Making a splash: NYC Ferry launches first jumbo boat in East River

Complaint accuses NYC Ferry staffers of refusing Muslim families because of ‘security issue’
Economic Development Corporation

It’s ferry-good news!

The first super-sized boat to join the city’s fleet of ferries started shuttling commuters across the East River last weekend, allowing even more straphangers to trade trips through crumbling subway stations for travel on the high seas, according to leaders of the service.

“We are thrilled about the arrival of the newest and largest NYC Ferry vessel,” said Cameron Clark, a bigwig at ferry operator Hornblower, which oversees the nautical-transit system along with officials at the city’s Economic Development Corporation. “We will continue to collaborate with NYCEDC to accommodate the high-ridership numbers and excitement of our riders.”

The new 350-seat ferry, which holds 200 more passengers than the boats that set sail when the system debuted last year, started sailing the Rockaway route on July 21, shuttling back and forth between the outer boroughs of Queens and Manhattan with a stop at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park along the way on some trips. One-way passage on the boat costs $2.75 — the same price as a trip on its smaller sister ships, and on any subway.

The vessel, named Ocean Queen Rockstar by young students at a Queens public school, journeyed more than 2,000 miles from waters off the Gulf Coast to its new home in New York Harbor, according to a service spokeswoman, who said the boat, when not carrying passengers, docks at NYC Ferry’s in-the-works “home port” at Fort Greene’s Brooklyn Navy Yard — which could open to commuters as soon as this fall, once brass at the quasi-municipal Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation finish construction on the landing, the rep said.

The roughly 97-foot-long and 27-foot-wide Ocean Queen Rockstar features six dedicated spots for bicycles, another half-dozen for wheelchairs, 162 indoor seats on its lower deck, and 182 outdoor seats on its upper deck, where additional benches offer more spots to plop down. It is the first of six 350-capacity vessels to join the NYC Ferry fleet, two more of which will start floating later this year, with the final three hitting the water sometime in 2019, the spokeswoman said.

The big boat’s arrival followed Mayor DeBlasio’s May pledge of an additional $300 million in capital funding for the ferry system, which officials expect will serve some 9 million New Yorkers by 2023, now that all six of its routes are up and running.

But the super-sized ship still pales in comparison to others that regularly cruise New York Harbor, which include such hulking vessels as the 505-seat Seastreak crafts that shuttle passengers from Manhattan to faraway New Jersey; the Staten Island Ferry boats, the largest of which can shuttle some 6,000 passengers from the Rock to Manhattan, and the massive Queen Mary 2 cruise ship, which packs around 3,000 riders on its journeys from Brooklyn across the pond to Southampton, England.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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