The city will start construction on a new Williamsburg ferry landing next month, a sign that long-troubled water taxi service may return to North Brooklyn — but underfunding by the city over the past few years has planners worried about the future.
The Economic Development Corporation’s 15-month-long, $2.5-million project will provide access for new ferry service to the foot of N. Sixth Street on the Williamsburg waterfront — the second plan in less than a month to expand East River ferry access in the area.
But the man who runs the city’s biggest ferry service says that providing piers is only a piece of the puzzle — like all forms of public transportation, he needs public subsidies to make the business work.
New York Water Taxi President Tom Fox was close to nixing his struggling Schaefer Landing service last year until he negotiated a small subsidy deal with the city.
“We know we’re operating until at least next spring,” Fox said. “But we’re hopeful that we can get the new East River ferry service funded.”
The Economic Development Corporation will decide early next year who will operate ferries to the two new stops at N. Sixth Street and the other landing proposed at the foot of India Street in Greenpoint. Those two new stops would, in theory, connect to Fox’s Schaefer Landing and make trips to the business districts of Lower Manhattan.
But if history has any say in the service, then there will undoubtedly be problems.
Service has been cut during winter months at Schafer Landing for the past few years to save money, along with Fox’s warnings that he couldn’t guarantee service at all without a consistent funding stream — he even said in November that he was losing $1,400 a day without city help. And late last year, officials were worried that there wouldn’t be funding for these new landings either.