“If you build it, they will come. People are coming. People are choosing the ferry,” Mayor Bill De Blasio told the crowd at a press conference Wednesday morning in Long Island City.
According to De Blasio, Roosevelt Islanders can begin choosing the ferry on August 29, the official launch date of the NYC Ferry Astoria line. The line will be the fourth route on the City-subsidized NYC Ferry system connecting the Island to Astoria heading north, and to Long Island City, Midtown Manhattan, and Wall Street heading south.
“This is good news for Roosevelt Island,” Mayor De Blasio said, “Roosevelt Island is getting a ferry stop. It is not the easiest place to get to. Ferry service will make it easier to connect to the rest of the City.”
Many Islanders have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the ferry with hopes that it will ease some of the long lines currently seen at the Tram and subway stations. And the lines at the Tram are expected to only get longer as the platform replacement construction starts in earnest any day now. That project will mandate closure of one Tram car for much of its duration, and completion isn’t expected until early 2018. The subway has not fared much better recently, with long delays caused by signal problems, power outages, and track fires.
De Blasio credited his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg, for promoting the creation of Cornell Tech on the Island, calling the new campus a “centerpiece.” He encouraged the other legislators there to “keep building out the tech center in the City.”
De Blasio also announced that ridership on the Citywide ferry service had already outpaced projections. “In less than three months of a brand-new service, we have a million riders already, before all of the routes have begun, a month before the projected time, suggesting a much faster growth rate.”
But not everyone is pleased with its popularity. There have been complaints that the City underestimated the need for ferry service. The Mayor cited the Rockaways as an example of very crowded service. Councilmember for the area, Eric Ulrich, has demanded a “long-term, permanent solution for riders” who have complained that the service is not catering to commuting residents in favor of beach goers. Ulrich has called on the City to add more vessels to the Rockaway route to accommodate NYC Ferry’s growing ridership.
At Wednesday’s press conference, the Mayor announced changes that he said would help the service keep pace with demand, including increasing the size of new boats by 60-70 percent.
Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer from Long Island City and Costa Constantinides from Astoria both spoke of the impact the ferry will have on their transportation-starved districts.
Referencing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s characterization of this summer’s public transit woes as “the summer of hell,” Van Bramer told the crowd, “For those of us who use the 7 train, it’s more like the decade of hell.”
Constantinides said, “It’s 1,515 feet from the end of the Hallet’s Cove peninsula to Manhattan. You can see Gracie Mansion from there. Meanwhile residents of the Astoria Houses have the longest commute in all of District 22. [When the ferry launches] everyone will be able to cut their transit rides in half.”
Riders will not be able to use their MetroCards to connect to the ferry, although a ferry ride will cost the same as a subway or bus ride. Bikes cost an extra $1. There are two ticket types available for purchase, single-ride or 30-day passes. A 30-day adult pass costs $121, and a 30-day adult pass with a bike costs $141. Transfers within the NYC Ferry system are free and valid for 90 minutes once you start your one-way trip. Purchase your ticket by downloading the NYC Ferry app, on the website, from a ticket agent, or a ticket machine.
New routes serving the Lower East Side and The Bronx are scheduled to launch next year.