FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Free rides and free coffee greeted commuters on the East River Ferry Thursday morning to celebrate its first six months in service.
Since it launched last June, the ferry has carried nearly 500,000 passengers, far more than officials had expected.
"We have already in the first six months surpassed our 12-month projection [of 409,000 paid passengers]," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who shook hands with disembarking ferry riders on Wall Street's Pier 11 Thursday morning.
"We're sending a message," Quinn continued, "that ferry service here on the East River…is a terrific idea that is long overdue."
The city is providing a $9.3 million subsidy to BillyBey Ferry Company to run the East River Ferry for three years, connecting East 34th Street, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO and Wall Street.
Rides usually cost $4 one-way, $12 for an unlimited all-day pass and $140 for an unlimited monthly pass.
Ferry riders Thursday morning said they were thrilled to have a new way of commuting over the past six months.
"I love it," said Carlos Delacruz, 32, a financial services worker from Williamsburg.
"It's faster. It's easy to get home."
Terry Sellers, 62, a lawyer from Williamsburg, said she looks forward to her daily trip on the ferry.
"It's changed my life," she said. "It's like taking a little vacation on my way to work every day. It's so much faster and more pleasant than taking the train."
Sellers said she hopes the ferry service will expand, serving points farther north in Manhattan.
Quinn said she, too, wants to see the ferry service expand, and she mentioned Roosevelt Island, City Island and the Bronx as potential future destinations.
"This is just step one," Quinn said. "Our goal is to eventually see five-borough ferry service."
The East River Ferry will be free all day Dec. 15, running every half hour during the middle of the day and every 20 minutes from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.