Survey Data Shows Ferry Ridership Became More Moneyed and Monochrome During Pandemic
The ferry terminal on the Esplanade (near Vesey Street), where the City inaugurated in August a new ferry service between Battery Park City and Staten Island. This is part of a wider network that (according to ridership data) serves primarily white, affluent New Yorkers.
Ridership polls compiled by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) indicate that during 2021, the median income for riders of the NYC Ferry service jumped to between $100,000 and $149,000. At the same time, the percentage of riders who self-identify as races other than white (or categorize themselves as mixed race) dipped to less than one-third. These demographic shifts belie the argument made by former Mayor Bill de Blasio that his signature initiative would primarily serve poorer and racially diverse communities, along with those not served by other transit options.
In a separate (but related) development, in December, City Hall decided to increase its support of the NYC Ferry service by tens of millions of dollars. In a story first reported by The City, a nonprofit, digital news platform, the board of the EDC approved up to $62 million in additional subsidies for the ferry service, which the administration of then-Mayor Blasio launched in 2017.
NYC Ferry is the company designated by the EDC (a non-profit entity that negotiates strategic partnerships on behalf of City Hall, designed to harness private-sector resources to public projects, and foster economic growth) to operate the system, which includes eight routes, connecting all five boroughs, for the same price as a subway or bus ride.
Because the ferry network is vastly more expensive to operate than trains or buses, charging this modest fare requires substantial support from taxpayers. According to a report released by the independent Citizen’s Budget Commission in March 2019, “at $10.73 per ride, its operating subsidy is ten times that of the New York City Transit system. Furthermore, NYC Ferry transports fewer people annually than the subway transports in one day.” That report also noted that these subsidies are five times greater than those provided to the Staten Island Ferry (which is free). In 2020, Gotham Gazette noted that the subsidy had “fallen to $9.34, and is projected to decrease with the two new routes adding about 2.5 million riders per year, according to EDC.”
The Staten Island Advance reported this past February that Mayor Adams floated the idea of a new NYC Ferry fare structure that would vary based on the route. “We must be open to creative pricing based on where people are located,” the Mayor said. “There are certain riders of the ferry system that are in multi-fare zones and are in transit deserts—Rockaway, Staten Island, Coney Island. We’ve had a real transportation problem based on where you reside … and we have to equalize that.”
In a third, related development, Hornblower (the private contractor that operates the NYC Ferry fleet) has been facing serious financial difficulties, in spite of the generous public support it receives. As ridership fell by more than three-quarters during the New York State on Pause lockdown ordered by public health officials in 2020, which came during the warm-weather months that are NYC Ferry’s busiest season, the company’s fleet was largely idled. Its debt was downgraded twice by bond rating agencies. Hornblower was able to raise much-needed cash in the fourth quarter of 2020 only by pledging as collateral the assets associated with another lucrative franchise (tour boats that operate near Niagara Falls) to new lenders.
The generous public support that makes the NYC Ferry service possible buys passengers a more comfortable commute than the subway can offer, with amenities like the onboard availability of food and alcohol, wireless internet connectivity, and a breathtaking view.
These conveniences are enjoyed primarily by white passengers who earn more money than average New Yorkers, according to a 2019 analysis from the EDC, which noted that, “36 percent of riders identify as non-white or multiracial.” (This indicated that nearly two-thirds of riders were white, a benchmark surpassed in the 2021 data outlined above.) The same report noted that, “35 percent of riders make less than $75,000 per year,” which indicates that 65 percent earn more than that amount, while also documenting that ferry users’ “median income [is] between $75,000 to $99,999.” (This metric moved up to between $100,000 and $149,000 for 2022.)
For New York City as a whole, the median individual income is $50,825, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013-2017 American Community Survey. This indicates that a typical NYC Ferry rider now earns (approximately) between two and three time the earnings of a representative resident of the five boroughs.
These demographics may hinge largely on geography. NYC Ferry passengers often inhabit waterfront neighborhoods that are either historically fashionable or are rapidly gentrifying. Residents living within half a mile of a NYC Ferry stop and earning more than the City’s median income outnumber those living inside the same radius, but earning less than the City-wide median, by a margin of more than six to one.
New Community Garden Downtown
Chefs for Impact Open Garden to Teach Sustainability
Children squirmed through the speeches on May 9 for the opening of the Chefs for Kids community garden at Grand St. Settlement on the Lower East Side. After the program, while an assortment of elected officials and community leaders chatted, the kids checked out the good-smelling soil and peppered Chief Chef Educator Kristina Ramos (above) with questions. Any squirmy things in there?
The garden, an initiative from Chefs for Impact—a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness for a more sustainable food system—will give community members hands-on experience in learning about sustainably-grown food.
What Did Rudy Know and When Did He Know It?
