NYC mayor proposes new five-borough ferry system in 2017-18

5 Ferry

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed new ferry service starting in 2017 that would eventually serve every borough.

The plan would augment existing city and private service to Manhattan from Staten Island, New Jersey and across the East River from Brooklyn. Boats would serve neighborhoods such as Coney Island, Astoria in Queens and the South Bronx.

Private companies would operate the new ferries. City officials said riders would pay the same fare as using the subway — currently $2.50. The program, expected to serve 4.5 million people annually, would receive $10 million to $20 million per year in city subsidies. The project would increase real estate tax revenue annually by $24 million.

The city would provide $55 million to cover construction costs of terminals. No details are available yet on where they would be. How many ferries would run and how many crewmembers would be employed would depend on responses to the request for proposals, a spokesman said.

The expansion would make New York’s the largest municipal ferry service in the United States by number of passengers carried. The new Citywide Ferry Service would increase the number of routes from one to six, excluding the free Staten Island Ferry, by the end of 2018, with a proposed additional route for later phase-in. 

The three routes to launch by 2017 would serve Astoria, Rockaway and South Brooklyn. Two routes to begin by 2018 would include the Lower East Side and Soundview in the Bronx. The proposed future route would service Stapleton on Staten Island and Coney Island.

The South Brooklyn route would stop at Bay Ridge, Red Hook, Atlantic Avenue/Pier 6, Fulton/DUMBO and Wall Street. The Astoria route would stop there and Long Island City, Roosevelt Island, East 34th Street and Wall Street. The Rockaway route would make stops there, the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Wall Street. The Lower East Side route would service Long Island City, East 34th Street, East 23rd Street, Grand Street and Wall Street. The Soundview route would stop there, East 90th Street, East 62nd Street and Wall Street. The Coney Island Route would also stop in Stapleton. 

Four months before the mayor’s announcement as part of his State of the City address, he had discontinued ferry service to Rockaway, citing high costs and low ridership. But officials said that service would be affordable as part of a broader initiative.

“We’re the ultimate coastal city,” de Blasio said. “But somehow we haven’t had a true ferry system in decades. We need to right this wrong, to open up great possibilities for our people, to take places that were isolated and felt isolated and give them opportunity and connection.”

Some transportation experts question whether all the routes would be viable, even with subsidies, because it’s unclear if enough commuters live near the intended terminals.

By Professional Mariner Staff