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All aboard! Golden wants city to fund southern Brooklyn ferry service

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State Sen. Marty Golden is backing Borough President Marty Markowitz’s pie-in-the-sky plan to bring ferry service to Southern Brooklyn — and is demanding that the city foot the bill.

Golden (R–Bay Ridge) said the proposal to launch ferry routes from Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, and Canarsie won’t set sail until the city agrees to fund the project.

“The idea works but the investment has to be there on the city’s end,” said Golden. “If the city’s trying to find a way not to subsidize the system, it’s not going to happen.”

The lawmaker asked New York Waterway — the East River ferry service that currently runs boats to Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO and Downtown — to crunch some numbers and figure out how much it would cost to expand their routes to southern Brooklyn.

But the city has already said no: a 2011 Economic Development Corporation ferry service report found that ridership in southern Brooklyn wouldn’t be high enough to justify spending the money needed to bring waterborne transportation there.

Yet that didn’t stop Borough President Markowitz from floating the proposal in his State of the Borough address.

“[Southern Brooklyn] has it all except for one thing — a ferry,” Markowitz said.

New York Waterway opened its Brooklyn ferry routes after the city Economic Development Corporation agreed to spend $9.3 million over three years to help pay for the service.

The 100-person ferries run every 20 minutes and cost $4 a ride, or $140 for a monthly pass — much more than the $2.25 single ride and $104 unlimited monthly ride offered by the MTA.

An Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman said the Williamsburg ferry venture has to be profitable before any new routes are added.

“We’re certainly open to expansion — it’s just a question of funding,” spokeswoman Jen Friedberg said.

A spokesman for New York Waterway touted the company’s East River Ferry service, but declined to comment on the possibility of expanding to southern Brooklyn.

Yet ferry advocates hope that Markowitz and Golden will resurrect a plan that’s been dead in the water for years.

“If you build it they will [ride],” Bay Ridge civic leader Peter Killen said. “I’m all for the city spending money to enhance [transit service].” Ferries shuttled commuters from the financial district to the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge for years, but the city suspended the route in the early 1990s, when the pier was renovated. The city later opened a ferry route to a pier on 58th Street in Sunset Park, but shut the ferry down in less than a year — citing a lack of ridership.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at

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Reader Feedback

D from Crown Heights says:
The key to making the ferries work in Southern Brooklyn is to also develop very dense communities within a 5 to 10 minute walk from the ferry, to ensure that you have sufficient ridership.

And also add tolls to the East River bridges and use the money to subsidize the ferries.
Feb. 17, 2012, 9:45 am
Bob from Gerritsen Beach says:
A self-serving argument to be sure, D.
Apparently you don't own a car and if you do, you don't go further than the corner supermarket with it. If you owned the car and you traveled into the other boroughs or other states you would grasp the magnitude of taxes that are already imposed on drivers in this city. When I travel from Brooklyn to Cranford, New Jersey (To see my children) a distance of 29 miles I am taxed $22 (soon to be $25) in tolls. Most of those tolls are to subsidize either mass transit or construction at the World Trade Center. Apparently you feel it okay to tax people to travel from one section of the city to another just so you could get mass transit as cheaply as possible.
Feb. 19, 2012, 8:56 pm
Steve from Bath Beach says:
Tolling the East River bridges is a totally unacceptable idea. That's what they do on Staten Island (toll the Verrazzano at $13 to pay for their free ferry) and it's a terribly unpopular policy. Drivers of all sorts are already taxed far too much in this city. Secondly, you cannot "develop very dense communities" anywhere unless you're suggesting building public housing. Government doesn't develop, private enterprise does, and the only major development in South Brooklyn is Coney Island, but it's bogged down as we all know. Beyond that, the City can't just come in and say, "now everybody has to live within 10 minutes of the new ferry, here's some free housing we built for you!" Who would pay for that? Bob from Gerritsen Beach and anyone else who wants to drive in this city?

I appreciate your enthusiasm for the ferry "D", I want one too, but you've got to rethink what you're asking for. It's just not right for the rest of your neighbors.
Feb. 24, 2012, 10:38 am

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