Ferry uneasy: City named Coney Creek as site for nabe’s new ferry before solving critical logistical, environmental issues, locals say

Unsure: Coney Islanders recently cheered the city's decision to expand ferry service to the neighborhood, but now some locals are worried about logistical, environmental, and other yet-to-be-addressed issues concerning officials' proposed dock site within Coney Island Creek.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The city must address unanswered logistical and environmental questions about its plan to create a ferry stop in Coney Island Creek, according to some locals, who blasted officials for failing to include solutions to such concerns in their formal location study before selecting the site.

“Just because you have water, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to put a boat on it,” said Ida Sanoff, who lives in Brighton Beach. “This is a problematic location.”

Honchos at the Economic Development Corporation — the agency that oversees the NYC Ferry Service — released their feasibility study of the proposed site at Bayview Avenue and W. 33rd Street last month, days after Mayor DeBlasio announced that a boat would regularly set sail from the People’s Playground on less than 40-minute rides to Manhattan as soon as 2021.

The study notes that creating a dock in the creek at Bayview Avenue and W. 33rd Street poses “operational risks” and challenges, including the width of the waterway’s entry point, shallow waters, shifting sands, and the need for regular dredging at the site — all of which could hinder reliable service.

A ferry landing at that location would also be “a challenge to design, likely requiring higher maintenance costs due to the dynamic coastal environment,” according to the study, which did not note how officials plan to deal with the many issues it outlines — an omission that should worry Coney Islanders who are counting down the days until boats set sail, according to another local who lives blocks from the proposed dock site.

“We’re generally excited about the ferry coming to Coney Island, but there are too many questions surrounding the selection process that weren’t adequately answered in the whole study that they issued,” said Orlando Mendez, who lives on Surf Avenue and W. 33rd Street.

The city is prepared to dredge the creek to ensure the municipal boats can easily sail in and out of it, according to an Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman, who said agency leaders would regularly monitor the water’s depths to determine if further dredging is needed, and work with officials at the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to ensure passenger vessels can safely navigate through this environment.”

“Some mitigation measures may be required depending on the final landing location and landing design,” said Stephanie Báez.

But the city could have better planned for such logistical issues — and could have conducted a more informed site-selection process — if it included locals in the conversation from the get-go, according to Sanoff, who said residents would have happily shared concerns about a creek dock had officials not reneged on their alleged promise to keep Coney Islanders in the loop.

“It is absolutely outrageous after we’ve gotten so much lip service about how the community should have a seat at the table, nobody knew there was a table to have a seat at,” she said. “They just said, ‘This is where it’s going to be.’ ”

Officials briefed community-board leaders and pols on their general plan to expand ferry service after announcing the scheme last year, according to Báez, who said no locals took part in specific site-selection processes for new docks or routes.

Residents, however, will have a chance to share their thoughts during the year-long environmental-review process required before they can break ground on a landing in Coney Island Creek, which will begin this spring and include public-comment periods as well as a public-scoping hearing.

But environmental and logistical concerns aren’t the only unresolved issues with launching ferry service in the waterway — some local pols are still divided over the best spot on the creek to build a dock.

Coney Island Councilman Mark Treyger cheered the proposed site at Bayview Avenue and W. 33rd Street following the mayor’s announcement, but Borough President Adams argued the location should be further up the creek at W. 21st Street and Neptune Ave., a spot he first endorsed back in December 2017, in part because it would force the city to clean out more of the creek to than it likely would otherwise to make way for the service.

Still, Adams promised to work with Treyger and other colleagues in order to determine the best landing location.

“I think it’s the whole opportunity to do the environmental cleanup — we should take a holistic approach,” Adams told this newspaper. “But [Councilman] Mark Treyger’s the representative out here, and I’ll coordinate with him and we’ll find the right spot.”

And some locals want to know why officials did not add another Manhattan stop as part of the new express route that will shuttle straphangers between Wall Street on the distant isle, Bay Ridge, and Coney once service sets sail in the neighborhood, according to Sanoff and Mendez, who noted most Coney Islanders, including the alleged 4,000 residents whom officials claim live in public housing roughly a half-mile from of the proposed landing, travel further into the city than Wall Street to go to work.

“Did anybody ask how many people living in Nycha are working on Wall Street?” Sanoff asked.

Báez did not specifically respond to an inquiry about whether or not the agency considered adding another Manhattan stop to the Coney route, but noted ferry riders can freely transfer to other routes at the Wall Street stop in order to reach more destinations in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.

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

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