A ferry good idea, say southern Brooklyn residents

July 17, 2013 Denise Romano
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Given the massive Montague Tunnel construction beginning in August that will affect 65,000 R train riders daily, local residents and advocates are pushing harder than ever for a ferry to ply the waters between southwest Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Representatives of elected officials, Bay Ridge and Sunset Park residents, and members of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) gathered on Wednesday, July 10 at Community Board 10’s office to kick off the Southwest Brooklyn Ferry Advisory Committee and start a dialogue on how proactively to approach getting a ferry back—a solution to the transit changes that many consider to be a no-brainer.

“Many Brooklyn residents see Manhattan and say, ‘I could probably swim faster than the R train!’ Public transit isn’t what it used to be,” said Roland Lewis, president and CEO of the MWA.

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There was ferry service at the 58th Street Brooklyn Army Terminal immediately after Sandy, but it ran for no more than 24 hours — the service was quickly cancelled due to lack of ridership. However, said local activist Justin Brannan, a co-chair of the new organization, lack of ridership was likely due to absence of advertisement by the Economic Development Corporation, as well as the general chaos that ensued in the immediate days after the superstorm.

An earlier incarnation of the ferry – requested ever since ferry service terminated from the 69th Street Pier in the late 1990s — sailed from the terminal after 9/11 but that was eventually cancelled as well, despite protests from riders who would like to see permanent ferry service.

Despite the failure of the recent short-lived effort, it was clear that there was an interest in ferry service amongst Ridgeites when Brannan set up a petition on change.org entitled “Bring Ferry Service to Bay Ridge!” which got nearly 1,500 signatures in just a week and a half.

Although it would be more practical to have the ferry stationed at Brooklyn Army Terminal due to sounder infrastructure of the dock and available parking, any ferry going from Southwest Brooklyn to Manhattan would relieve a considerable amount of congestion that will inevitably come from the upcoming subway construction, said the advocates.

Harrison Peck of the MWA recalled meeting a Rockaway resident who raved about the success of the newly instated Rockaway ferry service, saying, “For the first time in her life, she could make plans after the work day.”

Ferries are beneficial because they are not subjected to traffic jams, and require minimal maintenance, the advocates say. However, stressed Liam McCabe, the new chair of the group, in order for Southwest Brooklyn to get a ferry of its own, there must be a government subsidy, which he estimated would be approximately $4 per rider for ferry service every 20 minutes.

In the coming weeks, the committee will be conducting local outreach across southwest Brooklyn to local allies such as UPROSE, the Merchants of Third Avenue, the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue BID, the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, the 86th Street BID, the 13th Avenue Merchants, CitiBike, the Riders Alliance, and the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation.

The committee will also focus on bringing the need for ferry service to the attention of mayoral candidates in hopes of making it a 2013 campaign issue. Attendees of the meeting also discussed the idea of instating a shuttle bus from Bay Ridge, and potentially Dyker Heights, to take residents to the 58th Street Terminal.

All residents are invited to be a part of the committee and can find out more about the movement at http://www.facebook.com/BayRidgeFerry. The committee’s next meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 30 at 7 p.m. at Community Board 10’s office, 8119 Fifth Avenue.

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