The residents on the Hallets Point peninsula used a neighborhood barbecue and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday as a platform to cook up a call for expanded ferry service between the Astoria stop and the Upper East Side.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Councilman Costa Constantinides joined members of the Hallets Point Alliance and the Waterfront Alliance to push for a new ferry connection between the existing landings on either side of the East River.
“We seem to have everything here on the waterfront. We’re just 1,000 feet from Manhattan. We don’t need a bridge. What we need is a ferry system. We have the Hallets Point dock and we have the dock at 90th Street. We just need the city to provide us with the service,” said Maloney.
While the advocates’ speeches hinged on the issue of transit access, the Hallets Point Alliance combined the press event with a celebration and ribbon-cutting for its new Hallets Point Play community space.
The alliance threw a barbecue for the neighborhood and set up bouncy castles as well as a Bio Bus science center on the expansive blacktop space, which functioned as a storage site for construction materials before it was recently cleared off and filled with a soundstage and picnic tables.
The newly formed alliance brings together members of the Durst Organization, which is in the midst of building a seven-building, mixed-use megaproject on the peninsula, and the tenants organization of the 22-building Astoria Houses New York City Housing Authority project.
Helena Durst, the principal of the Durst Organization, said that her goal in opening the space, which will host recreational activities like waterfront yoga, backyard games and silent discos, was to “activate the community.”
Additionally, the ferry would add a valuable transit option to the first of the Durst towers, which opened in February, with studios starting at $2,150 per month and one-bedrooms from $2,525 per month.
“As they say in real estate: location, location, location. And that also means transportation and amenities,” said Durst, adding that the developer had also worked to bring grocer Brooklyn Harvest Market to the neighborhood – the first-ever Queens-based location.
Waterfront Alliance senior director Karen Imas, on the other hand, stressed the potential benefit of the ferry route to the over 3,000 residents of the Astoria Houses, which sits across the street from the new recreation space.
“This is an equity issue. This community here from the Astoria Houses is far from mass transit and it takes multiple transfers to the Upper East Side and you’re talking about academic institutions, health care institutions, recreational centers,” she said.
By Imas’ estimation a trip between the two ferry landings on mass transit currently requires a bus, two trains and a 10-minute walk, taking at least an hour.
The agency in charge of the ferry, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, has indicated that it would consider the extension but it would not be able to start work on it until after 2021 as a result of other projects.
“We would encourage them to move faster — to look at 2020,” said Imas. “It doesn’t seem like a really heavy lift.”