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Dock block: Locals raise concerns about putting a ferry landing in Coney Island Creek

Thumbs down: Local activist Ida Sanoff is concerned that putting a ferry landing in Coney Island Creek could impede the contaminated water’s cleanup process.
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The citywide ferry service should think twice before dropping anchor in Coney Island Creek, locals warned after The Beep hyped a site there for a ferry landing.

Borough President Adams endorsed a proposed dock at W. 21st Street and Neptune Avenue in a statement last month, but the nabe’s ferry landing should go elsewhere, according to one local, who argued that the shallow, filthy channel is filled with derelict boats, debris, and toxic waste from years of illegal sewage dumping and industrial use, and would have to be regularly dredged and cleaned out.

“Everybody says, ‘we need a ferry,’ but has anyone asked questions as to why it hasn’t happened yet?” asked Ida Sanoff, the executive director of the National Resources Protective Association. “Initially they’d have to do quite a bit of work. They’d probably have to clean out whatever debris are down there and make it deep enough. And if you have to repeat this process every two to three years, then the costs really add up.”

Adams endorsed the proposed ferry landing site in a statement last month supporting the re-zoning of a nearby block to make room for new 153-unit housing development. He said that locating a ferry there could help fix the nabe’s chronic commuting problems and bolster economic development.

Local pols — including former borough president Marty Markowitz and state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) — began calling for Coney to be included in a South Brooklyn ferry route back in 2012, and Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) added his voice to the growing calls last spring.

Residents have repeatedly grilled the mayor on why Coney has been left out of the current route, which sails from Bay Ridge to Sunset Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo before heading to the distant isle of Manhattan.

A group called the Friends of Coney Island Creek Ferry and Landing even organized a test run from the W. 21st Street and Neptune Avenue site back in 2013 in a bid to get the city to get moving on the site.

But another local said he’s concerned that putting a ferry landing in the creek could interfere with recreational use, and that dredging and construction could derail efforts to clean up the waterway — not to mention the fact that the channel freezes over in the winter.

“While 21st Street seems like the best option, there are a lot of variables at work here. There are people in this water all the time — right at the mouth of the creek there are always people fishing and swimming. And are they going to have to dredge the channel?” said Charlie Denson, the executive director of the Coney Island History Project. “I’m more interested in restoring the waters than [installing] a big ferry port.”

Denson said that Steeplechase Pier on the ocean side would be a better site — though the city previously said that location would be too expensive — or that the Bayview Avenue and W. 33rd Street location closer to the mouth of the creek could work, if the city was willing to fund shuttle busses to bring tourists to the amusement park on the ocean side.

A rep from the group Coney Islanders 4 Ferry, which created a petition that garnered nearly 2,000 signatures calling on the city to build a ferry landing at the W. 21st Street and Neptune Avenue location, could not be reached for comment by press time.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation, which spearheads the ferry service, does not currently endorse any Coney site as a possible ferry landing because a 2013 study determined that the W. 33rd Street site would require further study of the water depths and navigation needs, according to a spokeswoman. But the nabe will be included in the agency’s next feasibility study, which will hopefully be done later this year, and the agency has not ruled out an ocean side ferry landing, the spokeswoman added.

Sanoff said that Coney Islanders should adjust their expectations and be patient, because determining the nabe’s best site for the ferry may take some time if they want to do it right by considering the environmental and economic implications.

“I think the reason there’s no ferry is because there’s a lot of issues that have to be looked at before it can get done,” she said. “I think this needs a lot more work than people are willing to hear.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 11:42 am, January 26, 2018
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Reader feedback

Daniel Ioannou from Coney Island says:
Coney Island Creek does not need to be dredged. The group Coney Islanders 4 Ferry has provided NOAA depth charts on our FB page to prove this notion. Anyone can look up the depth charts of Coney Island Creek and see the depth there is plenty to accommodate a ferry. We're talking about small 150 passenger vessesl that just require depth of 4ft to operate, not something like the Staten Island Ferry. Today, on Coney Island Creek there are no rules on what size vessel can navigate the waterway. Today, tugboats can be seen from time to time and during the aftermath of hurricane sand a barge with a crane operated in the creek that was secured to the floor much like how citywide ferry docks are secured to the ocean floor.

