Call it dead in the water.
City officials have eliminated one of the three sites in Coney Island Creek that they studied as a possible location for a ferry landing, honchos announced at a community meeting in the People’s Playground on Monday night, adding that they will instead install the dock at one of two sites in the neighborhood’s West End and that they do not plan to offer a shuttle to transport riders to the beachside amusement district.
The waters around the site at W. 21st Street and Neptune Avenue are both too shallow and too narrow to accommodate one of the city’s vessels, according to a senior project manager at the Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-governmental agency tasked with growing the city’s economy that operates the ferry system.
“As you move into the creek, it gets shallower,” said Doug Rose. “Not only is the water depth a challenge, but it’s also maneuverability — our boats are quite big…it’s just really problematic for us.”
Rose said at the May 6 meeting that the vessels cannot sail in less than nine feet of water, and the waters around W. 21st Street measure only about four feet deep, according to the federal Office of Coast Survey. The senior project manager added that officials instead plan to drop the dock near the mouth of the waterway, where the waters are closer to 12 feet deep, at either the fishing pier in Kaiser Park near W. 31st Street, or at W. 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue, which the most recent feasibility study noted poses “operational risks” and challenges due to shifting sands and the width of the waterway’s entry point.
And the proximity of the W. 21st Street site to the subway station six blocks away also made it an undesirable location for the landing, since honchos intend for the boat to improve the commutes of people in the peninsula’s transit-starved West End, near the sites at W. 31st and W. 33rd streets, according to Rose.
“[W. 21st Street is] also closest to the subway, which intuitively might seem like a good thing, but with the ferry what we’re trying to do is help people who have the worst commutes currently,” he said.
The announcement falls in line with the agency’s initially-announced plan to build the dock closer to the mouth of the waterway, near W. 31st Street, which spokeswoman Stephanie Baez said was the tentative location for the dock in January, when the mayor first announced plans for the People’s Playground ferry, which will make a stop in Bay Ridge before sailing to lower Manhattan in what officials estimate will be a sub-40 minute trip by 2021. But the agency’s plans have remained in flux since then: at a February meeting with the local Community Board 13, Rose announced that officials were in fact studying sites within a 10-block swath of the creek, stretching from W. 23rd – W. 33rd streets, to determine the best spot for the berth within that stretch. And at the Monday night meeting, Rose said the agency had only actually studied the three aforementioned sites, including the one at W. 21st Street.
Local advocates from a group called the Friends of Coney Island Creek Ferry and Landing first proposed dropping a dock at W. 21st Street in 2013, when they led a successful test run in a 150-passenger vessel to the site from Battery Park. And Borough President Eric Adams endorsed the location in a December 2017 statement supporting the re-zoning of a nearby block, and re-iterated his support for it earlier this year. But local environmentalists alleged the ferry should go elsewhere, claiming that the creek is already filled with derelict boats, debris, and toxic waste — which they noted would have to be regularly dredged — and that a dock at W. 21st Street and Neptune Ave. would interfere with recreational use of the channel.
In 2012, officials suggested creating a stop at the fishing pier site near W. 31st Street, but officials rejected that location, claiming it was too far from the amusement district. But this time around, city officials said they’re prioritizing the neighborhood’s alleged 700 projected riders, who make daily commutes to lower Manhattan, over tourists, which is why they don’t plan to offer a shuttle from the landing to the amusement district, according to an assistant vice president at the economic development agency.
“This isn’t set up or focused to be bringing people to the amusement district or to the beaches,” said Megan Quirk.
But the local community board’s district manager charged that beach-bound tourists will be among the ferry riders, and that they’ll be left stranded near Kaiser Park.
“They’re going to look for the beach and the amusement park, and they’re going to be stuck there,” said Eddie Mark.
And the board’s chair claimed that one of the Kaiser Park locations could lead to quality-of-life issues for local residents, claiming that ferry riders will likely be loitering in the area after they dismount the vessel.
“They’re going to come in, there’s housing right across the street, how are we going to move these people?” said Joann Weiss.
But the amusement district is already well-served by four train lines, according to economic development agency spokeswoman Stephanie Baez, who added that honchos do not have a timeline for when they plan to pick the exact location, and that they will continue to analyze the two possible dock sites.