New York Harbor School personnel want ferry from Brooklyn to Govenors Island

Buy land and buy sea? East River ferry operator wants to accept Metrocards
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

The city must provide year-round ferry service between Red Hook and Governors Island if a Bushwick-born school is to thrive across the Buttermilk Channel, some of the school’s officials say.

Representatives from the New York Harbor School — a nautical themed high school that started life in the once gritty section of Brooklyn before moving to Governors Island in 2010 — say a ferry from Brooklyn would make life a lot easier on kids traveling to school from the Borough of Kings, and could help increase the size of the student body at the house of learning.

“Having a ferry from Brooklyn would make the Harbor School a lot more tenable for families of eighth graders thinking about high school,” said Ann Fraioli, a teacher and co-founder of the school.

Right now, student heading to the school from Brooklyn have to travel to Manhattan’s southern tip and catch a boat to the island from there — a long journey that might dissuade some of the students the school hopes to court — especially those in far off neighborhoods such as Brownsville and East New York.

The Harbor School’s mission is to help troubled students find their way by introducing them to work on the water, but since its move to Governors Island it has increasingly attracted wealthier students, Fraioli said, and giving more Brooklyn students easy access to the island would help keep poorer kids banging down the doors.

“We like diversity, but we don’t want the pendulum to swing too far the other way,” she said.

Mayor DeBlasio in February announced plans for an expansion of the city’s ferry network, set to begin in 2017, that would give seafaring straphangers the chance to commute by boat from stops along the waterfront from Coney Island to Greenpoint for the price of a Metrocard swipe.

But notably absent from the plan was a weekday route between Brooklyn and Governors Island, where year-round commuters, including those attending the Harbor School and art residencies on the island, have increased recently.

A group of pols representing waterfront districts appealed to DeBlasio to consider the route, citing the Harbor School as one reason for Brooklynites to travel to Governors Island year-round. Thanks to the island’s close proximity to Brooklyn — about a quarter mile away — extending service to weekdays throughout the year would not be much of a hassle, said the councilman leading the charge.

“This would be a very modest expansion,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).

And the Council members aren’t the only ones considering the route.

In fact, a request for proposals put out by the Economic Development Corporation gives companies bidding on the ferry service the option of proposing a plan for linking the borough with the island.

Lander and his fellow ferry advocates estimated that a Governors Island expansion would cost about $2 million, based on the $900 per hour it costs to run the East River Ferry, and could work with the addition of just one extra boat, which could make the extra stop along the existing East River Ferry Service route, according to the March 17 letter.

Students at the Harbor School learn to build and operate boats, spawn and harvest millions of oysters, design submersible, remotely-operated vehicles, and dive underwater.

The school was founded in Bushwick in 2003 with a freshman class of 125 students. It moved to Governors Island in 2010, and now has an enrollment of 432 students in grades nine through 12, according to its website.

Presently, Governors Island is only open to the public from the late spring until the early fall, and while ferries plow the East River from Manhattan all year round, they are only available to students and those conducting business on the island during the off-months.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhuro[email protected]cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Do not believe the hype: This map, which lays out Mayor DeBlasio's ferry expansion proposal, shows Governors Island as equidistant from Manhattan and Brooklyn. In reality, it is much closer to Brooklyn.
Mayor’s Office