City to decide on Canarsie ferry by year’s end

City to decide on Canarsie ferry by year’s end
Community News Group / Kevin Duggan

This ferry tale may actually have a happy ending.

The question of bringing ferry service to Canarsie will be decided by the end of this year, according to Mayor DeBlasio.

“This is the year of decision and Canarsie is clearly in the mix of sites we’re looking at around the city,” Hizzoner told a roundtable of Brooklyn media at Borough Hall on Thursday Aug. 23.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation — the agency spearheading the ferry service — will launch a study this fall to determine which locations around the city will get new ferry services, according to a spokeswoman for the agency, and the mayor confirmed that Canarsie is among the finalists on the list of candidates.

“We’ve learned a lot about how to make that assessment and we’re going to apply that in Canarsie, and Staten Island as well, and that’s going to lead us to our decision by the end of the year,” DeBlasio said.

The decision will depend on estimates of how heavily the ferry would be used, in order to justify the expense of building the facilities to handle boats at the pier, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which is mostly used for fishing and currently has no dock.

The city would have to coordinate with the National Parks Service since Canarsie pier is on federal land, the mayor said. The federal agency has said that it is open to discussing how to accommodate ferry service.

Canarsie Pier wasn’t included in the city’s original 2013 ferry feasibility study, which determined where the boats would stop in the initial rollout, but the idea has been around for a while. Former Borough President Marty Markowitz suggested bringing commuter boats to Canarsie in his 2012 State of the Borough speech.

The success of the new ferry services around the city over the last two years has convinced the mayor that the water-based transportation system should be expanded to Canarsie, if economically feasible.

“Two years later [the ferry service] has exceeded every expectation,” he said. “If we can find a way of doing it that’s cost effective, there’s tremendous potential there.”

At an Aug. 15 town hall hosted by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Canarsie), on the subject of next year’s L Train shutdown, locals pressed reps from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to make a Canarsie ferry stop part of the mitigation plan, and transit officials said they would “thoroughly look into” the possibility.

“Given the massive feedback, we will have another look at that,” said president of the New York City Transit Authority Andy Byford.

But the mayor cautioned that a Canarsie ferry stop — which would require major construction — shouldn’t be seen as a stop-gap mitigation measure for the 15-month L-pocalypse set to begin next April. Not least because it could never be ready in time.

“In the case of Canarsie, what we know from previous experiences it’s been a year or two to put together the ferry services in most places and that does not correlate to what we have to do in terms of the L train shutdown,” he said on Aug. 23. “I don’t think we should assume that it’ll be a part of that solution, we’re looking here at what the long-term impact is.”

But more importantly, an additional stop in the city-wide ferry service would have to show long-term viability.

“The concern I have is we need to know are we getting year-round, strong, consistent ridership, would it justify the capital expenditure and the subsidy and we’ve got to be really clear about that,” he said.

Hammered with demands for ferry service at a Canarsie town hall two years ago, the mayor assured the crowed that a local ferry stop was “on the table” — and residents and local pols have been campaigning to make it a reality ever since.

Returning to the neighborhood for another town hall with Councilman Alan Maisel (D-Canarsie) on Aug. 23, Hizzoner preempted further questions by bringing up the ferry himself in his opening remarks.

“I have heard loud and clear from the councilman and other folks that you want us to consider ferry service for this community,” he told the crowd. “The least I can tell you is this, Canarsie is on the finalist list for consideration for new ferry services and that final decision will be made this year.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Seas the day!: Councilman Alan Maisel wants the city to move forward with adding a stop at Canarsie Pier for the city-wide ferry system.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe