Waterfront Advocacy Group Pushing for Astoria Ferry Service

By Jeanmarie Evelly on June 19, 2013 3:07pm 

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 The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance is starting a grassroots movement to bring a ferry stop to Astoria.
Waterfront Group Pushing for Astoria Ferry Service
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ASTORIA — A waterfront advocacy group is launching a campaign to bring ferry service to Astoria.

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance is starting a grassroots movement to bring ferry stops to neighborhoods in all five boroughs, including the Astoria waterfront on Hallets Point.

"We're starting to look, organize and work in individual neighborhoods that are underserved  by mass transit, and where ferry service would make a lot of sense," said director Roland Lewis. "And Astoria is one of them."

The city's Economic Development Corporation, which oversees operation of the East River Ferry, has committed to keeping the service afloat until at least 2019, citing its popularity and ridership numbers that far surpassed initial projections.

The city is looking for a long-term operator to run the ferry for that expanded period, and that new contract could open up opportunities for expanded service, Lewis said.

The EDC is also conducting a study, to be completed this fall, that will consider which neighborhoods would benefit most from a ferry service expansion. It is an update to a study conducted two years ago.

"When they're looking at neighborhoods to expand to, community support is one of the factors that they’re going to consider," said Harrison Peck, who heads the Waterfront Alliance's ferry transit program.

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance estimates that ferry service would cut the commute time between the Astoria waterfront and Manhattan by 16 to 26 minutes, compared to the subway or bus.

The boats could also help bring more visitors to the neighborhood's waterfront cultural institutions, like the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park, which are almost a mile from the nearest N/Q subway stations.

"The fact that buses come every half and hour on the half hour — it's very hard for people to get to us by public transportation," said Jenny Dixon, director of the Noguchi Museum, at 9-01 33rd Rd.

"The ferry is a wonderful way to reclaim the waterfront and to also bring people to this part of the city," she continued. "To be able to drive traffic is huge…the community is continuing to grow and more and more families are using our resources."

The Astoria waterfront is expected to see huge changes in the coming years, with two massive residential development projects planned for Hallets Point, a peninsula currently home to the massive NYCHA Astoria Houses.

One proposal from developer Lincoln Equities would bring 11 buildings and more than 2,000 apartments to the area, while another, to be called Astoria Cove, would bring an additional 1,700 apartments and condos.

That growth has led officials like local City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. to call for expanded transportation in the area.

The East River Ferry currently stops at terminals in Long Island City, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Wall Street, and Midtown Manhattan, plus Governors Island during the summer.

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance will be starting an Astoria Ferry committee to meet with neighborhood residents about its campaign. Updates will also be available on the group’s new Astoria Ferry Facebook page.

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