By Bill Parry
Community leaders in Astoria learned that the new Citywide Ferry Service will launch in their neighborhood later this summer than they thought. During a tour of the new ferry landing on Hallets Cove, officials from the New York City Economic Development Corporation said there would be a staggered opening of the new service beginning in Rockaway in June, followed by South Brooklyn and then Astoria by the end of the summer due to construction schedules.
“I don’t care when they open it, I just want to ride on our boat,” Community Board 1 District Leader Florence Koulouris said.
Claudia Coger, 82, the president of the Astoria Houses Resident’s Association, was hoping the service would begin in May or June.
“I’m a bit disappointed, but we’re all still excited,” she said. “Maybe we’ll have it by August. Whenever it happens, I just hope I’m alive to see it.”
The barge for the landing has been installed with pilings driven 75-feet into the bedrock below, according to NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. Electrical connections along the Astoria Houses esplanade and gates and railings of the gangway are next.
“We’re in really great shape in Astoria,” he said. “Manhattan is only 1,500 feet across the river, but commutes into the city can take an hour and a half. We’re talking about a dramatic improvement in commute times.”
When service does launch, rides will cost $2.75, although tranfers to the MTA have not been worked out.
“I know how hard we fought to see transportation options added,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said. “This has been a transportation dessert. This is one of the longest commutes in our district and for the residents of public housing who can look out their windows every day and have no connection to this water and to be reconnected, to get to their work every day. It’s a watershed moment for this peninsula.”
Patchett said the EDC is working with second-grade students across the city to come up with names for the 19 new ferries that are under construction in Alabama and Louisiana shipyards.
“We’ve got some interesting names — second-graders can be quite creative,” he said. “We got some really cute and creative names like Lunchbox and Friendship Express, and some ideas that reference the rich maritime history of our city.”
The first of the 19 ferries is already on its way to the city, although it had a mishap in Central Florida, getting stuck in the mud.
It was more of a shallow water problem but there was no damage,” Hornblower Sr. VP of Development Cameron Clark said. “We’ve already got four additional vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and they’ll be heading to New York City shortly.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr