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Ferry interesting — but can it work for Coney? • Brooklyn Paper

Ferry interesting — but can it work for Coney?

The operator of a ferry service on the East River wants to accept Metrocards — a convenience-boosting payment strategy that could make marine transit a more appealing form of transportation, boat backers say.
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

Millions of people go to Coney Island by subway. But would the tens of thousands of residents consider switching to a ferry?

That’s what the city Economic Development Corporation wants to know, calling last week for a feasibility study for a potential commuter ferry service to link the once-forlorn neighborhood and Manhattan.

The ferry would certainly cure the main headaches for drivers — the traffic-choked Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, said EDC President Seth Pinsky, whose agency not only oversees ferries, but is also involved in Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to add 5,000 units of housing near the new amusement park proposed for the neighborhood.

“Finding alternative transportation options is an ongoing part of the city’s efforts to create more accessible and attractive neighborhoods,” Pinsky said in a statement.

The notion of a ferry comes on the heels of Joe Sitt’s recent multi-million dollar sale of much of his Coney Island land to the city.

The EDC’s proposed route for the ferry will be geared towards the people who will call the “all-new, all-different” Coney Island home.

The service would have stops at West Eighth Street near the New York Aquarium; the Steeplechase Pier across from Keyspan Park; and a new pier in Coney Island Creek on the north side of the neighborhood near the Gravesend Housing Projects.

The ferry’s route may be mapped out, but the rest of the logistics, such as its cost, funding and marketing, will have be figured out by whomever answers EDC’s call for a study.

If the city’s track record with ferries besides its internationally known Staten Island version is any indication, it might be a while before the Coney Island boat sets sail or can compete with the $2.25 base subway fare.

Attempts to bring year-round ferry service to Manhattan, a nearby city, have repeatedly stalled due to a lack of subsidies to the private companies that operate the boats. All other forms of mass transit receive major public subsidies.

Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal acknowledged that a Coney Island ferry would need a lot of money from the city, but said the cost would be worth it.

“Residents have yearned for ferry service for years because even though they have nearby subway service, it takes quite a while to get to their non-Wall Street destinations and trains are packed on weekends and during the summer beach season,” he said.

Reichenthal said that the feasibility study might result in a change to the city’s reputation for planning commuter boats that don’t exactly stay afloat.

“Because others have failed doesn’t mean this one would,” he said.

If Coney Island ferry ever gets out of dry dock, it would be Brooklyn’s second option for sea loving commuters.

The Department of Transportation is already running a pilot ferry program between the Rockaways and Manhattan. The ferry has three stops: Riis Landing, the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Pier 11 near Wall Street.

Cost is already an issue since one-way trips from the Rockaways cost $6 for a single ride and $216 for a 40-trip book.

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