By Mark Hallum
City officials celebrated the launch of a new ferry line from the Lower East Side Wednesday morning that will connect the Manhattan enclave and Wall Street with Long Island City’s Gantry Plaza State Park in a 32-minute trip from end to end.
Cameron Clark, the senior vice president of NYC Ferry, told TimesLedger the new line will, to some extent, expand mass transit options for those in close proximity to stops along the No. 7 train and those who will likely be affected by the L train’s partial shutdown in April.
“Long Island City has definitely turned into a bit of a hub,” Clark said. “The system is designed to be able to carry – not the silver bullet to the MTA subways and buses – but it’s designed to carry people living within that half mile of neighborhoods that are currently torn between the options of heading inland to some other forms of mass transit connections at subways. We’re getting a fair amount of pickup from people living within a walking distance to our landing sites.”
He added, “While we can’t pretend that this would be able to offset the entirety of the ridership of the L train, [it would] definitely be providing more options for people in conjunction with the other things the MTA are doing. We’ll hopefully be able to support as much as we can with folks impacted by the closure” of the Canarsie Tunnel.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the Wednesday morning dedication ceremony on the Lower East Side that the new route on the affordable, city-subsidized ferry line would link different parts of the city in new and faster ways.
“It’s official – the initial six routes of NYC Ferry system are now up and running,” de Blasio said. “NYC Ferries have turned the East River, which once divided New Yorkers, into a point of connection – and are helping us build a fairer city for all. With the launch of the Lower East Side route and the connecting NYC Ferry lines, residents of this historic neighborhood now have greater access to the rest of our city.”
The Lower East Side route not only connects Long Island City to the Lower East Side, but also has multiple connections at 34th Street and Wall Street’s Pier 11, according to Clark.
“Today’s historic launch delivers on our promise to make New York a fairer, more connected city for everyone,” city Economic Development Corporation CEO James Patchett said. “The Lower East Side route is the last NYC Ferry line to launch in 2018, and the start of shorter commutes and more opportunities for New Yorkers across the city. We are proud to have delivered a transit system to dozens of communities that have long been underserved and look forward to exploring ways to expand the network.”
Although far from his northeast Queens district, City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) has advocated since 2015 for a ferry route to serve the transit needs of communities beyond the reach of the No. 7.
“Our city’s waterways are a unique resource that provide opportunities to expand the transportation options available to New Yorkers,” Vallone, chairman of the Council’s Committee on Economic Development.
Vallone said that in 2015 when ferry routes were planned throughout the five boroughs he was disappointed northeast Queens had been overlooked, something Clark confirmed was still not in the works.
“We’re obviously advocates of ferry service and more connections to more communities,” Clark said, explaining that once the first six routes were complete, talks of reaching more far-flung parts of the city would begin.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall