Transit advocates got their ferry, now they need passengers
The Seastreak ferry will begin making stops at the Brooklyn Army Terminal pier at 58th Street in Sunset Park starting on Monday, Aug. 5. But if the ferry doesn’t have a lot of passengers each day, chances are the service will not be around past Labor Day, according to transit advocates.
“We got what we wanted. Now we have to make sure it works,” said Liam McCabe, co-chairman of the Brooklyn Army Terminal Ferry Committee, a grassroots group of Bay Ridge and Sunset Park residents that worked to convince the Bloomberg Administration to give the ferry the go-ahead.
McCabe and Committee Co-Chairman Justin Brannan said they will conduct an all-out effort to get the word out to the public that the ferry service is here. The committee will also try to convince local residents to give it a try. The campaign was mapped at a committee meeting held Wednesday night at the offices of Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge.
“We’re using social media. We have a Facebook page. But we’re also doing it old-school. We’ll be handing out fliers at subway stations,” McCabe told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Aug. 1.
“The easy part is over. Now we have to make sure people use the ferry,” Brannan told the Eagle.
A one-way ticket on the Seastreak will be $2.00, 50 cents cheaper than a subway ride, a factor that Brannan and McCabe hope will entice riders. “It’s cheaper than the subway. It gets you to Manhattan in 15 minutes. And it’s a great ride. What’s not to like?” Brannan asked.
The ferry is subsidized by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). “Right now, it’s a pilot program through Labor Day. Our goal is to make it permanent,” McCabe said.
McCabe and Brannan both said that if they can show EDC that the service has high usage; the agency will consider extending the service beyond Labor Day.
The two men are both steeped in politics and have knowledge of how to navigate government bureaucracy. Brannan is communications director for Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst). McCabe is a community liaison for US Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island). The fact that they work for lawmakers on opposite sides of the political aisle is something that amuses them. “We work very well together. We’ve worked on other community-related issues before,” McCabe said. “There is no Democratic or Republican way to get people to ride on a ferry,” Brannan said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced earlier this week that the Rockaways-to-Manhattan ferry operated by Seastreak, a New Jersey-based ferry operator, will begin making stops at the Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier on Monday, Aug. 5 to help ease the rough commute R train rides will face due to the closure of the Montague Street Tunnel.
The tunnel, which provides the major connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan for the R train, will close for repairs starting Aug. 3. The tunnel sustained heavy damage in Superstorm Sandy and is expected to remain closed for 14 months, according to officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
The ferries will depart from Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive in the Rockaways, stopping at the new 58th Street landing in Brooklyn, Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan and East 34th Street in Midtown.
In the morning, the ferry will stop at the Brooklyn Army Terminal at 6:20 a.m., 7:25 a.m., 8:20 a.m., 8:55 a.m., and 10:05 a.m. For the afternoon rush hour, the ferry coming from Manhattan will arrive at the Brooklyn pier at 3:15 p.m., 4:55 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
“Building upon our existing Rockaway ferry service will provide a critical transit option to assist Brooklyn residents during disruptions to the R train,” Bloomberg said.
The ferry had widespread support from elected officials from both sides of the aisle in Bay Ridge and Sunset Park.
Gentile said that he and Council Speaker Christine Quinn worked for several weeks to successfully brokered the deal with City Hall and the EDC to make the ferry service available.
“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 which will get you to Wall Street in 15 minutes and then to midtown thereafter,” Gentile said.
The Brooklyn Army Terminal has parking, something that may help convince Bay Ridge residents to use the ferry, McCabe said. But he admitted that for those without cars, the trek to the pier might be difficult. “There is no bus line that goes directly to the Army Terminal,” he said.
“We’re hoping to get a shuttle bus along Shore Road to pick people up and take them to the pier,” McCabe said.
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