Op-ed: Leave the Coney Island ferry to the professionals

coney island ferry
City representatives announced plans to place the Coney Island ferry terminal in Kaiser Park on Feb. 12, 2019.
City of New York

Remember when the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) dropped Coney Island from the initial NYC ferry lineup? Remember when we as a community spent years pleading with upper echelons of city government to be reconsidered?

After a long PR campaign, NYCEDC recommitted to Coney Island and agreed to take a second look. The only reason Coney Island was reevaluated was contingent on analyzing the feasibility of a Gravesend Bay/Coney Island Creek ferry landing location. From the start of the process, NYCEDC made it clear that oceanside was not an option and would not be studied again. Key word, again, as the oceanside was previously studied in the 2012 Coney Island Ferry Feasibility Study.

This study was the reason why Coney Island was excluded from the initial roll out of NYC Ferry. Oceanside was a no-go from the get-go. Either Creekside/Gravesend Bay or no ferry service. We as a community chose ferry service.

NYCEDC has overseen the creation of five new ferry routes, the construction and rehabilitation of 21 ferry landings, and the commission of 38 passenger vessels — all while establishing a broad variety of other important infrastructure needed to sustain a ferry network. In the grand scheme of things, construction of ferry landings went off without a hitch.

Not one person opposed to the Coney Island Ferry landing location in Kaiser Park has ever built a ferry landing, has a background in maritime passenger transportation nor has other acceptable credentials that fully supports their opinion. Reasonable rational would dictate, leave it to the professionals. Why did most critics of a Kaiser Park ferry location refuse to support a non-creek location that NYCEDC proposed? Why were they silent for years? Where were they?

NYCEDC proposed a non-creek location at West 33rd and Bayview Avenue, which called for constructing a new pier. The proposed new pier would have been a new anchor for the community. It would have included benches and tables for those looking to take in the stunning view and provide much needed additional space for local anglers. This was my personal choice after NYCEDC narrowed it down to just two locations, Kaiser Park and Bayview and West 33rd. In the end, NYCEDC had reservations about West 33rd and Bayview due to tidal wave action. The location would have required a bit more engineering to curtail.

Perhaps if the critics were more vocal, united and pushed hard enough at the appropriate time, the NYCEDC would have been more inclined to make West 33rd and Bayview doable. However, even I concede. Back in 2017, 2018 and 2019 was the appropriate time to debate, not now.

Kaiser Park was not my first or even second personal preference for a ferry landing location. After publicly hearing expert reasoning for years, hearing what the NYCEDC was willing do, hearing concerns from my neighbors and experiencing a post(-ish?) pandemic New York, I’ll take what we can get.

In 2021, what Coney Island is able to secure is a Kaiser Park location. NYCEDC is building a Kaiser Park ferry landing, with service expected to begin at the end of 2021. Ferry service is very welcoming news, especially for us in the western portion of the neighborhood, as for decades, there have been grievances about being left out of developmental projects geared towards the amusement section of the neighborhood.

Critics argue that selection of a Coney Island ferry landing site ought to be made by a local hot dog business owner or a politician with a background in social work. Read that sentence again. Does it make any sense? Of course not! We do not commission dentists to supervise troop movements. We do not expect generals in the Infantry to perform root canals. Although knowledgeable in their respected fields, they are far removed from being experts in maritime passenger transportation. The critics do not have standing to dismiss the knowledge and experience the NYCEDC has proven to New York they have.

This is not NYCEDC’s first, second, third or even fourth go-around. It’s their 20th-plus time creating a ferry landing. Professionals such as engineers, analysts, architects and helmsmen evaluated the feasibility, considered the environmental impact and made an informed decision. Refusing to accept the determination made by subject matter experts of NYCEDC does an extreme disservice to all residents and visitors of Coney Island who have eagerly waited for desperately needed fast ferry service.

It would behoove all of us to consolidate our energy to discuss and enact a plan to enhance a Kaiser Park ferry location that will further benefit our unique and  rapidly growing neighborhood. Those who continue to force an oceanside location in 2021 may mean well, but unbeknownst to them are yet again jeopardizing Coney Island’s chance at ever having ferry service. There have been serious calls to disband NYC Ferry in its entirety by factions in upper levels of city government. This should raise alarm bells and panic buttons in Coney Island, as well as other waterfront hoods’ hoping to be included in the ferry network. We have no idea what level of commitment the incoming mayor and their administration will have to NYC Ferry.

Coney Island, take note of this. Learn to read the room and appreciate the position we are currently in. We may quickly find ourselves to no longer have a favorable position and be without a ferry.

Daniel Ioannou is a native and lifelong Coney Islander, the founder of “Coney Islanders 4 Ferry,” and a retired member of the US Army.