Ferry Service on Schedule

Written by Briana Warsing. Posted in Volume 37, Issue 14 - April 8, 2017

Citywide ferry service to Roosevelt Island is on track for an August launch date, according to Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation President Susan Rosenthal.

Ferry landing
Ferry landing

While no work has yet started on the construction of the Island’s ferry dock, other pieces of the expanded ferry service are already well underway. The Queens Courier recently reported that the Astoria ferry landing at Hallet’s Cove is on track to be complete in time for summer service, and the first of 19 new ferry vessels has already pulled into its temporary home in New Jersey.

Island Terminal

As for our own ferry terminal, which will be built just north of the Queensboro Bridge on the east side of the Island, Rosenthal reports that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a binding formal agreement, has been signed. Rosenthal said, however, that the City cannot start the in-water work until the fish-breeding moratorium concludes on July 1. They are also still waiting for permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which are responsible for maintaining the nation’s water and related environmental resources.

“The piles installation for the landing takes about six weeks and requires coordination with the New York City Transit Authority,” said Rosenthal. “The City intends to start upland work in the middle of May and to launch as close to August 1 to August 15 as possible.”

Timeline

During a tour of the new ferry landing on Hallet’s Cove in Astoria, officials from the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) said the new ferry routes will have staggered start dates, with Rockaway service commencing first, ahead of schedule, in May, followed by South Brooklyn, and then the Astoria route by the end of the summer due to construction schedules.

EDC spokesperson Anthony Hogrebe explained to AM New York that Rockaway’s service was prioritized because the area has “among the longest commute times in the city (at 90 minutes to Manhattan), and so we made a commitment to that community that they would be the first to get the new service.”

The Boats

New York’s first Citywide ferry recently pulled into the Red Hook harbor. It will dock in New Jersey until the Brooklyn Navy Yard dock is modernized.

So far, the ferry, which will be operated by Hornblower, has no branding or logos, and is still awaiting a name. That honor will go to a group of second graders, City officials revealed last week. The students have already floated names, ranging from Lunchbox to Friendship Express.

The next three boats will leave their Alabama shipyard later this week and head together in a flotilla to New York, arriving in about nine to 13 days, depending on the weather.The new boats will be outfitted with GPS, and Hornblower currently has a team of software designers working to integrate the real-time tracking data into Google Maps and Apple Maps. All the data will be open-source and available to other developers to integrate into other apps.

According to designs, the ferries will also feature charging stations, concessions, Wi-Fi, heat and air-conditioning. Heated decks will increase each vessel’s resiliency and durability, especially during the cold, snowy winter months.

Routes

The first Citywide ferry route, from Rockaway to the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Wall Street, will start with only two boats sometime in June.

The Astoria route will travel to Roosevelt Island, Long Island City, and then to Manhattan’s East 34th Street and Wall Street terminals. According to the EDC, ferry service will take seven minutes to get to Long Island City from Roosevelt Island, and another six minutes to get to the East 34th Street ferry landing.

Of course, there’s a fine line between picking up enough passengers to fully utilize the service, and having so many that you end up with a similar experience to the Roosevelt Island F stop in the morning, where you can’t always get on the train. Seth Myers, an executive vice president at the EDC, said, “If our ferry is successful enough that we have those problems, we can bring additional boats or [arrange] more frequent service.”

The South Brooklyn route will leave from Bay Ridge and make stops at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Atlantic Basin in Red Hook, Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Fulton Street in DUMBO, and finally Wall Street.

The East River Ferry, currently owned by the EDC, will get new boats and is transitioning over to a Citywide Ferry operation. When that happens, sometime this summer, the route will remain the same, but the name will change.

The South Brooklyn and East River routes will each operate with three dedicated boats, and the Astoria route will have as many as four. The goal is for the boats to arrive only 20 or 25 minutes apart during peak travel times.

Operation

The ferries will operate between 6:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., 365 days a year, including holidays. Ferry service will launch at $2.75, the current MTA fare. Ferries will not accept MetroCards. However, Myers said that the MTA informed him that they have an RFP out and are soliciting a new payment system. So, although the ferry is not starting with a shared system, Myer said, “Our ticketing system will use mobile phones, and we will also sell paper tickets. We will make sure our ticketing platform can be used [interchangeably with the MTA’s] when the MTA picks theirs in the future.”

You will be able to bring your bicycle on board for a $1 fee, but the maximum number of bikes each boat can accommodate is 18. Small pets and service animals will be allowed on with no fee.

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