Sunken dreams! Ferry service not coming to Canarsie any time soon, city says

Sunken dreams! Ferry service not coming to Canarsie any time soon, city says
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The city threw their hopes overboard.

Canarsie residents’ spirits sunk following Mayor DeBlasio’s Thursday announcement that the city will create a ferry stop in Coney Island — but not at their beloved pier.

“It’s terrible, basically Canarsie is being neglected again,” said Marc Want, the head of civic group the Canarsie Improvement Association, who in 2017 collected more than 6,000 signatures on a petition demanding a ferry stop at the Canarsie Pier.

Hizzoner announced the new Coney stop during his state of the city address, delighting Coney Islanders who fought to bring the ferry to their neighborhood for years. But Want accused those Brooklynites of taking the wind from his own campaign’s sails, and stealing the stop that he said should be destined for Canarsie instead.

“Every meeting that we were at with the city, Coney Island was trying to join in. Coney Island was trying to piggyback on us, and now they got it,” he said.

Last August, DeBlasio told Canarsie residents that the city would decide on a possible expansion of the NYC Ferry service by the end of 2018, following a feasibility study conducted by officials at the Economic Development Corporation, the agency that oversees the waterborne transit system.

That study examined six potential new stops in the borough in addition to Canarsie, including sites in Bath Beach, Gowanus, Sheepshead Bay–Manhattan Beach, at Sunset Park’s Bush Terminal, at Coney Island Beach, and at Coney Island Creek — where officials ultimately chose to install a dock.

Canarsie missed the boat because its existing transit options get passengers where they need to go faster than a ferry would, and due to the lack of commuter parking at Canarsie Pier, according to agency spokeswoman Stephanie Báez, who said the dock managed by Feds with the National Parks Service only permits recreational, not commuter, parking.

A direct ferry from Canarsie would make the roughly 22-mile trip to lower Manhattan in 67 minutes, two minutes slower than the average time it takes to get to the distant isle using subways and buses that currently serve the neighborhood, according to the study, which shows the ferry’s travel time would only increase with additional stops along its potential route.

And the neighborhood’s councilman agreed that the pier’s parking rules made it harder to bring a ferry stop there, but said the city could have informed his constituents of its decision before they heard it in the mayoral address, especially after their passionate pleas for the service.

“I understand that the parking may have been a hurdle too high, but they should have let us know. We gave them 6,000 signatures and sat down with them several times, so it would have been nice to hear about it in advance,” said Councilman Alan Maisel (D-Canarsie).

Want also admitted the current parking rules are an obstacle, but claimed people regularly flout them, arguing there are often a lot more vehicles parked at the pier than the dozen or so revelers he sees visit the area on any given day.

“Every day I see more than 100 cars parked there in the middle of the day, so it’s being used as a commuter parking lot,” he said, speculating that of some of those cars’ owners ditch their rides at the pier and catch the B42 shuttle bus to the Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway L-train station, or carpool towards Manhattan via the nearby Belt Parkway.

The city’s feasibility study, however, ruled out a Canarsie ferry stop before Gov. Cuomo pulled the plug on the 15-month L-train shutdown this month, Báez said. And now that the new plan to repair the line includes night and weekend work, locals are even keener for another means of getting around, even if it only shaves minutes — or no time at all — off their commutes, Want said.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to mind five to 10 minutes longer, especially when we expect the train to shut down,” he said.

Canarsie’s recent ferry snub does not rule out the possibility that officials could again explore sailing there in the future, Báez said, but she could not guarantee the Economic Development Corporation would conduct future feasibility studies.

And not all Brooklynites are ready to give up the fight — Borough President Adams promised to continue his push to bring a nautical-commuting option to Canarsie, even as he cheered the decision to create a ferry stop in Coney Island.

“In the months ahead, I will continue … my pursuits of ferry service to Canarsie — a community in true need of transit equity,” the beep said.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@schnepsmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Drowned hope: The head of Canarsie Improvement Association Marc Want, second from left, and his fellow activists, from left, Sharon Long, chief of staff for councilman Alan Maisel, Dorothy Lee, and Beth Malone, were disappointed that Mayor DeBlasio’s new NYC Ferry expansion will not include a landing at their beloved eponymous pier.
Photo by Steve Solomonson