‘They lied to us’: Coney Islanders protest ferry plan at Kaiser pier

‘They lied to us’: Coney Islanders protest ferry plan at Kaiser pier
Photo by Trey Pentecost

Call it pier pressure!

Kings County anglers are casting scorn on a city scheme to construct a new ferry terminal at the Kaiser Park pier, claiming the sea traffic and the hordes of tourists would ruin their beloved fishing spot.

“That pier has been a steadfast part of our community for so many years,” said Keith Suber, a Coney Island resident who joined a demonstration at the pier on July 27, where he touted a sign that read “Fishing, not ferries!”

The NYC Economic Development Corporation — the quasi government agency overseeing Mayor de Blasio’s heavily subsidized ferry system — has spent months debating where to place a terminal for the new Coney Island ferry, which will transport riders from Coney Island to Lower Manhattan. On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for NYCEDC claimed that the corporation is still deciding between two locations: the Kaiser Park pier, and a spot two blocks away on W. 33rd Street.

However, locals now believe that EDC has already settled on the Kaiser Park location, claiming loose lipped contractors with the city’s chosen construction outfit, Skanska, recently discussed the plan with locals while surveying the park, where they claimed the city had already awarded them a contract to build out the ferry stop at the pier.

“He said, ‘We have a contract to build a ferry terminal and pier. It’s not going to be [on 33rd Street],’” said Coney Island resident Charles Denson, relaying what he claims the Skanska employee told him.

Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman Stephanie Baez said the agency had not awarded Skanska any contract related to the Coney Island ferry stop, let alone for the Kaiser Park Pier location.

The construction outfit flatly denied Denson’s claim that their surveyor spilled the beans regarding any decision to use the pier as a ferry launch, saying not only would they not do that, but that it would be impossible, given that a location has not been chosen.

“Skanska’s employees do not, would not, and could not comment on the status of a contract that doesn’t exist,” read a statement Skanska released.

But Denson’s claims have nonetheless outraged community members, particularly locals who use the pier to fish and whose children swim in the area.

“They lied to us about it,” said Harry Faulkner, a longtime Coney Islander, regarding claims that the city hadn’t finalized the location.

Community members and borough anglers have enjoyed the pier at Kaiser Park as a fishing spot for years, and locals claim the area, which is especially well-suited for beginners, was where they and their children learned the sport.

“We use it for basic crabbing,” said Faulkner. “Kids go out there and we teach them how to fish.”

Other locals said that handicapped residents in NYCHA’s nearby Gravesend Houses frequent the spot because of its wide, accessible pathway, and that some groups use the area for religious ceremonies.

Denson argued that a ferry would threaten the wildlife in Coney Island Creek, where the Kaiser Park Pier stands. The creek, once a dumping ground for raw sewage and industrial waste, is now a horseshoe crab spawning area, and the surrounding dunes contain a fragile ecosystem.

“It’s a beautiful, restored natural area,” Denson said.

Saturday’s protesters don’t like the E. 33rd Street location either, claiming ferry traffic would overburden the residential neighborhood, and that the city should dock it’s ferry boats on the other side of the peninsula near the Coney Island amusement district.

Reps for EDC have stated previously that they chose to pursue a docking point along Coney Island’s northern coast in an effort to serve local residents over tourists.

But they do like the idea of a Coney Island ferry stop, which can make the trip to Manhattan in 37 minutes, and only costs $2.75 thanks to hefty government subsidies, according to Denson.

“I want the ferry,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea.”

Reach reporter Rose Adams at radams@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–8306.
Something’s fishy: Coney Island fisherman and crabbers, like Dennis Brown (above), object to the construction of a ferry terminal on Kaiser Park’s pier, saying that officials never announced their decision to build a terminal there.
Photo by Trey Pentecost