A request for proposals went out today for the city’s new Five Borough Ferry Service. In February, Mayor de Blasio announced that routes would be added on the Lower East Side, as well as in Astoria, the Rockaways, South Brooklyn and Soundview.
The notice to potential operators includes some new information. The LES dock will be at the end of Grand Street. According to the document published today, the ferry will first stop at Wall Street/Pier 11 before moving up to the Grand Street location, Stuyvesant Cove, East 34th Street and Long Island City. The route is scheduled to debut in the spring of 2018 with hours between 6:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. The fare will be $2.75. It hasn’t been decided exactly where the Grand Street dock will be located along the East River. Buildout is expected to cost nearly $6 million. As previously reported, the city will be offering a subsidy to the company/companies operating the ferry system. Proposals are due April 14.
People on the Lower East Side were generally elated following the mayor’s announcement. In recent years, Lower East Side service was pushed by local residents Joseph Hanania and James Keenan, who live in the East River Cooperative. An online petition in 2013 garnered more than 600 signatures and led LES elected officials to support the cause.
But as we reported in our February print magazine, some residents are questioning the choice of Grand Street for the dock. Trever Holland, tenant leader at Two Bridges Tower, located near the Manhattan Bridge, told us, “I’m happy to see a ferry on the Lower East Side, but I just don’t see many residents using a ferry at that location. It is also curious that no community outreach meetings were held to discuss this location… Grand Street is probably not the best option.”
The SPaCE Block Association has also raised the issue. A member of the group, Tobi Elkin, argues that there should be a “public vetting and conversation about potential locations for a ferry stop on the LES.” Elkin, a public member of Community Board 3’s parks committee added, “I believe there should be some public discussion within the relevant (community board) committees–in this case, at least Parks–since any ferry stop will involve an appropriation of waterfront/park land. There has been no visioning exercise and no public discussion or thinking about the needs of the population–and the proximity of a ferry stop to the F Train, which is the primary mode of transportation in the neighborhood.”
The NYC Economic Development Corp. commissioned at least two studies leading up to the mayor’s decision to expand the ferry network. According to reports available on the EDC’s website, 58 locations were examined. They were evaluated based on the likely present and future demand, proximity to other modes of transportation and other factors. The most recent study cited the proximity of the Essex Crossing development project as a reason for a Grand Street stop.
All of the neighborhood’s elected officials advocated for Lower East Side ferry service. But Sheldon Silver, then the powerful speaker of the state Assembly, was particularly vocal. He sent at least two letters to city officials advocating a Grand Street stop. Silver, who was forced to step down as speaker following his arrest on corruption charges, has always considered Grand Street his political base.
The SPaCE group asked Community Board 3 to invite city officials to a public meeting to discuss the ferry expansion project. It’s not on the April agenda, however CB3 Chairperson Gigi Li said, the community board leadership and representatives of the Economic Development Corp. have scheduled a mid-April meeting to discuss the ferry plan. “We are looking forward to learning more about the process and timeline regarding a ferry stop at Grand Street,” she said.