Two ferries sail past the often-crowded Coney Island beach every hour during the day, but those who live along Brooklyn’s southern coast can only stand by and watch — for now.
More than two months have passed since the city launched its ferry service, which currently serves the East River, Lower East Side, Rockaway, Soundview, and South Brooklyn (only as far south as Bay Ride); Astoria will be added in August.
But there has been no concrete plan to incorporate a stop in Coney Island, even as local residents endure hour-plus-long commutes to anywhere outside of Brooklyn. To make matters worse, extensive train delays have irritated commuters from borough to borough and “The Summer of Hell” is just heating up.
A New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) spokesperson told Coney Island News that no forthcoming stops are being planned for this year beyond ones that have been announced, but things could change down the line.
“We’re currently focusing our efforts on initial rollout of NYC Ferry for this year and in 2018,” Stephanie Baez of NYCEDC said. “If ridership demand is high and service is successful, then we may be able to consider other opportunities for expansion to more communities, including Coney Island.”
In the meantime, demand for existing ferry service is sky-high — to the point where the city has had to bring on extra charter boats, according to the Times — and demand for service in Coney Island is noticeable.
Members of a Facebook group called “Coney Islanders 4 Ferry” have repeatedly called on the city to step in and find a way to add a stop in the neighborhood, with some even posting photos of ferries passing by. A Change.org petition directed to Andrew Genn of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Mayor de Blasio regarding Coney Island ferry service has generated 643 signatures as of Monday evening.
The interest extends beyond local residents, too, which could be helpful in the effort to convince the city. The area serves as a key tourist destination for visitors and the beaches are regularly packed in the warmer months.
“I think the ferry would be great to bring more tourists and Manhattan residents to Coney Island without the long subway ride,” said Kate Dale, who lives in Midwood but says she spends much of her time in Coney Island. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in Coney Island, and I think it’s terrific. It’s on it’s way to becoming a year-round entertainment destination. The Ferry could help that, both as transportation and its own form of entertainment.”
However, the entertainment aspect could be one that ends up limiting the ferry’s use among locals who hope it can someday alleviate a long commute to work. According to the NYCEDC’s “Coney Island Ferry Feasibility Study” from 2012, ferry service from Manhattan to Coney Island would be “primarily used for recreation, rather than by commuters” and would likely be seasonal service running from April through October.
City Council Member Mark Treyger, who has long advocated for ferry service for his constituents, has higher hopes that the ferry could serve the people of the neighborhood rather than just outsiders — and he is prodding City Hall in an effort to expedite the process.
“Neighborhoods like Coney Island that inherently face longer commutes due to their distance from Manhattan suffer the most when our city experiences the kind of public transit crisis we are seeing this summer,” he said to Coney Island News. “We have a growing coalition of support in Coney Island and beyond who agree that this area is in dire need of more public transit options, and we will not stop our advocacy until we get a ferry under this mayor’s watch.”
“I have already urged the Mayor to include Coney Island in our city’s ferry system on more than one occasion, and I am currently working with a number of elected officials on a letter we will be sending to City Hall this week alerting him to the urgency of this matter,” he said.
If the city does move forward on Coney Island service, there are key questions lingering, and all of them will factor in the time that it would take to get it up and running.
Where exactly would the ferry stop? The study suggests that the ferry landing should be located along the oceanside, but those who created the petition say that a landing at Coney Island Creek would entail just a three-block walk to the amusement district and would encourage visitors to go beyond just the amusement district.
Would it serve a recreational purpose or a commuting purpose? If the daily first ferry service begins after 10 a.m., as the study suggests, only local residents who work later in the day would find it useful; others would be forced to continue taking the subway.
The ferry costs $2.75 — the same as a subway ride — but it cannot be combined with an unlimited Metro Card. However, ferry riders can buy an unlimited ferry pass, which would be most useful to those who both live and work close to the ferry stops. It is also free to transfer to other ferries. For more information, check out the city’s website.
We will keep readers posted as soon as there are any further developments, and we will keep you updated with any response from City Hall regarding Council Member Treyger’s letter.