Ferry Set for 2017
14 Minutes to 34th Street
by Dick Lutz
If things go as the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) intend, you might be able to stand on the bow of a 149-passenger twin-hull ferry boat sometime in 2017, raise your arms and shout, "I’m the king of the world!"
On the other hand, that was the Titanic...
Scratch that lead. Try again.
As Mayor Bill de Blasio promised in his State of the City speech earlier this year, EDC expects to have new ferry service stopping at 21 locations on the East River in the spring of 2017, with Roosevelt Island among them.
EDC representatives made a presentation Wednesday night at a meeting of the Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA).
Not every detail is fully pinned down yet, but service is expected to arrive about every 20 minutes during rush hour. It will come from Astoria to the Island’s “Oil Dock” just east of the Tram station, then continue to a Long Island City stop, then East 34th Street in Manhattan, then Pier 11 at Wall Street.
The time to East 34th Street will be about 14 minutes. Planned service hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Bikes and strollers will be welcome, and the system will be ADA compliant to accommodate passengers with disabilities.
According to James Wong, an EDC Vice President and Director of Ferries, Ports, & Transportation, this excursion on the East River will cost you the equivalent of a subway fare ($2.75), with lower senior and student rates yet to be worked out. You may not be able to use your MetroCard at first, but that possibility is “under discussion” with the MTA. Transfers are also being discussed.
Landings at both East 34th Street and Wall Street will serve as hubs of a sort, and transfers to other routes will be allowed.
No specific companies have been selected for the five new routes that are planned, but EDC has published a Request for Proposals seeking a private operator. Both Wong and his Assistant VP, Justine Johnson, were eager to give the impression that things are moving along nicely. They said that five-year contracts should be signed “early next year.” The City will subsidize the service, and a $55 million budget is committed for barges, gangways, and related infrastructure. No operating budget was discussed, but Cornell Tech is expected to contribute half a million dollars each year.
While Roosevelt Island’s Oil Dock, formerly used to deliver fuel to the now-defunct Steam Plant, is known to be in marginal condition, that didn’t seem to concern either Wong or Johnson. They spoke of shoring up the dock, but also of using an extended gangway to move across the Oil Dock to the floating dock – a spud barge that can rise and fall with tides. The dock is to have a canopy and, in winter, glass windscreens.
The advent of ferry service opens the possibility of some relief from subway congestion during rush hour, when Islanders sometimes have trouble boarding a Manhattan-bound F train. But there are limitations – ferries stop at the water’s edge, and commuter destinations may be closer to subway stops.
At peak operations, Wong and Johnson said they expect ferries, system-wide, to serve 4,000 riders per week.