Construction Begins on Ferry Terminal

June 26, 2017


Construction has started on the Island’s new ferry terminal. 


On Monday, crews began breaking up concrete and preparing the land at the oil dock on the east side of the Island under the Ed Koch 59th Street Bridge. The new Astoria ferry route, which will serve Roosevelt Island, as well as Long Island City and Manhattan, is scheduled to begin service in August. 


When completed, the ferry terminal will be the latest piece of a growing transportation hub on Roosevelt Island, with subway, Tram, and ferry service all within a short walk of one another, giving commuters more options and hopefully easing some of the current congestion. However, with both Tram platforms about to undergo renovation, Cornell Tech’s opening, and ongoing service disruptions and delays on the F line, officials warn that things are likely to get worse before they get better. 


The ferry landing will sit just north of the Queensboro bridge.



NYC Ferry Service


Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation President Susan Rosenthal said that she expects the work on the land portion of the ferry dock construction to be completed in a few weeks.


The Astoria line is the third new line being launched as part of the NYC Ferry service. It will connect the growing residential and business communities of Western Queens; Roosevelt Island, including the new Cornell Tech campus; and residents and job centers in midtown east and the Financial District.


Boats will leave from Astoria, come to our Island, and from here go next to Long Island City – a trip that takes seven minutes, then E. 34th Street with a final stop at Wall Street/Pier 11. The total travel time between the Island and Wall Street is 31 minutes. 


Mayor Bill De Blasio has heralded the NYC Ferry service as a “new era” for the city.


A one-way fare on the ferry costs just $2.75, which is the same as the subway (though your MetroCard is no good on the boats). Each new boat is fitted with a boutique news stand that sells coffee and booze, and is outfitted with Wi-Fi. 


Residents in Astoria expressed excitement at the upcoming opening of the new ferry route. It can be difficult to get from Hallets Cove, the location of the Astoria ferry terminal, to Manhattan. Although only 1,515 feet from Manhattan, residents say the walk to the subway alone is 20 minutes, and that’s before they even get on it. 


The ferry landing in Astoria


Earlier this spring, Astoria House residents watched their terminal construction in disbelief. One resident, a grandmother who has lived in Astoria House her entire life, said she was thrilled there would finally be an easy link to Manhattan. A mother walking with her 2-year-old said the ferry would be life-changing for her, as there’s no subway nearby and she feels very isolated living on the peninsula. 


At a gathering near the landing towards the end of March, celebrating the groundbreaking of the Astoria landing, Community Board 1 Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “For the residents of public housing, who can look out their windows every day and have no connection to this water, and to be reconnected, to get to their work every day, it’s a watershed moment.” 


Long Island City residents are also transportation-starved, as they rely solely on the 7 train. 


The Tram


Ostensibly, Islanders have more options, and more access, but lately it hasn’t felt that way to many. Increasing numbers are relying on a Tramway that is about to undergo platform construction which will impact service, starting in July. At Wednesday’s RIOC Board meeting, President Rosenthal said her goal was to “inconvenience residents as little as possible,” but conceded that “it won’t be comfortable.” She said she has no details to share on the work schedule but that she will communicate them when she does. 


In her President’s Report, Rosenthal advised Islanders to “go away for the month of July.” 


But longtime Islanders are used to transportation aspirations, and transportation lapses. The Roosevelt Island Tram opened in 1976, 13 years before the subway. It wasn’t part of the original design for the Island when plans were made in the late 1960s. “The Tram was really an afterthought, because we built Roosevelt Island with the understanding there would be a subway,” said former Urban Development Corporation President Ed Logue. “Finally, we realized we were not going to have a subway by the time the Island was ready for people.” 


“The opening of the Tram caused a dramatic increase in the number of people looking to move to the Island,” said Robert Litke, who served under Logue. “It absolutely allowed the Island to be marketed. It really made the place. It showed how farsighted and creative the City of New York could be.” 


The Subway


The F-train is part of a system, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), that Governor Cuomo characterized as in a “state of crisis,” in a press release earlier this week. 


Islanders have reported 50-minute wait times to board a subway during morning rush hour, and there have been frequent signal delays. There was a loss of power in mid-April causing extensive delays. In a recent article about the subway system, Vanity notes that monthly subway delays have jumped from 28,000 to 70,000 in just five years. On an Island where you can’t just get out and walk, or hail a cab, that is a problem. 


Funny story: when The New York Times reported in 1982 that the State was moving forward with the plan to build Manhattan Park, Islanders became very concerned about there being no subway. At the time, David Lustig, who was president of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, told The Times, “If there’s no subway, you can’t put any more people on the Island. It’s as simple as that.” The Tram was already filled to capacity during rush hours.


Sound familiar? 


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