Waterlogged: Greenpoint ferry commuters left stranded by flooded access street

Waterlogged: Greenpoint ferry commuters left stranded by flooded access street
Lindsey Stephens

They need a ferry to get off the ferry!

Greenpoint ferry commuters have been forced to build their own escape from the India Street landing due to its namesake access street routinely flooding after heavy rain.

Water-bound straphangers have resorted to donning rubber boots and bringing along pocket knives to cut the zip ties of construction barriers, which they use to build a makeshift walkway across the cul-de-sac — which is submerged almost knee-deep at times, according to one Greenpoint resident.

“People carry pocket knives to cut through the zip ties of the barriers,” said Jonathan Vanasco, who recently posted pictures online that his wife took on her regular commute from Manhattan to the nabe at Kings County’s northern periphery. “A lot of people like to have ferry boots.”

Braver travelers even scale a four-foot fence on the south side of the pier to climb along slippy rocks on the waterfront and get to Java or Kent streets, which could lead to an accident, according to Vanasco.

“There’s no space and it’s just rocks. They get really slippery and people slip on them and have been definitely close to falling in the water,” he said. “It’s been an accident waiting to happen.”

The floods have left many less agile travelers stranded and in great distress, according to Vanasco.

“You see people who are elderly and they just don’t know what to do and they just stare at the water. People will wait it out or just depressingly go through the cold water,” he said. “People will be near tears and calling their friends not knowing what to do.”

The street has flooded after most rainfall for years, but recent construction on both sides of it has blocked off a sidewalk that used to provide ferry passengers with higher ground around the pond, Vanasco said.

The dangerous conditions recently caused the boats to bypass the stop entirely and provide Greenpoint-bound commuters with free shuttle buses instead, according to an advisory by a local pol.

“To ensure the safety of our riders, service on the East River route will temporarily bypass the Greenpoint ferry landing in both directions,” Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Greenpoint) said in a May 30 Facebook post. “Until safe access to the ferry landing is available, there will be a free shuttle bus available to riders every 30 minutes between the Greenpoint and Hunters Point South ferry landings.”

Levin did not respond to this paper for further comment by press time.

Blocked: Local developers have blocked off most of the streets from both sides but the owner of an adjacent condo tower said they are working with the city to build a temporary walkway.
Lindsey Stephens

Rain water used to run off into the East River but recent developments have caused the street to flood, according to a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, who said the city is working with Manhattan-based developer Mack Real Estate Group — which erected the adjacent 40-story condo building, The Greenpoint — to address the issue by reopening the sidewalk and possibly building new stormwater sewage connection.

“Historically, the stormwater has drained directly to the East River. However, recent development on the block has altered that drainage pattern. Short-term solution could be as simple as making the new sidewalk on the north side of India Street open to the public,” said Edward Timbers in an emailed statement. “Long term solution could be a new stormwater sewer connection.”

Vanasco said that the developers should foot the bill for repairing the blockages because he believes they are caused by cement seeping into the drains from the recent construction.

“Most people in the area think that the flooding is from concrete flowing into the run-offs. Concrete trucks come and hose off their trucks,” he said. “Maybe the developers should pay for it not the people.”

The DEP’s Timbers said that there was no evidence of concrete blocking the drains and that the agency is looking into the causes.

“No evidence of concrete blocking drains – our field staff are continuing investigation,” he said.

A spokesman for the developer denied responsibility, saying that the draining issues were on city property, but added that real estate bigwigs are working with agency officials to install a temporary walkway in the coming days at their own cost until bureaucrats figure out a longer-term solution.

“While our development is not the cause of flooding on India Street near the ferry terminal, we are willing to help ease the pain for commuters while the city resolves the underlying issues regarding drainage on its property,” Eric Waters said in an emailed statement. “The Greenpoint would like to immediately install a temporary elevated walkway connecting the current dead end of the northern sidewalk directly to the ferry landing on the south side. This work could be completed within days presuming cooperation and support of local officials, and would be performed at our cost. We believe this would provide a clear path for commuters and demonstrate our commitment to the good of the local community.”

A spokeswoman for the Economic Development Corporation – the quasi-governmental agency spearheading the maritime transit – said that they were working with the city and landowners to resolve the issue.

“As the NYC Ferry system and riders use this landing, EDC is working with our city partners and the private developer to find a solution regardless of jurisdiction,” Stephanie Báez said in an emailed statement.

Vanasco says that the city should get its act together because the current situation has discouraged many travelers from using the ferry, which he says has otherwise been a boon to commuters in the neighborhood.

“We love the ferry. From our neighborhood to Wall Street it’s a 40-minute ride,” he said. “I would love for there to be a street that doesn’t flood and access for people to have a sidewalk.”

Lindsey Stephens

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.