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Immersive reporting: Our reporter takes the ferry to work

Immersive reporting: Our reporter takes the ferry to work
New routine?: Bay Ridgites meandered down to the American Veterans Memorial Pier to test out the new citywide ferry on June 1.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Call it a ferry-tale commute.

The Southern Brooklyn ferry route launched from Bay Ridge Thursday morning and I was among the smattering of commuters who boarded a vessel and cruised to work in style.

Travelers can now voyage from Bay Ridge to Sunset Park, Red Hook (with a weekend detour to Governors Island), Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo all in a mere 42 minutes, before shoving off to the distant isle of Manhattan.

Billed as a way to better connect the boroughs, the ferry service is meant to shave time off of New Yorkers’ commutes. And though a voyage on the vessels is not necessarily faster for most Brooklynites sailing from one nabe to the next, it is certainly more pleasurable than a scuzzy subway ride or rush hour traffic on the Gowanus Expressway.

In fact, the boats have carried more than 243,000 riders so far — crushing initial ridership projections by nearly 93,000 passengers, according to city data. And I am definitely ecstatic to have another option besides the notoriously unreliable R train.

On a good day, I can make it to Downtown via the R in 40 minutes. On a bad day, when service is stalled because of increasingly common track and signal problems, it can take an hour and a half or longer.

Off the bat, the trip to the American Veterans Memorial Pier off Shore Road and Bay Ridge Avenue tacks an extra 20 minutes onto my travels — I live steps from a subway stop — and will add a bit of time for most unless you happen to live near the pier.

Nevertheless, the landing was peppered with travelers eager to earn their sea legs for a mere $2.75.

Lunchbox, named by second-graders from Bay Ridge’s PS 170, pulled up to the dock at 9 am on the nose. People filed into the cabin and rush to the window seats and the upper deck for panoramic views of the boroughs.

Sadly, bucolic Staten Island was shrouded in fog that morning, but as we zoomed up the harbor, sprawling views of Brooklyn and Manhattan emerged. And before I knew it, we were already pulling into Sunset Park to pick up another batch of riders — some carrying bikes that they secured at the bow of the ship for an extra $1.

An on-board snack bar offered various treats for the trip, including canned coffee (on-tap cold brew still to come), chips, and chocolate.

You can even turn your commute into a booze cruise with local brews including Brooklyn Brewery Pilsner, 2015 Gotham Project Riesling, and 2016 Empire Builder Rosé. A 12-ounce pour of beer will run you $6 while a 6-ounce glass of wine will cost $8.

The shop was also stocked with plenty of unexpected items for sale, including birthday cards, miniature party hats, and my personal favorite, bright purple unicorn-horn headbands — which can be yours for a steep $20.

But the views were enough to make it feel like an out of this world experience. One rider was even racing back and forth, desperately trying to snap as many panoramas as possible to remember his maiden voyage.

I would have been happy to spend all day cruising up and down New York Harbor on that ferry, but we pulled in only a few minutes behind schedule. And even though I was left with 20-minute hike to my office, it was such a breath of fresh air compared to my daily subway grind that I really didn’t mind.

Is it practical for me to take the ferry every day? No. Will I take it from time to time? Definitely. I actually think I’ll wind up using the ferry less for my daily commute and more for weekend getaways to Governor’s Island.

But as a Southern Brooklynite, more options are always welcome, and it beats taking the R any day of the week.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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