Connecting Coney Island: Pols say long-anticipated ferry will greatly benefit community

Coney Island elected officials, businesspeople and residents are celebrating a long-awaited victory — the extension of NYC Ferry service to include a terminus in the shorefront neighborhood.

The ferry, which is operated under the auspices of the city’s Economic Development Corp., will tentatively set sail in 2021, and will connect the People’s Playground with Pier 11 at Wall Street in Lower Manhattan with an intermediate stop at Bay Ridge’s 69th Street Pier.

After years of advocacy, the much-anticipated connection was officially announced during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s State of the City address on Thursday. NYC Ferry’s initial launch in 2017 did not include a stop in Coney Island, much to the disappointment of those who live and work there.

City Councilmember Mark Treyger helped secure the much-needed ferry service following a multi-year community effort to bring the ferry service to what he called the “much-starved” southern Brooklyn community.

The new mode of transportation will help shorten commute times for residents of Coney Island and help ease summer congestion as people from beyond the neighborhood make their way their to enjoy the shorefront amusement area and beach.

“Ferry service finally coming to Coney Island is another great victory for our community,” said Treyger. “From day one, I made public transportation improvements a top priority, and the expansion of the NYC Ferry system to Coney Island is a major step forward.”

He said the new ferry service is the result of years of advocacy on the part of elected officials and community leaders, citing de Blasio, Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, among others, as being prime moves in the effort, which required “rais[ing] awareness, gather[ing] support, and collect[ing] thousands of petition signatures,” according to Treyger, who stressed, “This is truly a collective victory.”

Adams called the expansion of the NYC Ferry service to Coney Island “a milestone achievement.

“Our city has historically underutilized its waterways, what some consider to be the honorary sixth borough,” he said, promising to continue conversations with the Coney Island community regarding the establishment of the new ferry route.

While Coney Island has subway service, the station at Stillwell Avenue is a bus ride away for many residents, Treyger pointing out, stressing that it could take 20 or 30 minutes to get there for residents who live in the West End of Coney Island. Furthermore, bus rides to the subway take even longer each summer, when millions of tourists and frequently heavy vehicle traffic flood the community’s iconic, popular amusement district.

Newly-elected Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, whose district includes Coney Island, applauded the mayor for bringing ferry service to her community. “Residents and local organizations have been asking for ferry service for quite some time, and today’s announcement from City Hall comes as welcome news to those who live and work on the peninsula,” Frontus told this paper. “I am excited to see the project get underway and know that it will benefit southern Brooklyn for years to come.”

Coney Island community activist Pat O’Brien was thrilled to learn that the project was underway. “I am amazed that Coney Island is getting a ferry with direct access to lower Manhattan,” O’Brien said. “We had always advocated for a ferry but I am shocked that it is actually going to happen and that it is a fait accompli. Our neighborhood is such a short distance from lower Manhattan and having a direct route to Manhattan via the waterways will make life so much easier for many commuters, neighbors and students.”  

Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, called the ferry expansion a very exciting day for Coney Island. “For several years we [the Alliance for Coney Island], in collaboration with our community stakeholders have been advocating for, and working closely with, many city agencies and local elected officials, including Councilmember Mark Treyger, to bring awareness of the need for transit alternatives for our community, and today we feel that our voices have finally been heard.”

Silversmith said that the Alliance collected close to 6,000 signatures to emphasize to City Hall the communities desire for the ferry expansion.

“Coney Island residents and visitors will now have a quicker and more convenient way to travel to and from the peninsula connecting our community to Lower Manhattan,” Silversmith said. “The implementation of ferry service to Coney Island marks a new level of transit equity for our neighborhood and we anticipate these connections will bridge residents to greater opportunity and services.”

Wildlife Conservation Society Vice President and Director of the New York Aquarium Jon Forrest Dohlin called the ferry expansion great news for Coney Island and the New York Aquarium.

“New ferry services such as the planned Wall Street to Coney Island line are expected to significantly cut travel time to and from Manhattan for commuters and visitors to the New York Aquarium and other Coney Island attractions,” Dohlin said. “The new services will provide the added benefit of inspiring views of the city’s skyline and beautiful waterways.”

Besides the new Coney Island-to-Wall-Street route, the mayor announced additional ferry service linking Staten Island to the West Side of Manhattan and extending the Bronx’s Soundview Route to Ferry Point.

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