Nadler Presses City Hall to Release Documents from 2001 about City Hall’s Awareness of Ground Zero Health Risks
United States Congressman Jerry Nadler is calling upon the administration of Mayor Eric Adams to make public previously unreleased City documents, which may shed light on what Rudolph Giuliani, who was Mayor at the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, knew about environmental health risks in weeks and months following of the destruction of the World Trade Center.
A Pair of Downtown Marquee Properties Seized by Lenders
Two Lower Manhattan trophy properties have fallen into foreclosure and have been seized by creditors. In a story first published by the property industry newsletter, The Real Deal, China Oceanwide Holdings, the owner of the development lot at 80 South Street (in the South Street Seaport) has lost control of the parcel, which it purchased from the Howard Hughes Corporation for $390 million in 2016.
Part of the water intrusion in the Battery goes back in time when the Lower Manhattan boundary was farther north! Land fill does eventually cause conflicts with Mother Nature. But I do agree with the climate change issues well.
Federal Report Foresees Rising Water in Lower Manhattan
A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal scientific agency responsible for study of oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere, predicts that Lower Manhattan will face increasingly frequent flooding in the decades to come.
Young stewards explore the wondrous ecosystem of the Hudson River. Practice the skills required to operate a rod and reel and experience the thrill of catch-and-release fishing. Identify our native fish for data submission to research groups to help monitor the health of our local waters. Water testing and other fun projects will augment the study. Registration required, email: email@example.com
Join in on the fun featuring easy-to-follow Latin dance choreography while working on your balance, coordination and range of motion. Come prepared for enthusiastic instruction, a little strength training and a lot of fun. Free.
Webinar from the Museum of American Financial History. Amid severe digital disruption, economic upheaval and political flux, how can we make sense of the world? Leaders today typically look for answers in economic models, Big Data or artificial intelligence platforms. Gillian Tett points to anthropology—the study of human culture. Anthropologists learn to get inside the minds of other people, helping them not only to understand other cultures but also to appraise their own environment with fresh perspective as an insider-outsider, gaining lateral vision. Today, anthropologists are more likely to study Amazon warehouses than remote Amazon tribes. They have done research into institutions and companies such as General Motors, Nestlé, Intel and more, shedding light on practical questions such as how internet users define themselves; why corporate projects fail; why bank traders miscalculate losses; how companies sell certain products; and why pandemic policies succeed (or not). Free.
Play the popular strategy game while getting pointers and advice from an expert. Chess improves concentration, problem solving, and strategic planning — plus it’s fun! For ages 5 and up (adults welcome). Free.
Focusing on four global cities – London, New York, Hong Kong, and Singapore – architect, urban designer, and TED Resident Stefan Al examines rise of global supertalls and the factors that have led to this worldwide boom. He uncovers the latest innovations in sustainable building, from skyscrapers made of wood to tree-covered buildings that promise a better urban future, but also examines the issues of wealth inequality, carbon emissions, and contagion that can accompany dense high-rise development. Featuring original architectural sketches, Supertall: How the World’s Tallest Buildings Are Reshaping Our Cities and Our Lives is both an exploration of our greatest accomplishments and a powerful argument for a more equitable way forward. Free. Hosted by the Skyscraper Museum
Observe and sketch the human figure. Each week a model will strike short and long poses for participants to draw. An artist/educator will offer constructive suggestions and critique. Drawing materials provided, and artists are encouraged to bring their own favorite media. Free.
Elements of Nature Drawing
Embolden your artwork amidst the flower-filled and seasonally evolving palette of BPC’s verdant gardens. An artist/ educator will provide ideas and instruction. Materials provided. Free.
Immerse yourself in this meditative practice- surrounded by the Hudson’s peaceful aura. Strengthen the body and cultivate awareness in a relaxed environment as your instructor guides you through alignments and poses. All levels are welcome. Bring your own mat. Free.
Experience a literati salon (文人雅集) inspired by ancient traditions, and enjoy an evening of classical music, poetry, calligraphy—and wine! Attendees will enjoy performances and an unforgettable cultural experience that promotes solidarity, friendship and peace. At China’s traditional “literati salons,” scholars connected with nature, art, and music while sipping tea and wine. At the most famous of these events, the Orchid Pavilion Gathering (兰亭雅集) in the year 353, 42 gentlemen held a famous drinking contest, in which they floated their rice-wine cups down a winding creek as they sat along its banks. Whenever a cup stopped, the man closest to the cup had to empty it and write a poem. In the end, they produced 37 poems and Wang Xizhi (王羲之 produced Preface to the Poems of the Orchid Pavilion (《兰亭集序》）, the finest calligraphic art in China’s history. The event has since fueled inspiration for all forms of Chinese art. Tea and wine will be served. $10.