallagher, project manager for Trevcom, a subcontractor for Skanska.

The city is spending $335 million to launch NYC Ferry, including an operating cost of $30 million per year to run the service, which is expected to carry four million riders annually — less than the equivalent of one day’s worth of trips taken on the subways, or about two days’ worth of local bus rides.

While the ferries have been popular, service has been somewhat spotty.

Last summer, NYC Ferry experienced frequent delays as the city and ferrys’ operator, Hornblower, grappled with much higher-than-expected demands during an aggressive launch that came with only five of 20 vessels, some yet to be built, delivered. Boats had to be chartered at additional costs. Eventually, the city decided to spend millions to alter its ferry order to build a few larger boats.

This winter, two boats ran aground in about a month’s span due to “human error” on the part of the captains, de Blasio said at the time. He did not take questions from the media Wednesday.

“You gotta look at the totality of something that’s now been going on quite a while and has a huge number of riders,” de Blasio said in December.