Testing the water! Ferry pilot program launches from Brooklyn Army Terminal • Brooklyn Paper

Testing the water! Ferry pilot program launches from Brooklyn Army Terminal

East River cruise: Passengers get ready to board the first ferry boat from Sunset Park to Manhattan on Monday.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

More than 120 people rode the ferry from the Brooklyn Army Terminal into Manhattan on Aug. 5, the first day of a four-week pilot program — but authorities could not say whether that number is high enough to keep the boat afloat past Labor Day.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation, the city’s semi-private liaison to the business community, arranged to have the Seastreak Rockaway-to-Manhattan ferry service stop at the 58th Street slip to help stranded R train riders reach the Financial District.

The R — Bay Ridge’s lone link to the other boroughs — stopped running between Downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan on Aug. 2 so the Metropolitan Transit Authority can repair damage from Hurricane Sandy.

The Development Corporation said it would decide after Labor Day whether enough Brooklynites used the East River route to justify continuing it, but wouldn’t give a specific number.

“We’ll be looking at ridership,” a spokesman for the agency said flatly whenever asked exactly how many people would need to take the ferry in order to keep it alive.

The spokesman did, however, say that the number of people who rode on the first day was encouraging.

“It’s a good number, we’re happy with that number,” the spokesman said.

But when pressed on how the fate of the ferry would be determined, the agency spokesman said that there were a number of variables apart from ridership — such as the level of subsidy available, the reliability those funding sources, and seasonal variations in usage and costs — that would have to be factored into the decision on whether or not the service would be sustainable.

Those waiting on the pier Monday morning said they were upbeat about the boat.

Catch the wave: Jackie Carew of Bay Ridge bids Brooklyn goodbye as she steps aboard the first ferry boat to Manhattan under the new pilot program.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

“It’s a nice alternative, and Bay Ridge only has the one train, and people will be bound up without it,” said Karen Tenczynski, who walked to the Sunset Park waterfront from her home at 70th Street and Colonial Road.

Even those accustomed to transferring to another train instead of riding the R all the way into the city said they thought the ferry was the best way to go.

“Hopefully it works out, and hopefully it’ll be here a while,” said Ridgite Tom McCarthy, who usually switches to the 3 train at Atlantic Avenue to reach his Wall Street office.

McCarthy was one of the few ferry riders who drove to the dock — and availed himself of the hundreds of free parking spaces on the pier.

Others said they turned out purely because of curiosity.

“I happened to be in Brooklyn, and I just thought I’d ride it and see what it was like,” said Staten Islander Jerry Longo.

Only about a dozen people boarded at the first launch, at 6:20 am, and only a few more got on when the boat returned at 7:10 am. But nearly 40 people rode the 8:20 and 8:50 am ships. The number dropped to a little shy of 20 on the last of the morning trips, at 10:05 am.

Ferries previously took commuters from the Brooklyn Army Terminal to lower Manhattan following 9-11 and during the 2005 transit workers’ strike, but the city discontinued the service because of low ridership. Ferry fare is $2 a passenger, but a source told this paper the actual cost of the trip is closer to $20 a head.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

Fisarmonica: Former Bay Ridge nightclub owner Barry Ernie serenaded commuters with Italian standards.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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