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City Eyes $10M-a-Year East River Ferry Expansion

By Heather Holland | January 7, 2014 7:16am | Updated on January 8, 2014 5:26pm
 The city is looking into adding 11 new stops and five new routes to the East River Ferry Service.
East River Ferry
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MANHATTAN — New stops could be on the way for the East River Ferry — but only if the city or a private ferry company is willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to get the new routes up and running, according to a new report.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation released a preliminary Citywide Ferry Study this week suggesting 11 new stops along five additional ferry routes, including East 23rd Street and Grand Street in Manhattan, Astoria in Queens and St. George on Staten Island.

"The study has focused on identifying the most promising potential routes, but these routes require considerable capital and operating subsidies," the 115-page report states.

"An extended network including the East River Ferry [and new routes] would be estimated to require an annual subsidy for weekday service of close to $10 million."

In addition to costing $10 million a year to run, the 11 new stops would also require an $80 million capital investment to build docking stations, including barges, ticketing machines, benches and bike racks, the report found.

The EDC initially considered 58 potential new ferry stops, including some based on suggestions from the community, but decided that just 11 spots were viable: Van Brunt Street in Red Hook; Bay Ridge; Astoria Cove; Roosevelt Island South; Long Island City North, Soundview in The Bronx; East 62nd Street; East 23rd Street; Grand Street; St. George on Staten Island and Beach 108th/116th Street in Queens, according to the report.

The EDC is also looking into ways to bring ferry service to LaGuardia Airport, either through Bowery Bay or Flushing Bay in Queens. It was not immediately clear how much the LaGuardia route would cost.

Each route would require three to four boats during peak periods. The subsidy estimate is designed to keep the fare cost at no more than $5, the report said.

The next step for the expanded ferry service would be for elected officials, private ferry companies and the community to begin discussing the routes and how to pay for them, the EDC stated in the report. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on increased ferry service.

In December, the city announced that it had extended its East River Ferry contract until 2019. The service was initially designed as a three-year pilot slated to end in June 2014.

The East River Ferry currently shuttles riders from Long Island City and Brooklyn to Midtown and Lower Manhattan for $4 one way, or $140 for an unlimited monthly pass. The city spends about $3 million per year to subsidize the route.