A drop in the ocean: City cuts East River Ferry price to match new boat service

Done deal: East River Ferry riders can ride the high seas for the price of a subway trip once the citywide ferry service gets underway next year.
Brooklyn Paper
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Ferry good news!

Mayor DeBlasio finally unveiled the operator and more details of his upcoming $55-million city-wide ferry service on Wednesday, but the biggest reveal may have been for commuters who won’t even use it. Brooklynites who already ride the existing East River Ferry were thrilled to learn their tickets will now only cost 2.75 as part of the plan — down from $4 on weekdays and $6 on weekends.

“I’m thrilled!” said Gabrielle Nadig, who lives in beautiful Greenpoint yet is sometimes forced to sail over to weekend meetings in Manhattan for her film production company. “Having a reduced fare will help me save money for my business.”

The city is cutting the fares to allow for transfers with the new floating transit network — which DeBlasio promised to tether to the price of a subway ride when it weighs anchor in June of next year, adding four new stops along the Kings County waterfront. Neither ferry service will have free transfers to the state-run subways and buses, however.

DeBlasio announced that San Francisco outfit Hornblower Cruises and Events will run the service and also take over the East River Ferry — confirming reports it had beaten out a joint bid by its existing operators New York Waterway and Billybey, and New York Water Taxi, which runs a service from Ikea in Red Hook to Manhattan.

That may come as more good news to some East River Ferry fans — Billbey was the company the city charged with inspecting the Greenpoint gangplank that collapsed into icy waters in 2014 due to a shoddy welding job that went undetected.

But fans of carting around stylish-yet-affordable Swedish furniture may be less bouyed — Water Taxi claims it will now have to fold because it can’t afford to compete with the taxpayer-subsidized service. DeBlasio dismissed that with a wave of his invisible hand, though.

“It’s called competition,” he said. “People should respect that process.”

The new service will shuttle straphangers between Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo then onto Queens and Manhattan when it launches. It will add a leg to the Bronx in 2018.

Local pols had also demanded a direct passage from Brooklyn to Governors Island — which is currently only accessible from Kings County on weekends during summer — but there were still no concrete plans as of Wednesday. The mayor’s office said only that it was still an “option” and Hornblower will have to work out any specifics with island officials.

The city also still could not say where it will put the new Red Hook stop, which has been a months-long point of contention between locals who want it to go in Atlantic Basin and the city, which would prefer the transit-starved nabe’s southerly shore.

Taxpayers will shell out $55 million for the new system, then $30 million annually for six years to keep it afloat. Hornblower will pay for 18 new 150-seat ferries itself, though they may not be ready in time for launch, in which case it will have to rent some.

DeBlasio estimates around 12,000 people will ride the new boats every day, according to a Politico report — a drop in the ocean compared to the number who commute via subway and bus each day, and a quarter of the people he claims will ride on the $2.5-billion streetcar he wants to build along much of the same Brooklyn waterfront.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Follow the $ from Atlantic Yards says:
BLOWING THE HORN — California-based Hornblower won the franchise for the mayor’s expanded ferry service on Wednesday, beating out a hometown coalition led by New York Water Taxi. Representatives of Nicholas & Lence Communications, which has handled PR and government affairs for Hornblower since 2007, were spotted at the mayor’s announcement at Pier 15. Read more about the new ferry service here: How much money did Lategano donate to Deblasio? Could it be a conflict of interest that she chairs the State's tourism committee?
March 17, 2016, 9:56 am
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York, United States says:
I am still worrying about the overall projected ridership numbers that are not meeting expectations, making the NYC taxpayers to foot the bill of this unnecessary system. In addition, the operator chosen will have dire consequences for other ferry agencies such as the New York Water Taxi, which could lead to the shutdown of their own business.
March 17, 2016, 10:19 am
Roberto from Brooklyn Heights says:
I am interested to know whether the engines on the Hornblower fleet will be quiet and fueled with clean energy. The use of the micro commander guidance system on Hornblower's San Francisco fleet is something that should be looked into. The micro commander reduces human control of vessels and might be slow-acting in emergencies.
Echoing Mr. Rivera's point, it is not clear whether ridership and taxpayer contributions to the new ferry system are justified. Plus, we should certainly look into the apparently chummy relationship between lobbyists for Hornblower and the tourist helicopter industry and the Mayor. At times, such connections are key to obtaining lucrative contracts.
March 17, 2016, 11:13 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Don't worry Roberto Hornblower's engines are gas turbines and are fueled by unicornis flatulancis, captured from their very own herd of Unicorns - which is why they are headquartered in San Francisco, the end of the rainbow city. They are free range Unicorns, and the captured flatulancis is fair market. All the flatulancis gatherers are paid $15. an hour and have free daycare for their children.
March 17, 2016, 12:47 pm
Trollerskates from Moving Target says:
After dealing with pretentious bikers, psychotic drivers, diehipsters, and hipsters, I'm looking forward to a nice boat ride to unwind.
March 17, 2016, 1:48 pm
Too bad from Greenpoint says:
I preferred the $4 fare to keep the riff raff out. They are going to need much bigger boats in light of the L trainpocalypse and the 100k new residents they are cramming into N BK and LIC.
March 17, 2016, 2:30 pm
SCP from Sunset park says:
I love the idea of more ferry service in NYC. It seems like the perfect transit solution! Not much infrastructure needed (water is already there!), flexible routes, few technical speed restrictions.. why aren't we taking advantage of the resource all around us! I think there just needs to be even more & faster ferries and more stops.

I would LOVE a stop by Industry City, in the mid 30s in BK. I could walk to the ferry and take it over to FiDi/Downtown! Would be so much nicer than the subway. Come on, add 1 more stop in there between the army terminal & red hook! That's a big gap..
March 19, 2016, 12:25 am
greenpointrez from Greenpoint says:
Fare parity with the MTA will go a long way toward increasing commute-time usage. Only the most ignorant and short-sighted whine about this being unnecessary. Only a fool would argue that NYC cannot benefit from an increase in every form of transit.

The previous operators clearly dropped the ball so a change is good. Hornblower is a mature outfit used to dealing with much more onerous restrictions in the SF Bay. They are a good choice.
March 20, 2016, 1:20 pm

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