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Ferry's Success Hikes Rents, Lures New Development Near Docks, Brokers Say

By Amy Zimmer | August 31, 2017 7:01am
 Ferry service features prominently in marketing materials for The Greenpoint.
Ferry service features prominently in marketing materials for The Greenpoint.
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BROOKLYN — Four months after the launch of the NYC Ferry service, real estate experts are seeing a spike in rents and sales prices near the docks and predict the early success of the first routes will lead to even more development in waterfront neighborhoods.

As the service launched in May, an analysis of rental inventory along the DUMBO, North and South Williamsburg ferry stops found that rentals near the ferry route underwent an average of a $500 per month premium compared to those 1 kilometer away, according to data from Nestio, a marketing and leasing platform for landlords and brokers.

The May data was based on the effect of existing ferry service under the East River Ferry, now operated by the NYC Ferry. Now that the service is expanding in terms of more routes, with more stops and cheaper fares due to a large city subsidy, the experts are betting that residential prices will rise where there's service being added and will likely have a ripple effect in these neighborhoods.

Access to ferry service features prominently in the marketing materials for the 40-story 95-unit condo, known as the Greenpoint, rising next to the India Street pier.

“An amenity-rich lifestyle awaits with 30,000 square feet of space to live, work and play while the NYC Ferry is just outside your door offering convenient and direct access to Midtown Manhattan, Wall Street, Williamsburg, Long Island City and more,” boasts the building’s website.

Units there currently listed range from a $875,000 studio to a two-bedroom for $1.975 million.

The NYC Ferry system has been a boon to waterfront real estate, helping prop up prices in the surrounding areas.

With the addition of the Astoria route this week, the NYC Ferry system now has four routes, including the Rockaway, South Brooklyn and East River lines. Two more are slated to start next summer — the Lower East Side line connecting riders from there and Stuyvesant town to Midtown, Long Island City and Wall Street; and the Soundview line, connecting that Bronx neighborhood to the Upper East Side and Wall Street.

More than 1.5 million riders have embarked on the ferries since the new service with $2.75 trips launched in May, according to city officials. (There are free transfers to other ferry lines, but not to the MTA’s subways or buses.)

Neighborhoods that had ferry service on the East River before the new launch already saw a price bump related to access to waterborne transit. These areas are getting even hotter as many renters who had their hearts set on Williamsburg are now looking closer to the ferry stops in advance of the L train tunnel shutdown in 2019, brokers said.

Corcoran broker Deborah Rieders said the DUMBO ferry stop is one of the main draws at Pierhouse, the eco-friendly condo in Brooklyn Bridge Park where current apartments range from $3.69 million for a two-bedroom to $9.49 million for a five-bedroom.

Potential buyers often take the seven-minute ride from Wall Street on their lunch breaks to come to showings, she said.

“I think people love traveling by boat. It makes them really happy,” said Rieders, who moved into the building herself.

Besides the commute into Manhattan during the week, residents appreciate being able to travel to other parts of Brooklyn on weekends without having to take a car or go on the subway, especially as service has been unreliable.

“The ferry has revitalized and reintroduced the neighborhood to people,” she said.

Melissa Leifer, a broker at Keller Williams Tribeca, has seen a lot of changes in her neighborhood of Bay Ridge thanks to the new ferry service at 69th Street, connecting to Sunset Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO and Wall Street.

At 45 minutes, the commute by boat is comparable to the train, Leifer said, though sometimes the train could take longer and sometimes it could take shorter.

Several clients of hers said they’ll no longer take the bus to Manhattan.

“The ferry is very relaxing. It feels like you’re on vacation, which is a really nice feeling before you go to work or come home,” Leifer said.

She anticipates more development will soon follow in the area near the pier, like an outdoor bar or coffee shop.

“I would expect some newer, cooler and hipper things to open and prices for apartments there to go up,” she said. “Because of the ferry, people from Northern Brooklyn are taking their bikes and riding around here and seeing this nice neighborhood with so many good restaurants. It has a really similar vibe to Park Slope and Carroll Gardens but the prices are so much better.”

She believes it would be a game changer if Citi Bike came to Bay Ridge, as many residents are petitioning.

Prices are already starting to creep upward, said Leifer, who recently sold a two-bedroom apartment on 71st Street for $420,000 that was asking $399,000.

William S. Ross, of Halstead Property Development Marketing, has his eye on the Rockaways and said he’s heard from developers who are looking for sites there as a result of the expanded transit options.

Ross recalled how ferry service was a big part of marketing South Williamsburg’s Schaefer Landing more than a decade ago, where the developer gave free ferry tickets to residents for one year as a way to bolster ferry usage and encourage more service.

That incentive, however, didn’t work too well at the time given the ferry system was much smaller and tickets were much pricier.

Now that the tickets are subsidized and cost the same as a train or bus ride, the ferry service is much more attractive.

“As long as the cost remains the same or similar to other public transportation," Ross said, "people will use it a lot."