Canarsie residents start petition demanding ferry stop

Canarsie residents start petition demanding ferry stop
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

They don’t want to miss the boat!

Canarsie residents are busy collecting hundreds of signatures for a petition they plan to deliver to City Hall demanding Mayor DeBlasio keep his word and look into adding the coastal neighborhood as a new stop on the city-wide ferry system, the local pol said.

“Hopefully we’ll get thousands of interested people to sign on this petition asking the Mayor to seriously consider putting the ferry in,” said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie). “I want the Mayor to know there’s a lot of interest in having a ferry and it wouldn’t be an uneconomical venture, people will use it.”

Hizzoner promised a roomful of residents at a town hall last September that a ferry stop at the federally-run Canarsie Pier was “on the table” — but now nearly a year later with no progress, locals are fed up with being left high and dry, and so decided to take matters into their own hands, said resident Marc Want from the Canarsie Improvement Association, the group that launched the petition.

“We want it at Canarsie Pier because it can very nicely service all of Brooklyn South, people can walk to it from quite a number of different places, can ride bikes in, or drive in, there is parking available at the pier,” said Want. “It’s just a great access point.”

And the response so far has been incredible — about 1,000 people have already signed their names, said Want.

“We have a lot of people. We’re not only getting signatures as we walk through the park and go to meetings, but people come up to us and ask for forms,” he said. “This morning I was in the park and a lady hands over to me four pages — she felt it’s such a great idea.”

And with the impending closure of the L train, which shuttles Canarsie straphangers across the East River into Manhattan, the need for more speedy and direct transportation is even more dire — because sitting on a bus in bumper-to-bumper traffic across the bridge wastes nearly three hours of the day and is just not practical for commuters, said Want.

“Some of us take the bus into the city periodically for work and some of us drive, and it puts a tremendous strain on individuals to spend three hours a day travelling, because the bus takes about an hour-and-a-half — that’s just too much,” said Want. “I think our community is underserved, we have the L train and have MTA buses, but certainly do not have good transportation from Canarsie into rest of the city, this would definitely compliment things very, very nicely and my prediction is most people will use that over the trains or buses.”

The current South Brooklyn ferry route — which sails from Bay Ridge to Sunset Park, Red Hook (with a weekend detour to Governors Island), Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo before heading to Manhattan — is already overloaded, forcing the Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the service, to buy three additional, larger boats.

But many still feel the routes leave out several transit-starved neighborhoods, including Canarsie, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Marine Park, said Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island). He has penned a letter to the Mayor with Maisel demanding he seriously take a look at the further need, and is gathering signatures from other elected officials before sending it on to City Hall.

“They face significant transportation challenges ,” said Treyger. “We need to be part of this system. You can’t call it the ‘city-wide’ system when significant regions of our city have been left out.”

But building out a proper loading dock at Canarsie Pier is more complicated than at other sites along the current routes since it’s owned and operated by the National Parks Service, and it’s unclear at this point whether it would require an act of Congress or simply some administrative work to get it up and running for the ferry. Regardless of what it takes, it’s desperately needed in neighborhoods such as Coney Island and Canarsie, which suffer from poor transportation options, said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Canarsie).

“The residents of Canarsie and South Brooklyn are underserved with respect to transportation options, and I completely support securing a ferry stop as soon a possible,” Jeffries said. “Treyger and I have spoken about the ferry service and we think it would make sense to have a ferry launch itself at Canarsie Pier, have a stop on the Coney Island peninsula and then make its way into lower Manhattan — that would serve the people of South Brooklyn in a way that would make sense for all involved.”

The National Parks Service is open to discussing how to accommodate service there, according to a spokeswoman for the federal agency. The Mayor’s office declined to comment, but the Economic Development Corporation would look into expansion in the future, a spokeswoman said.

“We’re currently focusing our efforts on initial rollout of NYC Ferry for this year and in 2018. If ridership demand is high and service is successful, then we may be able to consider other opportunities for expansion to more communities,” she said.

Locals are hoping that a fat stack of petition signature will prove to the city that demand is high for a ferry stop in Canarsie.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.