There are few reasons as to why Coney Island does not have ferry service. The biggest reason Hornblower would be unable to logistically accommodate the demands of a Coney Island Summer crowd. Remember the flak the NYCEDC and Hornblower caught when they could not accommodate riders wishing to go to Rockaway this summer? The same problem, just 10X's larger. The NYCEDC or Hornblower would not want to catch flak for a failure everyone knows will arise. How to we not run into this issue? Simple. Citywide ferry was in theory geared towards commuters and NYC residents. Implementing just rush hour ferry service (when the bulk of New Yorkers commute to work and school) would greatly help Coney Island commuters that face an 1 hour and 15 commute to lower manhattan. By ferry that same commute would drop to just 29 minutes.

Another reason why Coney Island does not have ferry service is because a large "Non-for'profit" that is mostly comprised of amusement zone operators kept advocating for a pier location, even when the NYCEDC ruled out the pier back in 2012 citing it would cost 19 million dollars to retrofit the pier. This location might be good for the summer crowd but not for Coney Island Residents. What elderly woman with a walker is going to walk a snowy & Icy boardwalk, brave the bone chilling winds to wait for a ferry at the end of the pier?

West 21st and Neptune is in the middle of the neighborhood, accessible to all. The abandoned city-owned lot is next to an existing marina and is right on Neptune ave so POV's, Taxis, buses or even a shuttle could drop riders off and they would have to walk less than 20ft to a potential West 21st and Neptune ferry landing. It looks hypocritical saying the creek needs to be dredged when in this same article it was mentioned a ferry, that has 6ft of draft, came into the creek at low tide and reached West 21st and Neptune without any issue. The same vessel made the journey from Batter Park City to West 21st in just 29 minutes.

West 33rd is out. It's too far from the other-side of the neighborhood for residents on the other side to use. West 33rd is too far from the Amusement District. West 33rd is too far from Stilwell to help folks make connections. Residents of seagate may want their own private ferry but the rest of us would like to be included.

Borough President Eric Adams took all these considerations in and made a great decision endorsing West 21st and Neptune. A perfect location for a ferry landing does not exist. However, West 21st makes the most sense, safest for passenger boarding and disembarking, affordable to build, centrally located for residents, walking distance to the amusement park, currently a city-owned abandoned lot with an existing dock! and able to make connections at Stilwell Avenue. There is no better location in Coney Island. No other location has had a test run of a ferry.

It's West 21st with limited ferry service or bust for Coney Island. Current residents have long awaited for ferry service to Manhattan and new residents who are debating to move to Coney Island would rather want a fast, comfortable 29 minute commute verses a 1 hour and 15 minute slow, no bathroom, no view subway ride.

-Daniel Ioannou
Jan. 25, 2018, 11:40 am
Daniel Ioannou from Coney Island says:
Oh on the part the creek freezes. Very rarely. Once, every 3 years. It will not freeze if vessel traffic in the creek allows for the movement of water. I do not think it even froze this winter when we had record lows. If it freezes for say just 3 days, so what? Ferry service is suspended. It's not a big deal. We'll take the train during those three days.


I actually kayak that same creek, touched the yellow submarine with my bare hands and photograph the scenery. I do care about the creek and understand its possible limitations. Have 3 or 4 runs in the morning and 3 or runs in the evening will not hurt anything.
Jan. 25, 2018, 11:57 am
Julianne McShane says:
Daniel, I contacted you to comment for this story and you never replied, as mentioned in the story. You have my email address and phone number and have the ability to contact me to be included in a story just like any other source. The purpose of a relationship between a journalist & a source is for the journalist to offer and *contextualize* a balanced & unbiased view of sources’ differing opinions in order for the public to then come to their own conclusions.
Jan. 25, 2018, 1:36 pm
Daniel Ioannou from Coney Island says:
Julianne, I'm not faulting you're reporting.

The purpose of my comment is to have an unfiltered response in the public sphere. My comment addressed many points, as does the Coney Islanders 4 Ferry webpage.

-Daniel Ioannou
Jan. 25, 2018, 2:31 pm

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