Op-ed: Coney Island Ferry: Right time, wrong location

coney island ferry
Economic Development Corporation

As I was spending the days, weeks and months after 9/11 searching for my brother’s remains at Ground Zero the public was told that the air was safe to breathe. Inhaling that Downtown Manhattan air during those months felt like heavy sand deep in my lungs. I knew the air could not have been safe. Nearly twenty years later over 2,000 people have died from inhaling that same toxic dust. 

Shortly after graduating West Point my surviving brother was deployed to Iraq and later Afghanistan for a total of 12 years. He was exposed to burn pits that were believed to be safe. These burn pits included a toxic mix of waste that included batteries, metals, and chemicals. This time unrestricted toxic air was being exposed  to our brave men and women of the military. Today thousands of veterans are suffering from lung damage as a result of exposure to these burn pits even through it was deemed safe. 

Today, ferry service to Coney Island is moving forward. Not on the ocean side where ferry service existed for a good portion of the 19th century bringing visitors directly to Coney Island from as far as Newark, New Jersey. Rather the highly toxic Coney Island Creek, one long mile from the amusement district. 

For decades traffic has been plaguing the neighborhood of Coney Island. Especially the west end where residents can not leave their homes due to the summer traffic after a concert or a Cyclones baseball game. God forbid an ambulance needed to make it’s way to the west end. 

This ferry planned for Coney Island Creek along with a potential shuttle bus will only exacerbate the already crippling summer traffic. Whereas an ocean side ferry with a proper landing would ease that congestion. The creekside ferry will cause thousands of visitors to be walking through the residential streets on their long hike to the beach. Whereas ocean side service will allow visitors to patronize the local businesses and return to the ferry without disturbing the residential area. 

Starting in the 1840’s small boats which gave way to larger steamboats all landed at the benign oceanside waters of Coney Island. Four oceanside piers welcomed boats with visitors from all areas of the globe. Located near the entrance to Lower New York Bay, Coney Island doesn’t have the same choppy ocean surf as nearby Rockaway Beach making it the ideal spot for a ferry landing. If this location was possible during the Civil War Era it certainly should be possible today regardless of the size of the vessel. 

The real crime here is the toxic dredging to make way for the landing which has been approved to move forward, even though there has been strong resistance by many members of the community.  Assembly Member Mathylde Frontus has been extremely vocal about opposing this location out of fear for the health and well-being of her constituents. Unfortunately, the Assembly Member’s cries have fell on deaf ears. 

Highly dangerous levels of mercury, lead, and pesticides in the creek will be dredged up yards from where people live, fish and where children play. These toxins can cause cancer, others, such as heavy metal as well as lead, will cause  developmental problems in children. It doesn’t matter which studies are conducted, common sense screams that this is extremely dangerous. 

If this ferry plan isn’t stopped in it’s tracks this community will be in the same vulnerable circumstances as those at Ground Zero after 9/11 as well as our brave men and women living among the burn pits of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Nobody with a sliver of rational thought in their head would approve this plan knowing these dire circumstances. 

Yes. Coney Island deserves a ferry. Not on the bothersome highly toxic creek, rather the much more logical ocean side. 

This project must be halted immediately for the health and safety of the community.