Not Ferry Nice
Concerns about Crowding and Noise Surround City Hall Plan for New Staten Island Route to Battery Park City
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning to launch in 2020 a new ferry service from Staten Island that will bring to the Battery Park City ferry terminal more than 60 new vessels each day, carrying as many as 2,500 passengers.
In a June 5 presentation to the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1), Megan Quirk, an assistant vice president for the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), said, “the service will run from 6:30 am to 10:00 pm, seven days a week, and will cost the same as a subway ride. It will start in Staten Island, come to Battery Park City, and then continue to the western side Midtown.”
Such an expansion of ferry traffic at the Battery Park City terminal is likely to prove controversial for several reasons, chief among them that residents whose apartments face the facility have complained for years that the safety horns sounded by vessels departing from the dock cause intolerable noise levels in their homes, starting around sunrise and persisting through late-evening hours.
“The boats will arrive every 25 minutes during peak hours,” Ms. Quirk related, “and about 45 minutes apart during off-peak times, and will be separated by 90 minutes on weekends.”
Tammy Meltzer, the chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, noted that, “we’re struggling with the number of ferries as it is, and the weekend service we have to deal with right now starts at 10:00 am, rather than 6:30 am.”
Ms. Meltzer then asked pointedly, “will there be consideration of the hours that the community has had?”
Ms. Quirk replied, “we’ll take that under consideration, but we can’t make any promises.”
Ms. Meltzer then observed that, “we have yet to hear any outreach to the community. EDC never came to CB1 during your feasibility study to ask the community, or understand our concerns. I think it was irresponsible, frankly.
Justine Cuccia, who serves as the co-chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, added, “this is not necessary. The weekend ferries to make up for the PATH train, is vitally necessary, and only for the limited period of time while those tunnels are being serviced. But this is different. This is because you want to.”
Ms. Meltzer continued, “we’re open to having the service and accommodating commuters, but there is another way. And to say that you haven’t had the chance for discussion feels disingenuous and beyond pushy. All without consulting the 14,000 people who live here.”
She continued, “we understand there are no easy ways to get in and out of Bay Ridge or Astoria. But there is full access from Staten Island to Lower Manhattan, which runs all the time and is free. So to ask for consideration for the community on the weekends is not unreasonable.”
Ms. Quirk answered, “we want to hear your concerns. Until today, we did not realize full concern about weekends.” Addressing Ms. Meltzer’s point about a paid ferry competing with a free service that plies a nearly identical route, she added, “this will provide a significantly faster trip from Staten Island to job centers in Manhattan, getting commuters to Battery Park City in 18 minutes, and to Midtown 17 minutes after that.” This is a striking claim, in that the existing Staten Island Ferry takes almost 40 percent more time (25 minutes) to cover a shorter distance: the existing route is 5.2 miles long, while the proposed line will have to cover approximately 5.7 miles.
Ms. Meltzer then queried, “what is total expected subsidy for this service?” This was a reference to the fact that the NYC Ferry service championed by Mr. de Blasio operates at a loss, which has been offset by lavish (and controversial) support from taxpayers.
Ms. Quirk answered, “we don’t break out by individual lines, but the total projected subsidy is $30 million per year.” She added that, “we expect it to be in line with the subsidy for the Staten Island Ferry, which is approximately $5.60 per ride.”
This was contradicted by Robin Forst, a public member of CB1, who cited a recent report by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, which tabulated the subsidy for the NYC Ferry program, “at $10.73 per ride, with estimates that it could higher.”
Ms. Forst then reflected that, “this clearly was developed to serve Hudson Yards — are they providing any partnership or sponsorship?”
“It is all City-subsidized,” Ms. Quirk countered.
Gateway Plaza resident Jill Goodkind noted that, “the area around the ferry terminal is already a madhouse during rush hour — kids walking to the park, kids coming home from school. And this plan was formed without any concerns for crowding in this residential area. This sounds like a done deal that is going to happen no matter what. Even if this turns out to be a total mess, which is a strong possibility, you’re still doing it, is that correct?
Ms. Quirk reiterated that, “the plan is to launch this next year.”
Ms. Meltzer then closed the discussion by observing, “there has been no outreach to the community that this will affect. Hopefully you will take the feedback you have heard today, and perhaps you will be a flexible partner to the community and the people who live here.”
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