Pay the ferryman! New East River service begins

Pay the ferryman! New East River service begins
Photo by J.J. Despain

New York Waterway launched its much-anticipated ferry fleet on Monday, shuttling Manhattan-bound commuters across the East River for the first time since 2009.

At 7 am, there was already a line at each pier, but service didn’t officially begin until a boatload of giddy public officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, cut a ceremonial ribbon and boarded a 76-foot catamaran in Williamsburg to celebrate the ship’s maiden voyage to Midtown — the result of a three-year, $9.3-million subsidy by the city.

Bloomberg called the money an investment in the city’s waterfront development.

“The new ferry service will augment growth of Brooklyn neighborhoods and make it easier for New Yorkers to commute from and get to these residential neighborhoods and waterfront parks,” he said.

The new service will make stops at Fulton Ferry Landing in DUMBO, Schaefer Landing and Northside Pier in Williamsburg, and India Street in Greenpoint every 20 to 30 minutes for 14 hours a day.

The ferry is free until June 24, when water commuters will pay $4 for a single ride or $140 for a monthly pass. There’s a $1 surcharge for bikes.

The last company to ferry passengers across the East River pulled up anchor two years ago amid complaints that the city failed to subsidize the service to allow the company to make any money.

This time around, New York Waterway CEO Paul Goodman said the city’s support, two new piers, and the frequency of ferry service would keep their company afloat.

“The city’s subsidizing our service allows us to offer rush hour frequency which is different than any previous attempt to provide commuter service,” said Goodman.

Already there is some carping: One bike advocacy group wants cycles to be free, and the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association wants the service expanded to Pier 6 at the foot of Atlantic Avenue.

But most commuters were thrilled to set sail.

“It’s really fast, and it was a smooth ride, so that’s good,” said Shavonn Dubois, who picked up a boat from Fulton Landing. “Anything that means I don’t have to get on a train is a good thing.”

And Williamsburg resident Mary Meehan, who boarded at Northside Pier at N. Sixth Street, called the ride a “treat.”

“Oh my goodness, there’s no city like New York City,” said Meehan. “We’ve got everything now!”

— with Meredith Deliso