All aboard! Golden wants city to fund southern Brooklyn ferry service

Borough President Markowitz wants ferry routes opened in southern Brooklyn, but the city has no plans to pay for it.

State Sen. Marty Golden is backing Borough President Marty Markowitz’s pie-in-the-sky plan to bring ferry service to Southern Brooklyn — and is demanding that the city foot the bill.

Golden (R–Bay Ridge) said the proposal to launch ferry routes from Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, and Canarsie won’t set sail until the city agrees to fund the project.

“The idea works but the investment has to be there on the city’s end,” said Golden. “If the city’s trying to find a way not to subsidize the system, it’s not going to happen.”

The lawmaker asked New York Waterway — the East River ferry service that currently runs boats to Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO and Downtown — to crunch some numbers and figure out how much it would cost to expand their routes to southern Brooklyn.

But the city has already said no: a 2011 Economic Development Corporation ferry service report found that ridership in southern Brooklyn wouldn’t be high enough to justify spending the money needed to bring waterborne transportation there.

Yet that didn’t stop Borough President Markowitz from floating the proposal in his State of the Borough address.

“[Southern Brooklyn] has it all except for one thing — a ferry,” Markowitz said.

New York Waterway opened its Brooklyn ferry routes after the city Economic Development Corporation agreed to spend $9.3 million over three years to help pay for the service.

The 100-person ferries run every 20 minutes and cost $4 a ride, or $140 for a monthly pass — much more than the $2.25 single ride and $104 unlimited monthly ride offered by the MTA.

An Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman said the Williamsburg ferry venture has to be profitable before any new routes are added.

“We’re certainly open to expansion — it’s just a question of funding,” spokeswoman Jen Friedberg said.

A spokesman for New York Waterway touted the company’s East River Ferry service, but declined to comment on the possibility of expanding to southern Brooklyn.

Yet ferry advocates hope that Markowitz and Golden will resurrect a plan that’s been dead in the water for years.

“If you build it they will [ride],” Bay Ridge civic leader Peter Killen said. “I’m all for the city spending money to enhance [transit service].”
Ferries shuttled commuters from the financial district to the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge for years, but the city suspended the route in the early 1990s, when the pier was renovated. The city later opened a ferry route to a pier on 58th Street in Sunset Park, but shut the ferry down in less than a year — citing a lack of ridership.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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