After pouring millions of dollars into the project, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) removed Coney Island’s ferry landing on Thursday night. Citing the lack of feasible locations and the high cost of continuing operations, the EDC put an end to the controversial ferry.
First announced at a Community Board 13 meeting in late October, the EDC decided to shelve the ferry after an unsuccessful, four-month-long search for an alternate location.
Cost also played a factor in the city’s decision. The agency estimated it spent, on average, $7 million when building the city’s other ferry landings. Kaiser Park location would cost $35-$40 million, while other proposed locations would run taxpayers between $25 and $250 million.
“In terms of next steps, at this juncture, we do not have a current path forward for either of the two options that we’ve analyzed,” said James Wong, executive director of NYC Ferry.
When asked how a ferry in Coney Island could proceed, an EDC spokesperson replied, “after an exhaustive look at the different location options for a Coney Island Ferry landing and continuous dialogue with the community, we have not yet found an operationally viable and financially responsible path forward.”
No practical alternatives
First considered for a ferry in 2018, construction on the landing was completed in 2021. A series of setbacks delayed the opening of this stop for several months.
The first setback was identified right when the Coney Island ferry was proposed; it would be impossible to land ferries at low tide. The boats need 12 feet of water to not run aground. Because of the nearby sandspit, parts of the creek are only 7 feet deep at low tide. To deepen that stretch of the creek bed, dredging operations started.
Dredging was stopped towards the end of 2021 as residents pushed back over concerns that activity in the creek released decades’ worth of pollution – petroleum, heavy metals, and untreated sewage, to name a few – back into the surrounding neighborhood.
In early 2022, before the ferry had made its inaugural trip, the EDC paused operations in the area-this time to protect local wildlife like winter flounder and horseshoe crabs. Since then, the landing sat unused while other locations were considered.
One proposed alternative was a beach near West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue, just west of Kaiser Park. The site could have re-used infrastructure from the existing landing, keeping costs comparatively low- only $25 to $30 million.
Building here would, however, require a walkway almost 200 yards long to keep the ferries clear of the shoreline.
“As a concept, walking two football fields out into the water, that’s a challenging pier to ask people to navigate,” said Wong. “This is really just not a super practical alternative given the length of the pier, the cost of it, and likely permitting challenges.”
The final option was Steeplechase Pier, on the ocean-facing side of Coney Island. Some locals pushed for this location, citing its proximity to tourist attractions and the ease of utilizing an existing pier. This site, however, would require the construction of a 1,065-foot seawall to protect the landing. This option would cost $85-250 million dollars, which seemingly disqualified it almost immediately.
Is the ferry sunk for good?
“What I’m taking away from it is that this is not a closed door,” said Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus after the city’s presentation. According to Frontus, the city assured her before releasing the study that Coney Island could still get a ferry.
“If that is true, that makes me hopeful that maybe one day we’ll figure this out together,” Frontus concluded.
Others in the community do not share this hope.
“[EDC] said that they were going to remove the terminal. That says it all,” said Ida Sanoff, director of the Natural Resources Protective Association and resident of Brighton Beach. “If there was a chance that it was workable in the foreseeable future, they would have left it in place.”