When East River Ferry Service began in 2011, it really did feel like a new era in New York City public transportation: taking advantage of our significant waterways, traveling by boat, feeling the air whip against my face, atop the water. This was city living.
But the problem quickly became: It wasn’t that practical. Making just six stops total—from the Financial District, along Brooklyn to Astoria, and finally back to Midtown—it didn’t usually go where I was going. Then there was the issue of syncing my trips with one of the ferry’s infrequent (every twenty minutes) departures, and it was expensive ($4 per go, or $5 with a bike!). I stopped taking it pretty quickly.
But yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced that, come summer 2017, the ferry will become significantly more serviceable: a cruise, yacht and ferry company based out of CA will operate a widely expanded system, eventually (likely) to all five boroughs.
Gothamist reports boat operator, Hornblower Inc., will integrate its service with the current system, but add stops in Far Rockaway, South Brooklyn, and Astoria; then, come 2018, service will extend to the Upper Eat Side, the Lower East Side, and Soundview. Plus, it will all cost less than before—only $2.75 per ride, just like the subway. Additional future and proposed stops in Coney Island and Staten Island, would officially bring ferry service to all five Boroughs.
Of the expansion yesterday, Mayor de Blasio said, “It’s going to be a commute like no other: fresh air, harbor views, and a fast ride on the open water.”
Of course, de Blasio’s chosen out-of-state boat operator—who will receive government subsidies for the job—was not received warmly by local company, New York Water Taxi, who also submitted a bid for the job, and currently operates a 12-shuttle fleet between Wall Street and Red Hook, which is especially popular with Ikea shoppers. Gothamist reports that, before Mayor de Blasio’s announcement, NYWT said that if they were not selected, they would be out of business in October: they’d be victim to stifled competition due to the benefit of the city’s subsidies, and they claimed the company will “have tremendous leverage against the City in any future negations,” per NYWT Vice President, Peter Ebright.
The city’s response? New York City Economic Development Corporation, who put out a request for expanded service bids, said they will “continue to work with [NYWT] in any way possible,” and that “we’re very bullish in the harbor, so we think there’s room for a number of operators,” according to Gothamist. NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer also celebrated the addition of 155 new city jobs (which potential out-of-work NYWT operators could partially fill, she said. Ouch.)
De Blasio was fairly unsympathetic as well. “Competition. It’s called competition. People compete. Someone wins. People should respect that process.”
Welcome to New York City, kids. No hand-holding here. But, at least now, you’ll be able to see more of its unforgiving loveliness, while traveling above ground.