By Clifford Michel
Safety concerns over big boats and smaller crafts sharing a dock facility appear destined to sink NYC Ferry’s plans to expand to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal this year.
Revised documents from the city’s Economic Development Corp. indicate that the long-awaited service from Staten Island to Manhattan’s West Side will instead likely depart from a waterfront esplanade behind the Richmond County Ballpark, on the other side of the Empire Outlets Mall.
The issue, according to EDC’s recently released environmental impact statement: Officials realized operating relatively small crafts next to giant ones could present a major hazard.
The city Department of Transportation “identified potential navigational safety issues related to vessels movements and lack of sight lines” in docking the 86-foot NYC Ferries near the Staten Island Ferry’s 310-foot behemoths.
The dock move would put the new service farther away from a direct connection with Staten Island Railway and bus service to the main St. George terminal.
The new outdoor location would require a walk the length of four football fields from the transit hub to the NYC Ferry, which is expected to stop at Vesey Street and Pier 79 in Manhattan.
“While I’m sorry that our ferry operations cannot all be under one roof, I understand the safety concerns, and I am pleased that it will be a sheltered location nearly adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal,” Councilmember Debi Rose (D-Staten Island) told THE CITY in a statement.
Commuter Patricia Scalise put it this way: “In Staten Island, you take what you can get. It’ll be cold, but I’ll take it.”
The Brooklyn Shuffle
Meanwhile, the EDC document also detailed changes along three routes connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan:
A new ferry stop is planned at the foot of 42nd Street in Sunset Park near Industry City, which has become a shopping and dining destination. The stop will be one terminus in an updated South Brooklyn route that hits Red Hook, Atlantic Avenue and Wall Street.
Bay Ridge, meanwhile, is getting a new direct route to Wall Street. The Brooklyn terminus of that line will be Coney Island.
The existing Rockaway Line will go to the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park and then onto Wall Street.
City Council member Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn) told THE CITY Wednesday that the changes in store will be a boon for commuters to Manhattan.
“We’ve always been pushing for the ferry from Bay Ridge to Wall Street because getting from Bay Ridge to Wall Street in 15 minutes is a game changer,” said Brannan. “I mean there’s just no other way unless it’s 3 a.m. in the morning and you’re doing 100 miles on the BQE.”
The lawmaker conceded, however, that he’s disappointed to see his neighborhood cut off from other parts of Brooklyn.
“They never told us that ‘If we give you the express ferry, we’re going to take away the local,’” said Brannan. “And that’s really frustrating because people’s work patterns have changed. Not everyone works in Lower Manhattan anymore. People work further into Brooklyn.”
This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.