NYCEDC plans Soundview to East Side to Wall Street ferry

Passenger ferries, like this one, should soon link Soundview and the borough to Manhattan’s East Side and Wall Street.
courtesy of NY Waterways

The city is planning to bring East River ferry service to Soundview residents with a route that would travel from Soundview to the Upper East Side and then onto to lower Manhattan’s Pier 11 near the foot of Wall Street.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation proposed five new ferry routes on the East River as part of their Citywide Ferry Service project early this year.

The Soundview Ferry would travel from the Bronx to an existing East 90th Street Pier, then to a landing at East 62nd Street, before cruising down to Lower Manhattan’s Pier 11.

The Soundview route is expected to be complete in 2018 along with a Lower East Side route from 34th Street to Pier 11, while Rockaway, south Brooklyn, and Astoria-based lines are planned for 2017, according to the agency.

All of these routes would have a $2.75 base fare, the agency said.

According to EDC, the full Soundview ferry trip would time in at approximately 43 minutes, roughly rivaling the amount of time for the subway, at between 40 and 45 minutes.

As part of a $55 million ferry expansion project, the EDC will be constructing or upgrading 15 landings.

The agency said there’s minor construction and upgrades needed on the existing East 90th Street Pier, but the Soundview landing requires the construction of a pier.

A floating barge will be attached to the East River Esplanade at East 62nd Street to accommodate service there.

At each of the landings, such barges will have ticketing machines, waiting areas, and glass wind screens.

The ferry service will receive an operating subsidy from the city, though the agency said the details of that subsidy will not be finalized until an operator is chosen.

An EDC spokesperson said the per trip subsidy could fall anywhere in the range between the current subsidy for bus rides of $2.20 a trip and the subsidy provided to Long Island railroad trips, at $7.85 per passenger.

Satisfied with the success of that East River Ferry pilot program that began in 2011, the EDC decided to study additional ferry routes.

The agency is currently in the process of community outreach for the ferry expansion project and visited Manhattan Community Board 8’s transportation committee on November 2.

Manhattan Community Board 8 chair James Clynes said he was in favor of another commuting option for the neighborhood, pointing out that the East River was being underutilized by East Side residents.

“We seem to be an island without ferries,” Clynes said. “We definitely need a ferry service and we welcome it.”

He recalled that the currently idle East 90th Street Pier used to run a ferry up to Yankee Stadium during the baseball season and also served another route that traveled straight to Wall Street. Ultimately, the lines fell out of favor because of low ridership, Clynes said.

With ferries being reintroduced, he said, the agency is “sitting on a gold mine” with the opportunity to reinstate Yankee Stadium service, as well

According to the EDC’s 2013 study of proposed citywide ferry service, the East 90th and East 62nd Street landings were good locations because of the nearby population density, limited transit options, and travel habits.

Proponents of citywide ferry service, like the Waterfront Alliance’s president and CEO Roland Lewis, said that using the alternative ‘blue highway’ has a host of benefits.

Lewis, whose organization advocates for more ferries, said the citywide service wouldn’t be a cure for the current overcrowded transit options, but that it would alleviate some of the pressure.

While the agency is focused on pushing through the current route proposals, it indicated there could be future opportunities to add other landing locations.

For now, the agency is in the process of selecting an operator by early 2016.

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