They want to keep their bigger boats.
The city wants to permanently increase the size of ferry boats that can dock at the Williamsburg and Greenpoint piers, which are currently allowed thanks to a mayoral decree that is set to expire in 2016. Without the zoning change, ferry operator Billybey Ferry Company would be forced to downsize the 399-passenger ferries that currently run on summer weekends and their 149-passenger counterparts, or cut stops in the midst of what the city says is huge ridership growth.
“The East River Ferry service has been an enormous success, far exceeding initial ridership projections and becoming an important part of the city’s transportation infrastructure,” said city Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman Kate Blumm, whose agency is asking the planning commission to make the change.
Blumm declined to provide specific increase numbers but said that the commuter crafts carry one million passengers a year.
The $4 ferry in Brooklyn’s beloved tidal strait launched in 2011 as part of a city pilot program and runs between Lower Manhattan or Midtown Manhattan and Long Island City, Queens with stops at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Schaefer Landing in South Williamsburg, N. Sixth Street in North Williamsburg, and India Street in Greenpoint.
Current zoning only allows for 99-passenger boats to tie up at the N. Sixth Street and India Street docks and 150-passenger vessels to use Schaefer Landing. The city development agency claims not to know the origin of the rules but Mayor Bloomberg has been gung ho about ferries and both leading mayoral candidates have said they want to expand the boat-commuting system and integrate it into the public transit network.
The rule change would also require the piers to make more room for passenger lines, bike racks, and trash cans.
The pier stops in Manhattan and Queens already allow for bigger boats and will not require zoning changes.
Currently, NY Waterway and its contractor Billybey are the only companies whose passenger ships ply the East River, but other companies can apply for a landing slot license. Company officials did not return calls for comment.