May 30, 2023

City Pauses Planned Coney Island NYC Ferry Stop for Deeper Analysis

New York City has temporarily halted its plan to bring a ferry line to Coney Island, citing “significant sand shift” at the creek where the dock is proposed.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation met this week with Coney Island residents and leaders to provide an update on the ferry service, which the agency had originally sought to launch in 2021.

But officials instead said the project is delayed indefinitely as they assess how much more dredging is needed at the creek. And in the wake of community pushback against the location, they’re also planning to assess the feasibility of moving the ferry landing to the choppier ocean side of Coney Island, those officials said.

“They ran into some difficulties. The sand shifts are more than they had foreseen,” said Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, a Democrat who represents Coney Island and helped arrange Tuesday’s meeting.

To move the dock to the ocean, the EDC said it would have to build a jetty or another structure to protect the boats from waves and winds. That could further drive up the cost of adding a Coney Island route, EDC officials told residents.

“Coney Islanders want a ferry, and we continue working aggressively towards that goal,” EDC spokesperson Regina Graham told THE CITY Thursday. “We will continue to be responsive to community requests and concerns, and we are exploring all options for a ferry landing that would maximize operational safety, access and ridership. We will continue to work in partnership with residents and look forward to keeping them updated.”

EDC expects to revisit necessary work for the ferry by late summer into early fall, the spokesperson said.

Troubled Waters

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced planned NYC Ferry service to Coney Island in 2019, after the community had clamored for years for a boat to the beachside destination.

The proposed route would connect Coney Island with Bay Ridge and lower Manhattan – with the end-to-end ride taking 37 minutes, according to NYC Ferry. The equivalent subway ride takes about an hour.

“As New Yorkers take to the water to get around our city more than ever before, we will look forward to improving the NYC Ferry system to make it better than ever,” de Blasio, who is now running for Congress, said.

But issues emerged with the proposed dock at Coney Island since it was first announced.

Some local activists have pushed to move the ferry dock away from Coney Island Creek and on to the ocean side of the peninsula. They’ve suggested it be moved to Steeplechase Pier, arguing that building a dock and preparing the polluted creek for ferry service would be hazardous to the community and disruptive to the water there.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether Coney Island Creek will be designated as a Superfund site.

Late last year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation slapped a $70,000 fine on EDC, its contractor Skanska and subcontractor Mechanical and Marine Construction Corp for violating environmental restrictions during dredging. A spokesperson for Skanska referred all questions to EDC.

Frontus said she wouldn’t mind a ferry stop but didn’t think the obstacles were worth it.

“Who wouldn’t want to get on a ferry?” she told THE CITY. “Just because you want something doesn’t mean you want it at the expense of your health.”

Taxpayers Soaked

Since officially launching with a handful of routes in 2017, the citywide ferry service’s cost to city taxpayers has continued to rise.

Earlier this year, the EDC’s board approved up to $62 million in new spending to keep the boat operation afloat — allowing city tax dollars for the first time. De Blasio boosted the program’s budget with another $23.2 million before he left office.

A city-sponsored nonprofit entity that manages government real estate assets such as the Brooklyn Army Terminal, EDC has subsidized the ferry from the get-go, with aid last year amounting to $8.59 per trip.

Mayor Eric Adams said in February that he was open to finding new ways to increase revenue for the system.

“We have to be more creative,” he said at the official announcement of new EDC president Andrew Kimball.

Kimball called the ferry service “one of the great success stories over the last decade” but that the city needed to look at how it’s being funded.

“Absolutely we need to be looking at the cost structure and management,” he said.

This article was originally posted on City Pauses Planned Coney Island NYC Ferry Stop for Deeper Analysis

Sydney Boles