OPINION: Applause for NYC Ferry, but time to extend service even more
The NYC Ferry is finally here. From Rockaway to Williamsburg, from Bay Ridge to Astoria, people have hailed it as a new, comfortable way to get from Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan. With the looming temporary shutdown of the L train in 2019, which will basically knock out mass transit between North Williamsburg/Greenpoint and Manhattan for 15 months starting in April 2019, ferry service is more important than ever– and it’s encouraging that the new ferry has separate stops at South Williamsburg, North Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
Some people, however, feel they’ve been left out, and one well-publicized example involves many residents of Coney Island, Gravesend and nearby areas.
For at least 10 years, including during the planning process for the current ferry services, the idea of a ferry stop in Coney Island has been avidly discussed by politicians, community groups and others. In 2015, the Coney Island Blog polled its readers on whether they wanted the boats to come to Coney. Forty-two readers said they would support a ferry terminating at Coney Island Creek, 208 people wanted a ferry terminating at the beach area, and only four people didn’t want one at all.
The idea of ferries to Coney Island isn’t really a new idea. From the 19th century until the 1930s, the Iron Steamboat Company ran ferries from various Manhattan locations, first to its own pier, the Iron Pier, and later to Steeplechase Pier. Today’s ferryboats are certainly faster than the old paddle-wheelers used back then.
Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, president of Southern Brooklyn Democrats, told this writer that “Coney Island is exponentially growing” with growing numbers of visitors and amusement attractions, and that getting more people to Coney in the summer is a priority.
She also said that ferry service will also benefit residents of nearby residential communities, especially on the weekends when MTA New York City Transit often curtails or detours subway service, making it somewhat unreliable.
“We have four trains that go to Coney Island — the F, the D, the N and the Q. The D and the N frequently run on each other’s tracks, and the F often skips stops along the way,” Thorpe-Moscon said.
Public officials from the area also have given their support to the idea. Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island/Gravesend), for example, has said that he is expecting a million or more visitors this summer, and the new ferry plan helps some waterfront neighborhoods at the expense of others.
This writer agrees with the idea of a ferry stop in Coney Island. Bay Ridge was recently added to the initial route, so why not Coney? Experts have said that rough waters preclude using Steeplechase Pier as a ferry location, and a Sea Gate terminal would serve too few riders. But I’m sure the proponents of ferry service can come up with engineers and planners of their own, and I’m interested in what they have to say.
One thing is certain — the conditions that led to the decline of Coney Island in the 1950s and ‘60s no longer exist. The coming of the Brooklyn Cyclones and Luna Park are merely one symptom of an overall growth in the area.
Especially with the on-and-off weekend repairs to the various subway routes, a ferry stop could only be a welcome addition to the amusement area’s transit mix. It would help Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Gravesend commuters who prefer not to deal with the hassle of a rush-hour subway ride as well.
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