Hallets Cove in Astoria sits just 1,515 feet from midtown Manhattan, but for many residents living near the waterfront, their commutes to work are anything but short.
That changed today with the introduction of NYC Ferry’s Astoria route, which makes stops in Long Island City, Roosevelt Island, 34th Street and Wall Street. The expansion of ferry service, announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, aims to make Manhattan more accessible to those who felt it was out of reach.
Ferry service was recently introduced in waterfront neighborhoods such as Red Hook in Brooklyn and the Rockaways. A recent survey conducted by the Economic Development Corporation found that 93 percent of New Yorkers rated the service a 7 or higher out of ten. So far, the expanded ferry service has accommodated approximately 1.5 million riders.
Shavita Snipe, an Astoria resident for 19 years who works near Wall Street, was among the first passengers on the Astoria ferry for the 6:30 a.m. launch. She previously took the R or N train to work but began utilizing the Hunters Point ferry in Long Island City.
Now, instead of driving to Long Island City and looking for parking, Snipe can walk across the street to the ferry.
“[There is] no hustle and bustle, no hot train station; just a breeze, a beautiful view of the water,” she said. “It’s awesome. I’m super excited that it’s across the street from my house.”
Costing the same price as a one-way MetroCard, the trip from Astoria to Wall Street is approximately 47 minutes. Councilman Costa Constantinides, who also rode the 6:30 a.m. ferry, said the launch of the service is “exhilarating.”
“This is something the community has been waiting for for 80 years — first ferry stop in Astoria in that time, it’s transforming the Hallets Cove Peninsula where they have some of the longer commutes,” he said. “They can see Manhattan from their homes…and yet it’s the longest commute in the district so to see now this connection for school, for work, for recreation is just a transformative moment for western Astoria.”
The mayor arrived at 34th Street in time to shake hands with commuters and ask them how the ride went.
“Folks at Astoria Houses used to have to walk almost 20 minutes to get to the nearest subway and that honestly cut them off from a lot of the things they needed,” he said. “NYC Ferry is going to help people get around. It’s going to help reduce congestion on our roads and trains. It’s going to right wrongs of the past.”
Claudia Coger, the president of the Astoria Houses Resident Association, has lived in the Astoria Houses for more than 50 years. She said the route is an important one for the community, which has struggled to connect to the rest of New York City.
“I’m excited,” she said. “We’ve been waiting a long time to connect, so this is our day of connection. I find [the ride] beautiful. I love the water. I’m just a nature girl.”
Coger added that the community understands the need for the service and acknowledges that “this is going to make a difference.” But others are worried about the congestion it will bring as nearby residents park their cars in the area to take the ferry instead of a bus or train.
“Most people [express concern about] the congestion, automobile parking and things like that, things that they see will impact the stability of their communities,” Coger said. “But these are things we deal with on a regular basis all over the city of New York, so it’s not new to me.”
Jerelene Fitzgerald, 93, has lived in the Astoria Houses since 1953 and also took the first ride on the ferry. She gave the service a stamp of approval, especially because it was easy to navigate with her cane.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “I didn’t have to go into Long Island City to get the train and come into the city to go up all those steps and go down the steps. I loved it.”