“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio repeated the famous cinematic quote as he discussed the success of NYC Ferry and plans for its expansion by 2023.
On Thursday, May 3, de Blasio was joined by Councilmember Justin Brannan, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President and CEO James Patchett, community leaders and representatives of NYC Ferry at the 69th Street Veterans Memorial Pier in Bay Ridge to reveal plans to improve the service over the coming years, including a $300 million investment.
“Like so many ideas, this started as a dream,” de Blasio said. “We all know the famous phrase, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Well they have come and come in numbers much greater than we ever could’ve imagined. People have really taken to NYC Ferry, and this has a lot to say about what we can do going forward to make this a better city.”
Indeed, he said, ridership projections have now doubled, from about 4.5 million to nine million riders a year, within the next few years.
To accommodate this, the mayor said the new executive budget includes $300 million in capital funding over the next few years, allowing NYC Ferry to increase service as soon as this spring.
“We saw what happened last summer,” he added. “Demand was astronomical so we’re going to be able to increase service right away and cut wait time in the process. We’re going to be doubling the size of our fleet. And there are going to be a lot more bigger boats that will allow us to reduce the waits and lines.”
Piers and docks will also be improved so commuters can get on and off the boats more easily.
“All of this is needed because we have a success story here and what we are seeing is people in neighborhoods in the city that were underserved, like here in Bay Ridge,” he said, “are enjoying NYC Ferry. It’s a game changer for them.”
Brannan — who called the R train “hipster kryptonite” — also celebrated the service’s success, given the headaches trains and traffic create for locals.
“There are two ways out of here, the R train and the Gowanus, and neither of them are pretty so the ferry has really been a game changer for this neighborhood,” he said. “You have folks moving now because they know there’s the ferry here and we’re looking forward to expanding it and bringing it to other neighborhoods to show them just how good we’ve got it here.
“I’ll take the ferry over the R-train any day of the week. This is the stuff we have control over so we can do this right now,” Brannan added. “We don’t have to wait for things to get better. We can take advantage of this blue highway we have here.”
The ferry, he added, is “just another option and it works for some people. It doesn’t work for others. But we are finding that people prefer it over sitting on a crowded train or getting on the BQE. But it’s just another alternative just like CitiBike, just like the subway, just like the buses – it’s another way to get around and people are certainly enjoying it.”
According to Patchett, three 350-person boats, “will start to come online this summer.” In addition, the waiting time between boats is also being reduced “to an average of 25 to 35 minutes.”
This, he stressed, “means more reliable service because people, if they miss one boat, they can get on another vessel more quickly. It also means that there’s more overall service because vessels are coming more frequently.”
Additional capacity will be added at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. In addition, new express service is being launched from Pier 11 to the Rockaways. NYC Ferry is also adding staff to places like Brooklyn’s Pier 11 and Pier 6, considered the two busiest piers.
More capacity at Pier 11 and the 34th Street Hub will also be added in the future.
However, Patchett said, ferries may still be crowded.
“On a really crazy, beautiful day in the summer when it seems like everyone in the city wants to go to the beach at the exact same time, there are still going to be lines but we are going to be serving a lot more people and we’re going to be getting them where they want to go faster,” he said.
“This is a key to New Yorkers being able to get around more easily,” stressed de Blasio, “and being able to have the kind of choices they deserve.”