NYC Ferry’s LES route opens as de Blasio mulls adding service to other neighborhoods

New York City commuters may see more ferry options in the future.

After the sixth and final NYC Ferry route launched Wednesday — the LES route — Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will be deciding this year about potentially adding NYC Ferry service to other parts of the city.

“Now we have big decisions ahead about other parts of the city, and there’s a lot of parts of the city that want ferry service,” de Blasio said at a news conference where he did not take questions from reporters. “So you’re in the lucky first wave. There’s a lot of places that want it as well. We’ll be making those decisions by the end of the year.”

The LES route connects Long Island City to the Lower East Side and the Financial District, at Wall Street/Pier 11, with stops at East 34th Street, Stuyvesant Cove and Corlears Hook. First-day commuters from the Lower East Side welcomed the new commuting option in what they described as an area poorly serviced by mass transit.

“We had mixed feelings about this route and the new people it would bring into the community,” said Axia Torres, of the South Street East River Community Development Corp. “But we could use another option. You have to take the bus to the train or walk to the train, and it’s a heck of a walk to the train.”

Elyse Mallouk, who was catching a boat from the new Corlears Hook pier, appreciated the service because it makes her atypical work commute easier. She lives in the Lower East Side and works in Greenpoint.

“It’s not easy to get from the Lower East Side to Greenpoint. If I took the subway, it would take two trains and maybe over an hour,” Mallouk said. “This is a little faster, but you get to spend the time on the water and not in the frantic subways.”

The mayor was vague on details as to where new ferry service could run, though elected officials in areas like Coney Island and Canarsie have sought their own NYC Ferry service. And officials in Staten Island, which was originally included in the mayor’s first wave of NYC Ferry service, have also long called for better ferry connection to the southern part of the borough.

As the mayor has touted his new ferries as a means to better connect areas like Red Hook and Rockaway, transportation advocates and experts have criticized the service for its high subsidy and low capacity. Most boats accommodate 150 riders, about as many as can fit in one car of a subway train. And while the service is priced at $2.75, the subsidy per rider is $6.60, much more than the $1.29 subsidy per rider for the subways and $3.58 for local bus service.

Still, the mayor believes he’s struck a chord with New Yorkers not well served by the existing mass transit system and expects that NYC Ferry service could serve 9 million riders per year by 2023.

“The beginning, this first phase, literally went beyond our wildest dreams,” de Blasio said. “When we started, it was again just an idea. We had to go figure out if it would work. What we found is it worked better than anyone imagined and people like it more than we even knew.”

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