I was a member of the committees for the rebuilding of the ten Sheepshead Bay Piers both times they were rebuilt, and when I was asked about the possibility of bringing ferry service to the area, I carefully detailed how I personally, and through my civic work with local organizations for more than 25 years, advocated ferry service to and from Sheepshead Bay and how Pier 10 was made wider than the others to make boarding and disembarking ferry passengers easier to manage.
But, unlike downtown ferries, a Sheepshead Bay ferry would have to be accessible by car and have parking, and that this reality, was stated at every community meeting on the topic for the past 25 years.
It is a no-brainer that the more parking that is made available and affordable, the more attractive the ferry service will be as an alternative to using cars to get in and out of Manhattan.
No one is against ferries, but more than ever taxpayers are against spending that doesn’t benefit the hometown community, and they are tired of having their money thrown at great-sounding ideas without all the facts.
Ferry services are costly to operate and are highly government-subsidized. Running a successful one requires the kind of comprehensive approach that we have advocated since the early ’80s and that Bay Improvement Group, a community coalition, has urged since 1992: a well thought out, overall plan that identifies, considers, and addresses all critical factors.
And parking is a key part of the picture.
Where will we put all the cars at rates affordable enough to make the ferry a long-term, year-round winner and not just an occasional fun ride in the summer?
Also, how long will government subsidies be in place? Without financial support, the operating overhead will make success almost impossible, and require government subsidies for the foreseeable future. Will riders pay more to get to work on a ferry? And should we be considering green ferries, which are being introduced in other US cities and around the world? The city could lead in this pursuit as well.
We all love the idea of a ferry service, but must determine, understand, and balance the goals against what can be accomplished reasonably and affordably at this time.
Steve Barrison is President of the Bay Improvement Group.