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East River ferry service to resume

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As part of its recently announced initiative to subsidize and expand the city’s water transportation network, the city has agreed to build a $1.25 million ferry dock at Schaeffer Landing.

The commitment to build the dock guarantees the restoration of New York Water Taxi service at Schaeffer Landing, at Kent Avenue and South 9th Street. This had been up in the air since the private carrier suspended its East River service in January citing lack profits during the winter.

Construction of the new dock is expected to be completed by the end of July, with officials are shooting for a July 1 date. Only after it is complete will ferry service resume.

It will be paid for with a $500,000 City Council allocation secured by Councilmember David Yassky, who has consistently pushed the city to subsidize ferry service. The remaining $750,000 will be picked up by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The new dock will replace a temporary dock that was taken down in January.

In addition to restoring ferry service at Schaefer Landing, the city has also committed to build new docks in North Williamsburg and Greenpoint by 2010. The locations of these docks have not yet been determined.

“The waterways in the City are highly underused for commuter traffic – they are great resources for alternate transporta­tion,” said Yassky, who distributed flyers to commuters last Wednesday with Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“Ferry service makes sense economically by reducing congestion and connecting New Yorkers to each other. It makes sense environmentally because it encourages people to drive less,” Yassky said.

Yassky and many neighborhood residents have long pushed the city to make a firm commitment to subsidizing ferry service. Proponents believe ferries are necessary to accommodate the influx of residents filling the new high-rises springing up along the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront.

Ferry service also helps alleviate the overburdened L line by providing another means of transportation from Williamsburg to midtown Manhattan. The J/M/Z line, the area’s other subway line, goes only to lower Manhattan.

The two Water Taxi routes leaving from Schaeffer landing go to East 34th Street in midtown and Pier 11 in lower Manhattan. Fares for the routes are $4.50 and $5.50, respectively.

But the news is not all good. The city is not subsidizing the Water Taxi at Schaeffer Landing until 2010, meaning that winter service might be suspended until then.

This does not sit well with Schaeffer Landing residents, many of whom work in Manhattan and moved into the luxury high-rise development on the assumption there would be ferry service.

“People were very upset [when ferry service was suspended in January], and remain so. It’s basically a half-year thing now,” said Ken Stein, a Schaeffer Landing resident who works in midtown and therefore does not take the nearby J/M/Z line.

“A lot of people who moved to Schaeffer believed the water taxi would be their primary commuting methods. Now, a lot of people are driving a car into Manhattan, which nobody wants, or spending money on car services to get to a subway that can work for them.”

In the meantime, Yassky said he would work to try to get year-round service for the ferry.

“I am committed to working with all parties to make sure year-round service happens,” he said.

“For $1.25 million, we ought to be able to give South Williamsburg the year-round service it was promised.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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