State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wants the city to look into expanding East River Ferry service to the Lower East Side. Right now there’s only one Lower Manhattan stop — Pier 11 at Wall Street. In a letter to Deputy Mayor Robert Steele, Silver writes:
…Residents of the eastern end of Grand Street, as well as the thousands of residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complexes in this area, suffer from a serious lack of access to public transportation. Lower East Side residents, particularly students and seniors, have difficulty reaching the financial district, as well as other parts of Lower Manhattan, due to the distance they must travel to the closest subways stations on East Broadway and Delancey Street. Bus service is infrequent and often unreliable. The city has done an outstanding job of using our waterways in a creative and effective manner to expand our transportation network and I urge you to examine the feasibility of including the Lower East Side in your regional ferry plan.
The ferry service, operated by New York Waterway, debuted last summer and was a big success. The city subsidized the ferry to the tune of about $9 million over the course of a three year contract. The schedule was trimmed when the summer ended, due to limited funding. The city has said the main purpose of the ferry is to encourage economic development (new housing and business) along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfront.