A drop in the ocean: City cuts East River Ferry price to match new boat service

A drop in the ocean: City cuts East River Ferry price to match new boat service
Economic Development Corporation

Ferry good news!

Mayor DeBlasio finally unveiled the operator and more details of his upcoming $55-million city-wide ferry service on Wednesday, but the biggest reveal may have been for commuters who won’t even use it. Brooklynites who already ride the existing East River Ferry were thrilled to learn their tickets will now only cost 2.75 as part of the plan — down from $4 on weekdays and $6 on weekends.

“I’m thrilled!” said Gabrielle Nadig, who lives in beautiful Greenpoint yet is sometimes forced to sail over to weekend meetings in Manhattan for her film production company. “Having a reduced fare will help me save money for my business.”

The city is cutting the fares to allow for transfers with the new floating transit network — which DeBlasio promised to tether to the price of a subway ride when it weighs anchor in June of next year, adding four new stops along the Kings County waterfront. Neither ferry service will have free transfers to the state-run subways and buses, however.

DeBlasio announced that San Francisco outfit Hornblower Cruises and Events will run the service and also take over the East River Ferry — confirming reports it had beaten out a joint bid by its existing operators New York Waterway and Billybey, and New York Water Taxi, which runs a service from Ikea in Red Hook to Manhattan.

That may come as more good news to some East River Ferry fans — Billbey was the company the city charged with inspecting the Greenpoint gangplank that collapsed into icy waters in 2014 due to a shoddy welding job that went undetected.

But fans of carting around stylish-yet-affordable Swedish furniture may be less bouyed — Water Taxi claims it will now have to fold because it can’t afford to compete with the taxpayer-subsidized service. DeBlasio dismissed that with a wave of his invisible hand, though.

I knew him, Horatio: Hornblower shares a namesake but little else with the British television series “Hornblower,” which starred Ioan Gruffudd in — and on a few memorable occasions, out of — a fetching naval uniform.

“It’s called competition,” he said. “People should respect that process.”

The new service will shuttle straphangers between Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo then onto Queens and Manhattan when it launches. It will add a leg to the Bronx in 2018.

Local pols had also demanded a direct passage from Brooklyn to Governors Island — which is currently only accessible from Kings County on weekends during summer — but there were still no concrete plans as of Wednesday. The mayor’s office said only that it was still an “option” and Hornblower will have to work out any specifics with island officials.

The city also still could not say where it will put the new Red Hook stop, which has been a months-long point of contention between locals who want it to go in Atlantic Basin and the city, which would prefer the transit-starved nabe’s southerly shore.

Taxpayers will shell out $55 million for the new system, then $30 million annually for six years to keep it afloat. Hornblower will pay for 18 new 150-seat ferries itself, though they may not be ready in time for launch, in which case it will have to rent some.

DeBlasio estimates around 12,000 people will ride the new boats every day, according to a Politico report — a drop in the ocean compared to the number who commute via subway and bus each day, and a quarter of the people he claims will ride on the $2.5-billion streetcar he wants to build along much of the same Brooklyn waterfront.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Ferry tails: The routes in the new ferry service.
Mayor’s Office