Oh buoy! Daily Governors Island ferries could set sail by 2017

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

Ferry good news!

Daily ferries between Brooklyn and Governors Island could be a reality as early as 2017, when the city plans on rolling out its new water-transit service — so long as the price is right, say officials.

The city’s current plan is to launch with a new route connecting Manhattan to the Brooklyn waterfront from Pier 1 in Dumbo to 69th Street in Bay Ridge, then look at adding a stop at Governors Island some time after that. But the connection could happen much sooner if ferry operators bidding to run the service make the city an offer it can’t refuse, an official said.

“If the numbers match what the expectation of the cost is — and that’s a decision we’ll have to make — that’s something we’d do in ’17 when we launch the rest of South Brooklyn route,” said Seth Myers, executive vice-president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which will oversee the service.

But the public won’t know what the corporation’s financial expectations are until after it picks an operator, as honchos don’t want to tip their hand during negotiations, a spokesman said.

Local pols rooting for the route estimate the Governors Island leg would cost an additional $2 million — a drop in the ocean compared to what the entire system might cost.

“Based on our understanding that East River Ferry boats cost approximately $900/hour, this means that extending service from Brooklyn to Governors Island would only cost in the range of $2 million annually — a small amount in the context of broader ferry expansion,” wrote officials including Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D–Cobble Hill) in a letter to Mayor DeBlasio in March.

But the corporation is keeping mum on how much it is willing to shell out for operating costs, too — again citing ongoing negotiations. It expects to pay $55 million to build new landings and retrofit existing ones before the service begins in 2017, officials said.

The Council recently allocated money to double the service between Brooklyn Bridge Park and the island on busy summer days next year, such as Labor Day and Memorial Day.

But Governors Island brass claim a year-round service is becoming increasingly necessary as more Brooklynites frequent the islet for its day-spa, artist studios, and parks. The service would also ease commutes for Kings County teens who attend the island’s high school and currently have to go via Manhattan to get to class, teachers said.

And in other ferry news, the corporation is also reconsidering where it will place its forthcoming Red Hook stop.

Previously, it planned to add the landing to the pier at the end of Van Brunt Street or at Valentino Park. But locals and Borough President Adams claim the landings — both on the southern edge of the nabe — would be too much of a trek for most residents, and are pushing instead for a landing in Atlantic Basin.

The corporation previously told the dissidents the basin would be difficult in part because the Coast Guard puts that site on lock-down for 30 days a year when cruise ships enter the nearby cruise terminal. But now its officials are talking to the Coast Guard to see if they can work something out, corporation big wigs said.

“We agreed to take a second look at Atlantic Basin as a landing,” said vice-president Peter Flynt “We’ve heard the community loud and clear.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Making moves: This map shows the route of the mayor’s proposed new ferry network. It is set to launch in 2017.
Mayor’s Office