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Citywide Ferry Would 'Significantly' Hike Air Pollution at 12 Sites: Study

By Alexandra Leon | May 3, 2016 1:55pm | Updated on May 4, 2016 10:50am
 The service will begin in 2017, officials said.
The service will begin in 2017, officials said.
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EDC

BROOKLYN NAVY YARD — The new Citywide Ferry Service will increase the amount of air pollution at docks around the city, and impacts on air quality will be unavoidable before the project launches next summer, according to a new environmental report released by the city.

Nitrogen dioxide emissions from ferry engines could exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, set by the Environmental Protection Agency, at 12 docking sites around the city,according to the draft environmental impact statement that was quietly released by the city’s Economic Development Corporation last month.

“The operation of the proposed [Citywide Ferry Service] could potentially result in significant adverse impacts on air quality in some locations,” reads the extensive report, which was published to the EDC's website. "For those in this population with asthma or other respiratory conditions, the risk or frequency of exacerbation of their condition could increase.”

“Although measures to reduce or eliminate the anticipated significant adverse impacts related [to] air quality have been identified and assessed, full mitigation of the significant adverse air quality impacts is not possible by the 2017 project launch,” the report added.

The EDC report says that the nitrogen dioxide emissions would not have a significant negative impact on the city as a whole — and adds that the new transit system would help lower levels of pollutants emitted from other forms of transportation overall in the city.

“Citywide Ferry will improve access and resiliency for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers throughout the city," said EDC spokesman Ian Fried in a statement.  

"While any new mass transit will result in some emissions, we’re proud to be using the most environmentally friendly technology available for the types of vessels needed.  Through transit alternatives like Citywide Ferry Service, the Brooklyn Queens Connector, Select Bus Service, and Citi Bike expansion, we’re also helping get more New Yorkers out of their cars and on to greener modes of transportation.”

The environmental report studied the effects of emissions from ferry engines on pollutant concentrations near existing ferry terminals and proposed terminals, as well as on the total emissions added to the New York City area.

Nitrogen dioxide levels would reach more than twice the national standard of 188 micrograms per cubic meter at Gantry State Plaza, a proposed ferry landing in Long Island City, according to the report.

Citywide Ferry Service Routes by DNAinfoNewYork

Two residential locations near the proposed landing — 45-50 Center Boulevard and 46-10 Center Boulevard — would also see high levels of nitrogen dioxide up to several floors up from ground level, according to the report. While the Citywide Ferry’s new homeport at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is in the clear, high levels of nitrogen dioxide could affect a nearby residence at 1 North Elliott Place in Fort Greene, as well as some industrial buildings on the Navy Yard’s campus, according to the EDC.

The study also found that at existing ferry terminals, where emissions were already estimated to exceed the national standard, the new ferry service would spread air pollution across a larger area.

Levels of nitrogen dioxide would be about four times higher than the national standard at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1, where the existing East River Ferry Service and South Brooklyn line of the Citywide Ferry Service would operate with 10 ferry trips during peak hours, according to the report.

At Pier 11/Wall Street, nitrogen dioxide levels would reach almost six times the national standard in open spaces and 1 1/2 times the national standard in residential areas, according to the report. Pollutants would spread to buildings located further inland, including residential and commercial buildings, the report says.

At Midtown/East 34th Street, nitrogen dioxide levels would reach three and a half times the national standard in open spaces and more than one and a half times the national standard in residential areas, according to the report.

The report says open space and recreational areas near nine proposed landings could also see high levels of nitrogen dioxide from ferry engines, including:

► Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1
► Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
► Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park
► Grand Street in the Lower East Side
► East 62nd Street in the Upper East Side
► East 90th Street in the Upper East Side
► Gantry State Plaza in Long Island City
► 44th Drive Pier in Long Island City
► Roosevelt Island
► Stuyvesant Cove at East 21st Street

READ MORE FERRY COVERAGE:

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Navy Yard Upgrades, Citywide Ferry Boat Purchases Funded in Mayor's Budget

Hornblower to Operate Citywide Ferry Service Launching in 2017, Mayor Says

MAP: New Ferries Coming to Rockaway, Astoria, The Bronx, LES and Brooklyn

Short-term nitrogen dioxide exposure, between 30 minutes to 24 hours, has been linked to respiratory illness in both healthy people and those with asthma, according to the EPA’s website.

Studies show a connection between breathing elevated nitrogen dioxide concentrations and increased hospital visits for respiratory issues, especially asthma, according to the EPA.

The EDC report says air pollution will be unavoidable in order for the project to move forward, but the city will continue to explore long-term options to reduce emissions from ferry engines, such as retrofitting ferry boats with nitrogen dioxide reduction technology or adding hybrid or all-electric ferries to the fleet.

Hornblower, the ferry operator selected to run the Citywide Ferry, also did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The mayor’s office announced in March that the first routes of the ferry service, operated by San Francisco-based Hornblower, would launch in June 2017. A ticket will cost $2.75 and at least when it launches, will not offer free transfers to the city's buses or subways.

The ferry route includes existing East River, as well as new stops in Far Rockaway, Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Red Hook, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6, Governors Island, Grand Street, Stuyvesant Cove, East 62nd Street, East 90th Street, Long Island City, Astoria, Roosevelt Island and Soundview.

The EDC will host the following public hearings regarding the environmental report:

► May 19, 6 p.m., 110 William Street (between Fulton St. and John St.) in Manhattan

► May 23, 6 p.m., Queens Borough Hall

► May 24, 6 p.m., St. Francis College (at Remsen St. and Clinton St.) in Brooklyn

► May 25, 6 p.m., P.S 47 John Randolph (at East 172nd St. and St. Lawrence Ave.) in the Bronx

The EDC will accept comments on the environmental report through 5 p.m. on June 5. Comments may be submitted in person at the public hearings or in writing to the following:

►Lead Agency Contact: Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
Attn: Denise Pisani, Senior Project Manager
253 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, New York 10007
Telephone: (212) 676-3290
Email: dpisani@cityhall.nyc.gov

►NYCEDC Contact: New York City Economic Development Corporation
Attn: Dina Rybak, Assistant Vice President
110 William Street,
New York, New York 10038
Email: citywideferryeis@edc.nyc