City to call it quits on Manhattan-bound ferry service

Not so smooth-sailing.

With Manhattan-bound R-train service fully restored, the clock is ticking on the Rockaway Ferry Service that, in its place, carried Brooklynites from Sunset Park to lower Manhattan for more than a year.

According to Wiley Norvell, deputy press secretary for Mayor Bill de Blasio, unless the service sees a significant spike in usage, the ferry will cease running this month.

“Barring an extraordinary increase in ridership that brings cost down significantly, this is not a service we’ll be able to continue past October,” said Norvell of the service local pols have called “crucial” to the nabe.

The move comes on the heels of the city Economic Development Corporation announcing plans to lease the 58th Street Pier to Vane Brothers, a private company, for use as a fuel barge docking point.

The plan had proposed moving the ferry launch from the south to the north side of the pier, which had raised resident ire since the north side is used for recreational access, such as for fishing. No ferry service would eliminate the public access issue, but at the expense of commuter access.

“That’d be such a shame,” said ferry-rider Karen M. of Sunset Park. “The ferry may not mean something to everyone but for those who use it every day, it means a lot.”

Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, agreed. “I’d be really sad to see it go,” she said, stressing that, even though the service is Sunset Park-based, it serves a large number of Bay Ridge residents.

“I think a lot of Bay Ridge residents are going to be upset and I just hope that the city and our elected officials continue to pursue ways to explore ferry service from Bay Ridge to Manhattan,” Beckmann added. “It’s a great alternative way of transportation and I think there really needs to be a comprehensive look at transportation in our neighborhood.”

At least one local pol is already on board.

“I am actively working with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce along with my neighboring colleagues in government to identify and secure alternative funding streams in order to save the ferry and continue the service,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile announcing his fight to keep the ferry at a September 15 Community Board 10 meeting.

The local pol is no stranger to the fight.

Gentile led the push last summer to extend Rockaway Ferry Service once the R-line was cut at Court Street for Superstorm Sandy-related repairs – something his colleagues were quick to get behind as well.

The service was extended in January by the mayor in an effort to square in on communities still reeling from the October, 2012 storm.

The Rockaway Ferry Service, operated by Seastreak, currently charges $3.50 per ride and connects the Rockaways, the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Pier 11/Wall Street in lower Manhattan. The ride from Sunset Park to Manhattan takes only 15 minutes.

Since its launch in November, 2012, the ferry has served well over 200,000 passengers.

Reporting contributed by Heather J. Chin.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.