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Service provider officially announced for citywide ferry expansion

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday, March 16 that Hornblower, Inc. will indeed be the service provider behind the city’s $55 million five-borough ferry service.

Hornblower – a San-Francisco based company that currently employs more than 450 people in the New York area – has operated in the New York Harbor for a decade and carries 13 million passengers every year, more than any other private ferry service on the city’s waterways.

According to de Blasio, the expansion will generate at least 155 new, good-paying jobs in the harbor and, as part of the service, Hornblower will be delivering at least 18 new boats – all of which will be equipped with WiFi and engines that meet the highest EPA standards.

In addition, all docks and boats will be accessible to people in wheelchairs and fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“For the price of a single subway ride, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are going to have a new public transit option linking them to jobs, education and opportunities across the city. It’s going to be a commute like no other: fresh air, harbor views and a fast ride on the open water,” said de Blasio. “We are selecting an operator with an incredible track record providing service in our harbor. We look forward to launching with Hornblower next year.”

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Vincent Gentile's office
Photo courtesy of Councilmember Vincent Gentile’s office

“Two years ago, Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City included an ambitious plan for the unprecedented expansion of ferry service, all for the same cost of a bus or subway ride,” added Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “With Hornblower’s arrival today, he is keeping that commitment and providing New Yorkers with new options to travel safely and efficiently. With new means of commuter access, many communities, some of them in so-called ‘transit deserts,’ will gain a tremendous economic boost.”

“Hornblower is honored to take the helm of Mayor de Blasio’s vision for a more integrated transportation network that will make commuting and connecting easier,” said Terry MacRae, CEO of Hornblower. “We have already begun work to deliver a ferry system by the summer of 2017 which will revolutionize the way New Yorkers work, live and play, and we are confident this new system will become a local favorite for decades to come.”

The waterway expansion – first announced in February of 2015 – will take place in two phases, beginning with the opening of the South Brooklyn, Astoria and Rockaway routes in 2017. Soundview and Lower East Side routes are slated to follow in 2018.

The South Brooklyn route will have landings at Bay Ridge (via the 69th Street Pier), the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Red Hook, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 near Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1 in DUMBO and Wall Street’s Pier 11.

Total travel time from first stop to last will be just 43 minutes, and the trip will cost the same as a subway ride.

“I am ecstatic that Citywide Ferry Service will be ready to set sail in 2017 beginning with South Brooklyn,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile in a statement, thanking the New York City Economic Development Corporation (the agency behind the project) for conducting a thorough search and securing a “reputable” operator in Hornblower. “We must keep pace with New York City’s rapid growth and the five borough ferry service will not only generate jobs but serve as a catalyst for expansion in communities where housing and employment are rising.”

He also thanked the mayor for keeping his word.

“Thank you Mayor de Blasio for anchoring this initiative and continuing your groundbreaking work towards making our city the standard for citywide transit be it rail, road or water,” said Gentile.

Local resident and community activist Justin Brannan, who launched a petition to bring the ferry back to the Bay Ridge in 2013, was quick to celebrate the good news.

“Two years ago when we were collecting signatures all over the neighborhood to ‘Bring back the Bay Ridge ferry’ it sorta felt like we were collecting signatures to build a Starbucks on Mars,” he said. “But now the Bay Ridge ferry is so close we can almost smell that sea air! Thank you Mayor de Blasio and of course Councilmember Gentile for his advocacy on this issue. This will be nothing short of an absolute game-changer for Bay Ridge.”

Images courtesy of EDC
Images courtesy of EDC

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