Ferry good news! New East River service to begin next month

Ferry good news! New East River service to begin next month
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Manhattan-bound commuters will get new express service — albeit on the river rather than under it.

Sometime pretty much around mid-June (probably!), New York Waterway will launch service connecting Greenpoint, Williamsburg and DUMBO to Lower Manhattan and Midtown every 20 minutes for $4 a ride.

The city-subsidized service amounts to the latest riverboat gamble for an administration that has seen earlier service sink. Even with a three-year, $9.3-million subsidy — up from zero for a prior operator — it is unclear if enough paying customers will keep this boat afloat.

“It’s going to take time to build traffic,” said New York Waterway CEO Paul Goodman. “Right now, it is all a question of frequency — and 20-minute frequency is what you need so that people don’t think of it as appointment ridership.”

A rival company’s service failed in 2009 after failing to get any subsidy from the city.

Goodman hopes his two-deck, 74-foot catamarans will do better by providing fast, reliable service seven days a week.

On weekdays, each ferry can pick up a maximum of 100 passengers beginning at 7 am from piers on India Street in Greenpoint, N. Sixth Street and Schaefer Landing in Williamsburg, and Fulton Ferry in DUMBO and drop them off at either Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan or East 35th Street in Midtown.

And during peak hours, between 7 am and 9:30 am and between 4:30 pm and 7 pm, commuters leaving DUMBO can get to Wall Street in as little as eight minutes and those leaving Greenpoint can get to Midtown in as little as 10.

On Fridays and the weekend, the ferry will add stops at Atlantic Avenue and Governors Island beginning at 9 am and ending at 8 pm — essentially cutting travel time between North Brooklyn and Governors Island in half.

Boosters said it would change our lives forever.

O, captain, your captain: Capt. Mike Kann will pilot boats in New York Waterway’s new East River ferry service.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“It addresses a problem that a lot of us face on a daily basis, that is, how do you get from Williamsburg and Greenpoint to the rest of Brooklyn other than the G train,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint), who said he would take the boat frequently.

But titanic challenges loom like an iceberg — dead ahead!

The city has forecasted that a ferry provider must lure about 718,000 commuter and recreational riders per year, in order to meet its costs, according to a 2011 study.

That’s tough given the prices: it’ll cost $4 to pay the ferryman for a single ride, of $140 for a monthly pass, significantly more than the $2.25 single ride and $104 monthly unlimited ride offered by the MTA.

East River ferry service will resume this summer. The question is: Can it survive?
Photo by Stefano Giovannini