Fishing, not ferries: Coney Islanders outraged by Kaiser Park ferry plan
“A ferry? Here? How can you do this to people?”
A small but vocal group of Coney Island residents held a rally on Saturday to protest a proposal to put a ferry landing at the Kaiser Park pier in their neighborhood, charging that having ferries coming and going all day long will ruin their quiet oasis and bring an abrupt end to fishermen’s enjoyment of the waterfront.
“This is not going to happen. We won’t let it happen,” said Larry Whitaker, a lifelong Coney Island resident. “I fish here. I crab here,” he added.
The protesters, some of whom carried signs reading “Fishing Not Ferries,” said they will organize a petition drive aimed at stopping any ferry plan from moving forward.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation, the agency that has jurisdiction over the city’s waterfront areas, is considering placing a ferry landing for the city’s NYC Ferry service at the pier in Kaiser Park at Coney Island Creek. The pier is located near Bayview Avenue and West 33rd Street, not far from the Gravesend Houses, a NYCHA development.
NYCEDC is trying to decide whether to put the NYC Ferry service at Kaiser Park or a few blocks away, on a pier at West 29th Street and Neptune Avenue, officials confirmed.
It’s all part of an expansion of the city’s highly-touted NYC Ferry program into Coney Island.
Residents said they are opposed to the idea of a Kaiser Park pier ferry for three reasons: The constant flow of water traffic and the foot traffic from ferry passengers will bring unwelcome noise and litter to the park; the ferry service will prevent Coney Island residents from enjoying the waterfront for fishing or spending quiet time; and the pier is located too far from Coney Island’s world-famous amusement area.
“This is a bad spot to put a ferry. They should pick another spot,” said Joyce Jordan, a Coney Island resident. “You’re dropping off people a long distance from the amusement area. How are they supposed to get from here to there? Shuttle buses? That’s more traffic on our streets.”
Jordan added that she and other residents need the pier and the park. “I like to come here in the morning and just look out on the water. It’s quiet and peaceful. I don’t want to lose that,” she said.
Local residents are unlikely to use the ferry service to travel to Manhattan because it would involve paying a double fare, according to Charles Denson, executive director of the Coney Island History Project. He said riders would be required to pay once when they board the ferry, again when the ferry docks in Manhattan, then again for a subway ride to get to their destination.
The pier is located in an ecologically important spot and should not be disturbed, Denson added. “This is an environmentally sensitive area that includes a horseshoe crab spawning beach and a fragile sand dune system,” he said, adding that people swim and kayak near the pier. “All that will be gone when you put a ferry here,” he said.
The majority of the protesters were fishermen who said they come to the pier to catch blue fish, striped bass, porgy fish and flukes.
“A ferry? Here? How can you do this to people?” asked Harry James Faulkner. “This is an important place to us. People come here to fish. People come here in wheelchairs. Young kids come here.”
NYCEDC officials held a meeting on June 11 to gather feedback from Coney Island residents and local officials on a potential ferry service.
At that meeting, Community Board 13 District Manager Eddie Mark said both the Kaiser Park Pier and the 29th Street location were problematic because they are both far from the amusement district.
Mark proposed instead putting the ferry landing near Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented on Neptune Avenue and West 24th Street, a location a little closer to the amusement area and one that has parking facilities.
A spokesperson for NYCEDC said the agency has not made a final decision.
“NYC Ferry’s primary goal is to ease commuting for New Yorkers that live in far-flung communities that lack affordable and efficient transit options. NYCEDC is still in the process of determining a location that is feasible based on physical site evaluations and constraints. We will continue to keep the community informed of our next steps,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
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