By Mark Hallum
Ferry service will be getting a major boost from the city’s executive budget, just in time for summer.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the expansion of the NYC Ferry program with $300 million from the FY 2019 executive budget, which will mean twice as many boats in the fleet, while bringing more of the larger craft and improving piers.
“It will allow us to immediately increase service this spring and summer because we saw what happened last summer. Demand was astronomical,” de Blasio said. “So, we’re going to be able to increase service right away and cut wait time in the process. We’re going to be doubling the size of our fleet and there’s going to be a lot more of the bigger boats that will allow us to get a lot more people where they’re going and reduce the wait, reduce the lines.”
The city plans to increase its capacity on the water at the beginning of summer and double its fleet with normal-sized ferries, which carry about 150 passengers, and the larger boats, which transport about 350, with three of the heftier vessels arriving for beach season, according to the mayor’s office.
The $300 million slated for the expansion tacks onto the $325 million investment already made by the city, as well as the $30 million required for annual operations.
“Not only is this about people getting around more easily and having more and more New Yorkers not have to live a life of frustration in that traffic jam or on that crowded subway train,” the mayor said. “This is also about fairness, reaching a lot of communities that were underserved, getting a lot of people opportunity that didn’t have it, and fairness because it’s creating job opportunities for a lot of New Yorkers who deserve them.”
Ferry service, however, is perhaps the only transit infrastructure project de Blasio is eager to subsidize.
In the release of the city’s $89 billion budget, the mayor made his animosity clear toward the state and MTA for their budget, which required City Hall to pay for half of the $836 million Subway Action Plan to bring stable service to the failing public transit system.
De Blasio has long held his ground in the belief that infrastructure under the purview of the MTA should be paid for by the state despite criticism urging his office to fund the $212 million Fair Fare proposal — half-priced fares for low income New Yorkers — and bus improvements.
Wait times will also be cut in half from 35 minutes to 25 between boats and express service to the Rockaways, which saw heavy ridership last summer, will be introduced from Pier 11 at Wall Street.
James Patchett, CEO of the city Economic Development Cooperation, said the current fleet was based on projections, which set an expectation of 4.6 million riders per year, but that number has now gone up to about 9 million per year.
Following last summer’s economic boom in the Rockaways, along with freshly installed boardwalk up and down the beach, ferry service was recognized by the city for its role bringing day-trippers back to the peninsula and bring in money to businesses in those communities.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall