Navy Yard

Navy Yard ferry service opens amid criticism about city spending

The ferry's Astoria-to-Wall-Street route now includes a stop at the historic manufacturing center.

May 20, 2019 Lore Croghan
Here’s the ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s ferry service. From left, there’s the Navy Yard’s David Ehrenberg, developer Bill Rudin, City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Boston Properties’ John Powers, the EDC’s James Patchett and Navy Yard Chairperson Hank Gutman. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Amid mounting criticism of public spending for the NYC Ferry, it’s worth noting the city did not pay for the construction of the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s new pier and dock.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. and the developers of Navy Yard office building Dock 72 jointly footed the approximately $8 million bill for the ferry facility, Navy Yard President and CEO David Ehrenberg told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The builders of 675,000-square-foot Dock 72 are the Navy Yard, developers Boston Properties and Rudin Management and coworking office provider WeWork.

A ferry floats outside Dock 72, a new office building at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
A ferry floats outside Dock 72, a new office building at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Ferry service launched Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the historic Navy Yard, which has been transformed in recent years from a shut-down shipbuilding facility into a modern manufacturing hub populated by businesses that employ about 10,000 people.

The Navy Yard is now a stop on the NYC Ferry’s Astoria-to-Wall-Street route.

Job growth predicted at Brooklyn Navy Yard

Ehrenberg told the Eagle the Navy Yard’s ferry service is “extraordinarily important” because it links the manufacturing complex with waterfront Brooklyn, Queens and lower Manhattan neighborhoods where workers live.

Because New Yorkers’ commuting patterns are “complicated,” they really need multiple transit options, he said.

“Bringing the ferry to the Navy Yard, which has never had public transportation, is going to be worth every dime,” Ehrenberg said.

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A ferry boat leaves the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
A ferry boat leaves the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

At Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Ehrenberg said the number of jobs at the Navy Yard is expected to grow to 20,000 in the next few years, making the need for the ferry ever more urgent.

The government-controlled New York City Economic Development Corporation has approved the spending of a whopping $582 million to date on the NYC Ferry, which has 13,000 riders daily, the New York Post reported. In contrast, city subway and bus systems, which are in need of funds for improvements, serve about 8 million people per day.

The Navy Yard is now the ferry’s homeport

A March study by the Citizens Budget Commission says the NYC Ferry is subsidized at $10.73 per ride — an operating subsidy that’s 10 times the size of the New York City transit system’s. Ferry rides are priced at $2.75 just like subway and bus fares.

 Historic Navy Yard buildings and modern Downtown Brooklyn towers mingle in this view from a ferry-boat deck. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Historic Navy Yard buildings and modern Downtown Brooklyn towers mingle in this view from a ferry-boat deck. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

City Comptroller Scott Stringer has questioned city spending on ferry-boat purchases. But the de Blasio administration decided last week to buy 19 vessels from ferry operator Hornblower for $84.5 million.

NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett left the ribbon-cutting event without taking questions. An EDC spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on ferry spending.

At the ribbon-cutting, Patchett said a homeport has been created for the ferry at the Navy Yard, meaning that’s where maintenance work will be done on the boats.

Though the new ferry stop’s primary purpose is easing Navy Yard workers’ commutes, it also provides ferry service to Clinton Hill residents and broadens the public’s access to a piece of the north Brooklyn waterfront that was largely off limits to them until recently.

Sitting on the deck of an outbound ferry boat gives riders a new vantage point to see historic Navy Yard buildings.

Here’s a better look at Downtown Brooklyn’s skyline from a ferry boat departing from the Navy Yard. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Here’s another look at Downtown Brooklyn’s skyline from a ferry boat departing from the Navy Yard. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

People who don’t work at the Navy Yard can access the ferry dock by walking through Building 77 at the intersection of Flushing and Vanderbilt avenues.

Follow Brooklyn Eagle reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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