Southwest Brooklyn brainstorms R train contingency plan

With no R train service under the East River beginning in August, Bay Ridge residents are brainstorming about ways to get to where they need to be without the subway.

One of those ways is a no-brainer, according to Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who is going straight to the top and calling on FEMA to restore Southwest Brooklyn ferry service, at least on a temporary basis.

Under the direction of President Barack Obama, FEMA still leads the federal government’s effort to provide all available resources and support to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Since the R train service disruption is due to repairs caused by Sandy, the ferry would fall under this jurisdiction. According to MTA officials, the tunnel – as well as the Greenpoint Tube that carries the G train between Brooklyn and Queens – was flooded with saltwater, corroding equipment and communications systems. The service disruption will last at least 14 months.

“I understand these repairs need to be done but we need a realistic contingency plan with viable alternatives,” Gentile said. “Telling people to basically ‘allow for extra travel time’ for the next 14 months is an insult. That is why I am calling on FEMA to subsidize temporary ferry service from the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park to Wall Street/Pier 11 and East 35th Street.

“It is hard enough as it is for residents of southern Brooklyn who travel to Manhattan each day via public transportation – closing a main artery for over a year is just unacceptable,” he went on. “To say this will painfully impact people all along Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue corridor – who are already hurting from a lack of reliable public transit – would be the understatement of the year. This is going to make people throw their hands up and say ‘I’m done with living in southern Brooklyn!’”

Gentile is no stranger to this fight. For years, he has been advocating to have ferry service return to the 69th Street Pier after it was closed in November, 1996.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, a temporary ferry traveled from the 58th Street Pier to Lower Manhattan and a temporary Seastreak ferry was provided for Rockaway residents after A train service was disrupted, so Gentile contends that his efforts are not far-fetched.

Gentile noted that a ferry from the Brooklyn Army Terminal would get to Wall Street in just 20 minutes, opposed to the sometimes 60-minute commute.

Justin Brannan, Gentile’s chief of staff, is also circulating a petition to restore the ferry service temporarily. In just three days, it has collected nearly 500 signatures.

In that same vein, the Riders Alliance is holding an “informational happy hour” on Thursday evening at the Greenhouse Café. Rebecca Bailin, a senior organizer, explained that the group is working to bring together those who are already advocates and those who are interested in better transit options.

“We are trying to get members of the community to respond to this important issue and brainstorm other options,” Bailin said, adding that they are promoting the hashtag, #RYouLate in the meantime.

“There needs to be a plan to find out how we can win better transit options during the R train construction,” she said, adding that free appetizers will be provided.

The happy hour will take place on Thursday, June 27 at 7 p.m. at Greenhouse Café, located on Third Avenue and 77th Street.

To sign Brannan’s petition, visit

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