Coney Ahoy: Nabe Calls for Ferry Service

October 4, 2018 Jaime DeJesus
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Coney Island wants its ferry.

On Wednesday, October 3, business leaders, community leaders and residents held a press conference on the Boardwalk at West 22nd Street to ask the city to commit to studying the community for ferry service in the next round of studies.

“We are gathered here to join together and advocate for NYC Ferry Service as ferries pass us by in the background,” said Alliance for Coney Island Executive Director Alexandra Silversmith. “To date, there has been no official announcement that Coney Island will be included.”

According to Silversmith, late last month, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) released an open call to the public to submit locations for ferry service.

“We believe this is our opportunity for our voices to be heard,” she continued. “We must make it clear to the city that ferry service is critical to Coney Island. We stand here in dire need of transit alternatives, a community with some of the longest commute times in New York City as well as being a major tourism destination.”

During August 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Mark Treyger held a town hall at the Coney Island YMCA, 2980 West 29th Street, where the mayor addressed questions regarding bringing a ferry to the area.

“If the service is strong, and so far it has been very strong,” he said, “then we will start the process of looking at Coney Island in addition to other parts of Staten Island and Queens.”

“We are home to a variety of cultural and entertainment institutions like the New York Aquarium, Brooklyn Cyclones, Luna Park, Nathan’s, Deno’s Wonder Wheel and an abundance of small businesses, all of which are here today, as well as being a community of 50,000 residents, all of whom feel forgotten,” Silversmith added. “While much of Brooklyn’s waterfront has ferry service, we have been overlooked.”

Locals let their voices heard during the gathering as many held up signs pleading for ferry service.

“I’m a longtime resident,” said Kumali Zairee. “I’m out here to let everyone here know, the mayor, EDC, that we need ferry service here right now. The transportation here is not that great and the community is getting larger and larger by the day.”

The question, some said, is why the neighborhood is still waiting.

“It’s pretty insulting that we didn’t get it the first round, given that we are a major city tourist attraction and we have a major history of past ferry service unlike any other neighborhood in New York City,” Founder of Coney Island U.S.A. Dick Zigun told this paper. “Given how much money the city has invested in Coney Island, our attendance is going up by the millions and we’re hard to get to.”

New York Aquarium Director Jon Dohlin agreed.

“The fact is that we are here because we know it’s viable,” he said. “We know New Yorkers want to travel out to a seaside experience via the water. We know that the city is committed and controls these city ferry services and we know we’re a natural fit for that, whether it comes off the ocean or Coney Island Creek. Either way, the economic growth opportunity for residents and businesses here is tremendous. We need to have that service because it is a natural for this area and it fills in all those gaps in the existing transportation options.”

This past May, de Blasio announced in Bay Ridge that the city’s executive budget would include $300 million in new capital funding over the next several years for NYC Ferry; however, he failed to mention Coney Island.

“As Mayor de Blasio announces yet another significant investment into the NYC Ferry program, we join countless residents in outer borough communities across the city in continuing to be baffled by the fact that the administration has yet to implement ferry service in parts of the city that feature the lengthiest commutes and the most limited transit options,” asserted a joint statement by Councilmembers Mark Treyger, Joseph Borelli, Mark Gjonaj, Alan Maisel and Deborah Rose, and Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo following the announcement. “We are long beyond the point of needing to see fast and equitable expansion of the ferry program so that more of our city’s residents can benefit from this program, not just those who are fortunate enough to live in certain zip codes.”

“It is a tremendous need,” said Vice President of the Brooklyn Cyclones Gary Perone. “The biggest complaint we get from people around the city about coming to games is the amount of time it takes to get here from points not just outside of Brooklyn but from north Brooklyn and other areas of the borough.”

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