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45-Minute Ferry From South Shore to Lower Manhattan May Launch Service

By Nicholas Rizzi | September 27, 2017 6:04pm
 Developers tested the Tottenville to Downtown Manhattan ferry for the first time Wednesday.
South Shore Ferry Test Run
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NEW YORK CITY — A proposed 45-minute ferry from Tottenville to Lower Manhattan could shave time off the nearly two-hour commute some residents face.

Developers of the planned Mill Creek Place luxury senior community and Riverside Galleria have teamed up to propose building a dock on property they both own to run fast ferries to Manhattan daily.

The developers have been talks with Seastreak, which runs ferries from New Jersey to Manhattan, and did a test run of the route Wednesday to determine the timing of the boats.

"These would really support a fast ferry to Staten Island," said Jay Valgora, principal of Studio V Architecture, the designers of both projects. "I think it's extremely feasible to do a water taxi, and I think it's the future of the city."

Borough President James Oddo, who has been pushing for more ferries and took the test ride Wednesday, said the borough is "desperate" for better commuting options for Staten Islanders "experiencing the worst commutes in the city."

"We have to take advantage of being an island, and one of those things is waterboard transportation," he said. "If the City of New York continues to neglect us, we have to go to the private sector to see if we could work out some arrangement that is good for the people of Staten Island."

Officials have been talking to private companies to bring more ferry service to Staten Island after it was left out of the NYC Ferry plans. (DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi)

The test route looped around the borough on the East Shore before heading under the Verrazano Bridge and finally docking at Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan, where the city-subsidized NYC Ferry service also runs boats.

The plans for the ferry haven't been finalized or approved, but they call for building a new dock on the waterfront near Richmond Valley Road and extending the street to provide access to the water.

Details on parking fees and pricing haven't been hammered out, but Seastreak president Jim Barker expects monthly tickets could run between $500 to $600. The ferry could also make a stop in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which Barker said would tack 5 to 10 minutes onto to the ride.

"Some Staten Islanders have the ability to pay for the time difference that this will afford them," Oddo said. "Some Staten Islanders may not, some Staten Islanders will begrudge the fact that they are paying a market rate when every other New Yorker in other boroughs is paying a subsidized rate."

If the developments get approved and everything runs smoothly, ferry service could start at the dock in a year or year-and-a-half, Valgor said.

Seastreak would run 150-seat ferries from the site at first, then expand the passenger size and amount of service depending on demand, Barker said. The developers don't have fears about lack of use of the boats, since studies they've done found 25 percent of residents on the South Shore work in Manhattan.

If proven successful, Oddo said he would consider asking the city to put in money to subsidize fares like it does on the NYC Ferry lines.

Residents and elected officials have started a push recently to get more ferry options to the borough aside from the Staten Island Ferry, especially after the borough was left out of the NYC Ferry plans.

► READ MORE: When Big Orange Boats Aren't Enough: Staten Islanders Want More Ferries

"It really is unconscionable that the borough with the least amount of transit options is the last one on line," Oddo said. "I have no indication that there is a plan coming down the road.

"It really impossible for me to believe that this could play out with any other borough," he added.

Oddo has continually called out his friend Mayor Bill de Blasio for not having plans to include the borough in the system. He also asked the Department of Transportation to consider adding more stops in Manhattan to the Staten Island Ferry and started to survey riders about the idea this summer.

The city has repeatedly said it would look at the possibility of adding Staten Island to the ferry service when it finishes rolling out the last two planned lines next year.

Frustrated by the city's lack of plans, Oddo said he turned to private companies to fill in the gap and partnered with NY Waterway to launch a St. George-to-Midtown ferry service.