Ferry service to return, on temporary basis, during R train disruptions

July 30, 2013 Helen Klein
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Just as the changes on the R train were poised to go into effect – stopping direct travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan on the line for a whopping 14 months – news has come that the city will be adding the pier at 58th Street in Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal to the Rockaway ferry route to aid commuters scrambling to find a new way to get to work.

The weekday service, which is operated by Seastreak, will run hourly. It will cost $2 in each direction, and will link southwest Brooklyn with Wall Street and 34th Street. It is set to begin on Monday, August 5, at 6:20 a.m., and will continue, as of now, through Labor Day.

“Having this temporary ferry will ease commutes for those who use the R train, so I encourage people to skip the train crowds and use the ferry,” remarked City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who has advocated vociferously for the return of the service with the mayor’s office and the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which coordinates ferry service. “We must show the city that we need this service and that we will use it in large numbers so that it can be continued beyond the trial run.”

“Building upon our existing Rockaway ferry service will provide a critical transit option to assist Brooklyn residents during disruptions to the R train,” added Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said the city was “pleased to continue to expand this network.”

Locally, advocates for ferry service were elated. It was only a month, noted Liam McCabe, the chair of the Brooklyn Army Terminal Ferry Committee, since the committee had its first meeting, so the good news was especially sweet.

McCabe, whose day job is with Congressmember Michael Grimm, said that elected officials in the area – who include Gentile, Grimm, State Senator Marty Golden, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and Councilmember Sara Gonzalez — had “all come together and lobbied government at the state, city and federal level” for the return of the service.

Now, he added, the challenge in front of the committee is to raise awareness of the service’s existence. “We need to let people know it’s available and increase ridership, because the only way the ferry is going to stay is if there is increased ridership,” McCabe stressed.

Each boat, he noted, has a capacity of 149 passengers, and the goal, he stressed, is to “make sure every trip is filled up, make sure they are at capacity.”

That’s also the goal of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, whose President, Roland Lewis, said, “As has been demonstrated through the East River Ferry, frequent and affordable ferry service will be embraced by the public. As we learned from Superstorm Sandy, a redundant and reliable system of waterborne transit is essential to the safety of all New Yorkers.

“Though this service is being installed temporarily,” Lewis went on “we look forward to working with the mayor’s office, the City Council and the EDC to make sure that ferry transit becomes a permanent fixture of the transit network for commuters of southwest Brooklyn.”

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