Councilman Vincent Gentile put out a press release yesterday commending Borough President Marty Markowitz for proposing the return and expansion of ferry service to the communities of Southern Brooklyn.
During his State of the Borough address from Brooklyn College Tuesday evening, Markowitz had stated that he intends to “push for the expansion of city ferry service to connect Manhattan to Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, the Canarsie Pier and the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge.”
In his own statement, Gentile included a brief history of the 69th Street pier – which had been rebuilt to accommodate ferry commuters and yet still sits idle:
Direct commuter ferry service in Bay Ridge ended when the deteriorating 69th Street Pier was closed back in the early 1990’s. The pier was rebuilt and completed by 1999. In 2003, $500,000 was placed into the city budget for Fiscal Year 2004 by Councilman Gentile and former Brooklyn Heights Councilman David Yassky specifically for the construction of a 20 x 30 foot ferry slip to be attached to the newly renovated pier. The effort was bolstered with a positive response from the Department of Transportation and the full support of Community Board 10 who unanimously voted to ask the city to release the $500,000 and build the ferry slip — what’s called a “spud barge” — and subsidize the new ferry service which boasted a 15 minute travel time from the 69th Street Pier to Wall Street’s Pier 11.
But just as quickly as momentum grew for the new ferry slip, it suddenly sputtered and came to a halt as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decided to pull its subsidy that helped operate another ferry service between Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks which left the N and R subway lines disrupted and roads into Manhattan heavily congested.
“I congratulate Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz for seeing the need to reconnect Manhattan to southwest Brooklyn via the water and I welcome him to the fight,” Councilman Gentile told Bensonhurst Bean. “I have been banging the drum to extend East River Ferry Service to connect Manhattan to Bay Ridge for almost a decade now and I’m excited to have him on board.”
Other local pols, including State Senator Marty Golden have also come out to praise Markowitz for making Southern Brooklyn ferry service a priority. In a statement released yesterday, Golden pledged his own support in the fight for a ferry.
There are several drawbacks to commuting by water rather than land however, particularly in terms of cost, commute times and parking for passengers.
- In their final analysis released in March 2011, the New York City Economic Development Corporation listed the cost of a commute to be as high as $17.24 per passenger in a model that includes Sheepshead Bay and $13.35 for Coney Island, requiring an average subsidy of $11.07 per ride or $4.7 million – one of the highest taxpayer subsidies in the entire waterway system.
- With the exception of the 69th Street Pier, commute times would be comparable to, or in some cases longer than, travel by Subway. With an approximate fare of $6.00, many who commute to Midtown rather than Lower Manhattan would find the ferry to be a more expensive, slower and therefore less attractive alternative to a $2.25 ride via rail or a faster commute on an Express Bus.
- At a public hearing, residents of Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach had expressed concern about a lack of parking for commuters on Emmons Avenue – something that could also be an issue in Coney Island and Canarsie.