Dock block: Locals raise concerns about putting a ferry landing in Coney Island Creek

Thumbs down: Local activist Ida Sanoff is concerned that putting a ferry landing in Coney Island Creek could impede the contaminated water’s cleanup process.
Photo by Mike Beitchman

The citywide ferry service should think twice before dropping anchor in Coney Island Creek, locals warned after The Beep hyped a site there for a ferry landing.

Borough President Adams endorsed a proposed dock at W. 21st Street and Neptune Avenue in a statement last month, but the nabe’s ferry landing should go elsewhere, according to one local, who argued that the shallow, filthy channel is filled with derelict boats, debris, and toxic waste from years of illegal sewage dumping and industrial use, and would have to be regularly dredged and cleaned out.

“Everybody says, ‘we need a ferry,’ but has anyone asked questions as to why it hasn’t happened yet?” asked Ida Sanoff, the executive director of the National Resources Protective Association. “Initially they’d have to do quite a bit of work. They’d probably have to clean out whatever debris are down there and make it deep enough. And if you have to repeat this process every two to three years, then the costs really add up.”

Adams endorsed the proposed ferry landing site in a statement last month supporting the re-zoning of a nearby block to make room for new 153-unit housing development. He said that locating a ferry there could help fix the nabe’s chronic commuting problems and bolster economic development.

Local pols — including former borough president Marty Markowitz and state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) — began calling for Coney to be included in a South Brooklyn ferry route back in 2012, and Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) added his voice to the growing calls last spring.

Residents have repeatedly grilled the mayor on why Coney has been left out of the current route, which sails from Bay Ridge to Sunset Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo before heading to the distant isle of Manhattan.

A group called the Friends of Coney Island Creek Ferry and Landing even organized a test run from the W. 21st Street and Neptune Avenue site back in 2013 in a bid to get the city to get moving on the site.

But another local said he’s concerned that putting a ferry landing in the creek could interfere with recreational use, and that dredging and construction could derail efforts to clean up the waterway — not to mention the fact that the channel freezes over in the winter.

“While 21st Street seems like the best option, there are a lot of variables at work here. There are people in this water all the time — right at the mouth of the creek there are always people fishing and swimming. And are they going to have to dredge the channel?” said Charlie Denson, the executive director of the Coney Island History Project. “I’m more interested in restoring the waters than [installing] a big ferry port.”

Denson said that Steeplechase Pier on the ocean side would be a better site — though the city previously said that location would be too expensive — or that the Bayview Avenue and W. 33rd Street location closer to the mouth of the creek could work, if the city was willing to fund shuttle busses to bring tourists to the amusement park on the ocean side.

A rep from the group Coney Islanders 4 Ferry, which created a petition that garnered nearly 2,000 signatures calling on the city to build a ferry landing at the W. 21st Street and Neptune Avenue location, could not be reached for comment by press time.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation, which spearheads the ferry service, does not currently endorse any Coney site as a possible ferry landing because a 2013 study determined that the W. 33rd Street site would require further study of the water depths and navigation needs, according to a spokeswoman. But the nabe will be included in the agency’s next feasibility study, which will hopefully be done later this year, and the agency has not ruled out an ocean side ferry landing, the spokeswoman added.

Sanoff said that Coney Islanders should adjust their expectations and be patient, because determining the nabe’s best site for the ferry may take some time if they want to do it right by considering the environmental and economic implications.

“I think the reason there’s no ferry is because there’s a lot of issues that have to be looked at before it can get done,” she said. “I think this needs a lot more work than people are willing to hear.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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