Ferry much in need — of city money

The Brooklyn Paper
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Ferry service returned this week to Williamsburg and DUMBO after seven months out of water, but operators say the service will run aground again this winter if the city doesn’t provide funding.

A bright yellow New York Water Taxi catamaran began pick ups at Schaefer Landing on South 10th Street and the Fulton Ferry Landing at the foot of Old Fulton Street on July 7 — mirroring a route that sunk in January because of low profits and low ridership, company President Tom Fox said.

A single 74-seat boat runs the route four times each morning and four times each afternoon, connecting Schaefer Landing and the DUMBO tourist hub with Pier 17 on Wall Street, East 34th Street in Midtown, and Hunters Point in Queens.

A trip costs between $3 and $5.50 depending on distance, but riders can purchase 10-trip passes and monthly tickets at discounted rates.

The newly restored service, which could serve as an alternative to the overcrowded L, G, J, M and Z trains in Williamsburg, is “barely profitable” without funding from the city, said Fox, who added that he would be unable to keep the East River route afloat past November.

“During warmer weather people love to go on the water, but in the winter, they don’t want to deal with blustery winds,” said Fox. “A subsidy is what’s needed to make this year-round.”

Fox terminated the service last winter, telling The Brooklyn Paper that he would have lost $2,000 a day running the boats in cold weather without the help of city funding. He had stayed open through the previous winter.

Councilman David Yassky (D–Williamsbu­rg) agrees that city money is necessary to keep the boats running.

“We’re going to need the government to make sure that the service keeps running,” Yassky said. “Subways require subsidies, buses require subsidies. Ferries are no different.”

But ferry riders might have to wait two years for year-round service to begin.

As part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 program, the city is currently taking bids from ferry operators interested in running a subsidized East River route that includes all of Fox’s stops as well as two federally funded piers planned for North Sixth Street — at the Edge condos — and Greenpoint Avenue, that would start in 2010.

That sounds good to existing riders.

“The trains are hectic and I don’t like taking them,” said Rezarta Tabaku, who prefers her seven-minute commute to Wall Street from Schaefer Landing. “The ferry was one of the main reasons I purchased an apartment here.”

But with ferry bad news comes ferry good news.

On Saturday, Fox will begin a weekend beach service that runs twice each morning from the Brooklyn Army Terminal at 59th Street to Riis Landing in Rockaway. The fare is $6.

Updated 5:07 pm, July 9, 2018
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