Marooned! City: Gov Island not busy enough yet for full-time Brooklyn ferry

A drop in the ocean: City cuts East River Ferry price to match new boat service
Done deal: East River Ferry riders can ride the high seas for the price of a subway trip once the citywide ferry service gets underway next year.
Economic Development Corporation

No sail!

City honchos say they won’t be launching a hotly anticipated year-round, daily ferry connection between Brooklyn and Governors Island anytime soon, despite previously saying they could start one when their city-wide boat-transit service begins next year. Officials now claim the island isn’t popular enough to warrant the extra leg yet, and say they won’t weigh anchor until there are more year-round businesses and attractions there.

“It’s always been a plan for that to be an option that we can activate when the time is right,” said Maria Torres-Springer, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which will operate the new ferries. “We have the ability to do it, it’s just a question of when it makes the most sense.”

Ironically, the news comes just as the agency is launching a new campaign dubbed “Gov Island 365,” urging New Yorkers to suggest ways it can make the island a destination “where you could work, learn, and play year-round.”

Brooklyn residents and pols have been doing that for years, calling for a permanent vessel to the island’s stunning parks, historic sites, and the New York Harbor School, which relocated from Bushwick to Governors Island in 2010.

In October last year, one of Torres-Springer’s colleagues said the city could create the route the same time it opens five new ferry stops between Brooklyn Heights and Bay Ridge in January 2017, so long as the operator it selected for the gig was offering to do it for the right price. The city included a route between Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island, and Red Hook as an “option” for 2017 in its own maps.

But a spokesman now says money was never the issue — the island needs more development before the service will be worthwhile.

“It’s not an issue of cost, it’s an issue of logistics,” said Economic Development Corporation rep Anthony Hogrebe.

Hogrebe wouldn’t say if a Governors Island leg was part of eventual winner Hornblower Cruises and Events’ pitch, but said that the city is in talks with the new skipper now about starting the route “when it makes sense.”

He added that the route will make the most sense once the island is a year-round destination. But for that to happen, of course, people need to be able to get there.

Currently, Brooklyn-to-Governors Island ferries only run on weekends from late May through September. Otherwise, island hoppers — including the more than 400 students who make the trip to the maritime-themed Harbor School from September through June — have to catch a boat from the outer borough of Manhattan.

The Harbor School was designed to help struggling students chart a new course in careers on the water, and officials last year said a connection to Brooklyn would help more of those kids in Kings County access the specialty institution.

Pols serving the borough’s shoreline nabes wrote a letter to Mayor DeBlasio in March last year urging him to include a Governors Island leg in the new ferry system — and say they’re still pushing Hizzoner to keep it at the top of his list.

“It’s important that EDC recognizes year-round ferry access to Governors Island remains a community priority,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), who put his John Hancock on the letter alongside Councilmen Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights), Brad Lander (D–Carroll Gardens), state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) and others. “As Governors Island continues to grow, it’s critical that Brooklyn’s access also grows.”

The island’s first year-round public amenity — a day spa — will open next year.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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