Although the sun was just rising, it was not too early to kick off the start of ferry service in style so City Councilmember Vincent Gentile along with members of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance and excited commuters gathered on the pier to enjoy coffee and donuts, while being serenaded by renowned accordionist Ernie Barry.
At 6:20 a.m. sharp on August 5, the first Southwest Brooklyn ferry triumphantly departed from the 58th Street Pier. During the first four hours of operation, the ferry transported over 100 commuters, and some Rockaway residents even got off at the new Brooklyn stop.
The addition of the Sunset Park stop to the Rockaway to Manhattan ferry service was timed to coincide with the first work day that R train service to Manhattan was suspended so that repairs could be made to the Montague Tube; the R will terminate at Court Street in Brooklyn for the next 14 months.
“Any time they’ve brought the ferry here, I’ve ridden it. I usually take the R train, but my concern was that all the R train riders would overcrowd the other trains I would have to transfer to,” said Michael Porcello, one of the first Ridgeites to board the boat.
“I like the view going back and forth—it’s very calming. Walking down here is good exercise,” added commuter Martha Diesslin.
James Barker, president of SeaStreak, hopes that people will take advantage of the ferry service during the pilot period, noting that the ship offers flat screen TVs, coffee and bathrooms, a far cry from the subway.
“I have been asked to supply reliable transportation. The ferry is quicker than the subway, and there’s no traffic on the sea. Our crews are friendly and professional, and if people try the ferry, they will like it,” Barker promised.
Gentile referred to the ship as “the latest incarnation of the maiden voyage,” with Brooklyn as “the eighth destination.” Gentile has been campaigning to spread the word about the ferry nearly every day this past week, repeating the slogan, “If you’ve got the R train blues, come to the ferry and cruise!”
Gentile also stressed the importance of showing the city administration that there is indeed ridership for the Southwest Brooklyn ferry, saying, “We now have to convince the mayor’s office and Economic Development Corporation that our stop is a valuable one.”
Justin Brannan, a spokesperson for Gentile, asserted that “the ferry has to make sense to your commute—we have this whole other highway here that we don’t use, one with no traffic.”
“The MTA kind of sprang this construction on us,” he added, noting that he had first learned of the construction from reading the newspaper. “It’s a victory, but it’s up to us to keep it here.”
The fare for the ferry is $2 cash, and the commute time to get to Wall Street is about 15 minutes with service continuing on to 34th Street in midtown. There is also free parking available at Brooklyn Army Terminal, as well as free transportation of bicycles on the ship.