Schumer calls for expansion of the East River Ferry

By Philip Newman

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging the Federal Highway Administration and the state DOT to fund an expansion of the East Side Ferry service.

The Federal Transportation Bill for 2013 allocated $1 billion to New York state and the upgraded East Side Ferry service is one of five New York City projects vying for a portion of the transit funds. The FHA and the state Department of Transportation will decide which projects get the funds in a competitive process.

Schumer is asking the agencies to make the expansion of the East Side Ferry to Astoria, the Upper East Side and Brooklyn Bridge Park a priority.

“The East River Ferry expansion project can become a ‘nerd boat’ linking our rapidly expanding tech hubs like Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard with the new Cornell-NYC Applied Science campus,” Schumer said. “It will also maximize ferry use throughout the city and better connect these waterfront neighborhoods to public transportation. This would benefit the local economy and that’s why projects like this should be considered for funding.”

A New York City Comprehensive Citywide Ferry Study in 2010 indicated strong demand for ferry transportation on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6.

An East River Ferry pilot program began in June 2011 and has served more than 1.7 million commuters. The East River Ferry now links Manhattan with Long Island City, Brooklyn and Governors Island and can transport nearly 150 passengers per trip. Schumer said private developers are planning 4,000 units of housing on the waterfront of Hallets Point in Astoria in 2015 and that expanded ferry service would benefit vast numbers of new residents.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) praised the proposal. The plan would include a ferry stop in Hallets Point and Vallone called for more ferry stops in Queens.

“It is unacceptable that Queens has only one ferry stop [besides the existing stop in Hunters Point],” Vallone said. “Our borough deserves and needs better.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.