Now that the Soundview ferry route reaches up to Throggs Neck, nearly 1,000 City Island residents say they want water transit too.
The NYC Ferry, which is highly subsidized by the city and costs $2.75 to ride, travels along the east side of Manhattan from Wall Street to Soundview, and since December, Throggs Neck’s Ferry Point Park in the Bronx.
An online petition started by civic group City Island Rising has garnered more than 700 signatures, and the group’s president John Doyle said he has 251 more signatures on a physical version, as of Wednesday.
The petition speaks to the limited transportation options to the east Bronx tourism hub, making it hard for New Yorkers to get to and from the island, which can be accessed by drivers on one road, with only one bus. The request was featured on the blog for the New York non-profit Waterfront Alliance, which points to a potential funding source through the federal infrastructure bill, such as $150 million dedicated to the federal Department of Transportation Urbanized Area Passenger Ferry Program.
But the entity that oversees the ferry, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) does not have “any active plans” to expand the ferry route, according to a spokesperson.
“We are focused on stabilizing the system that we have and seeing how riders adapt to the new landings and changing ridership patterns since Covid, and on ensuring that the system is delivering the best possible service to New Yorkers,” the spokesperson said in a statement to the Bronx Times.
City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez, a Throggs Neck Democrat whose district includes City Island, said the idea of bringing a ferry stop to the northeast island has to be discussed further.
“Right now we’re exploring what that would look like, but certainly, is it feasible is the first question, and the second question, are all City Islanders in favor of it?” she said in an interview with the Bronx Times.
The petitioners argue that a ferry landing could strengthen the local economy while decreasing vehicular traffic on the island. But Velázquez pointed to traffic implications as a potential cause for concern, with people driving to the island to specifically use the ferry.
The councilmember, who is part of the council’s progressive caucus, said the conversation has to include voices in surrounding neighborhoods, and if it’s worth exploring other areas for a new landing, like Orchard Beach.
“We want assets like this to benefit us all,” she said.
State Assemblymember Michael Benedetto, a Democrat whose district spans the east Bronx water, told the Bronx Times he is in favor of another Bronx ferry stop, whether it’s at City Island, Co-op City — where constituents have also come to him about getting a landing — or Orchard Beach.
While he suspects it will take a couple of years to convince the city to add another stop, he hopes the administration “will see the intelligence of that move.”
Jonathan Soto, a Progressive challenging Benedetto in the June Democratic primary, has been critical of Ferry Point Park and how difficult the ferry landing is to get to for many.
In an interview with the Bronx Times, he said there should be a horseshoe-shaped ferry route that connects the west and east Bronx, stopping at Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Soundview, Throggs Neck, City Island and Orchard Beach.
He isn’t the only one with dreams of larger waterside expansions, as the City Island Rising petition also shares hopes of the ferry system reaching into Westchester in the future.
But the landings can’t just be dropped into the water.
Soto said ferry developments need more oversight, from making the boats more efficient with less carbon emissions to community-based approaches that utilize, for example, local businesses for concession stands or participatory budgeting.
The ferry system tends to draw wealthy and white riders, according to EDC survey data.
“It can’t be a Trojan horse for gentrification, that’s my concern,” Soto said.
Councilmember Amanda Farías could not be reached for comment. Farías, a Soundview Progressive, chairs the City Council Economic Development Committee, which provides oversight to EDC.
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.