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Opinion | Don’t Listen to Grand Street Ferry Naysayers

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File photo: East River Ferry.
File photo: East River Ferry.

In recent weeks, some opposition has emerged regarding the city’s plan to to build a ferry stop on the East River at Grand Street. In response, Joe Hanania, who led the campaign to bring ferry service to this location, has penned the following letter to Community Board 3. This article represents the opinions of the author and is not a reflection of The Lo-Down’s editorial point of view. Unsolicited submissions from readers are welcome at info@thelodownny.com. 

I have read much misinformation about the proposed Grand Street ferry stop, and CB3 apparently plans to weigh in on this. So, as one of two organizers of the petition to bring the ferry to Grand Street, please allow me to set the facts straight.

First, when Jim Keenan and I started our petition, there was no guarantee the LES would have a ferry stop. We decided to make it so – without any help from the individuals now complaining. They did not help bring the ferry to the Lower East Side. Now, they are crying the ferry stop should be in another location. Here is why we disagree.

Two, we picked Grand Street because of the approximately 5,000 coops here. These include Amalgamated, Hillman, East River Coop, and Seward Park. The latter two coops have about 1,700 apartments apiece. Nearby public housing with a few thousand more apartments include Vladeck and Baruch as well as Masaryk Towers, a city-subsidized coop. By contrast, the housing near their alternative proposed site, near Montgomery St./Two Bridges, lacks this density – making for fewer passengers.

Three, contrary to their assertions, it is the entire neighborhood, not primarily East River Coops, which has been behind this petition. About 60 East River residents signed a paper version of the petition – but that number pales compared to the more than 600 from all over who signed the petition online.

And who are these 600? Many are from Seward Park, which promoted the petition under the leadership of Board President Wei-Li F. X. Tjong, Esq. Others are merchants with the Lower East Side BID, whose business services manager, Katie Archer, also promoted it, and whose merchants saw a real benefit to bringing the ferry here. The now being built Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, with its 14-screen movie theater and expanded Essex Street Market, as well as 1,000 additional apartments, will only increase the vast numbers who benefit from the ferry. What, by comparison, what makes a proposed stop at Montgomery Street/Two Bridges competitive?

Four, there is also the matter of access to public transportation, which the complainers allege is superior in their area. Really? Ask yourself this. It is a wintry day; you get off the ferry. Which would you rather do: walk one block over to Grand St. and FDR to get on one of three bus lines – all of which, incidentally, stop by the F train stations? Or walk several windy blocks, minus bus access, to a distant F train station?

Five, Tobi Elkin on CB3’s Parks subcommittee laments how the proposed ferry stop will take away park space. What park space is she talking about? The proposed Grand Street stop is where fireboats launched from in the early 1900’s. The brick building there – now headquarters for the LES Ecology Center – was formerly the firemen’s headquarters. Nothing has changed there. And that building has a working kitchen – once used by the firemen – and a large deck with tables. The Grand Street stop would utilize existing facilities, perhaps even helping bring a café to a 69-acre park, which has none. (The Ecology Center’s sole objection to our proposal was that we were hoping the EDC would sponsor a café here. Instead, Christine Datz-Romero, executive director of the Ecology Center, took me out to lunch and told me she wants her own group to do this. Either way works for us).

Meanwhile, Elkin’s proposed facility is quite a distance from any of this. Who would really benefit from his johnny-come-lately proposal?

Finally, East River Park has several ball fields which attract hundreds of players not just from downtown and midtown Manhattan but from outlying boroughs as well. Those individuals, particularly from Brooklyn and Queens, have been among the petition signers. Why not give them a chance to get to the park by ferry, rather than by car, which only congests parking here? Then, add in the hundreds who attend each of the summer concerts at the amphitheater a block away from the proposed Grand Street stop – few of whom would walk over from the distantly situated Montgomery St./Two Bridges area.

In short, these naysayers would replace a ferry stop which works by tapping into a large market with a stop in a remote area, inaccessible to mass transit, with far less housing density, and away from interested businesses. Clearly, we can – and should – do better. Let’s leave the proposed ferry stop exactly where it is: at Grand Street.

 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. The problem is that you are neglecting a few very important points.

    Yes, the lower east side wants a ferry but the process should be discussed and vetted just like any other project. This was not. Where is the city data to show that this is the best place for a ferry stop? You say, “We picked..” as if you should decide where a ferry stop should go. This is based on your years of research and data? Imagine if we handled other city projects like this.

    The main point though is simply that the community and the community board should have a say in where a ferry stop should go. Did you hold any community or other public meetings to discuss this? Did you talk with other waterfront groups, residents, stakeholders,etc.? Do you really have an issue with the concept of community input and outreach-especially on the lower east side? You say don’t listen to Grand Street Ferry Naysayers. Why not? Should we just listen to you?

    You say you have 60 signatures. 60. And 600 online…from all over the world. I’ll leave it as that.

    I’m not going to get into your points about location because it really isn’t relevant. This is about public outreach, involvement and input.

    If you are so sure that the Grand St location is so superior to any other pier location then let’s put this in front of our real community, CB3, and other interested stakeholders and we’ll see if everyone has the same conclusion. Why would you have any problem with that? I’ll stick what whatever conclusion results-will you?
    Many of us were just going to let this go and we were just happy to see a ferry in this area. Now you have convinced me and others that CB3 needs to have a series of meetings, along with NYCEDC and the public at large, to see if your personal conclusions match with what the entire community needs. The people who live here are not going to be treated like we have been in the past. Especially on public land. Everyone should have a say,no?

    I thank you for this Op-Ed as I now realize how the, “community decided” Grand St. location, became a proposed ferry stop. I honestly had no clue that such a vital decision was made amongst so few people.

    Let’s leave the proposed ferry stop exactly where it is: at Grand Street.” Why not, “Let’s discuss proposed ferry stops along the east river”.

  2. Agree 1000% Wei Lu. A commercial boat dock at the firehouse would seem to spoil the quality of that area and I don’t understand where people actually go once they get off there, do the truck over to grand street to get a bus? Full vetting is the right thing to do.

  3. How is a ferry stop in one of the quieter areas of the park with green space, lawns, and shaded seating for people to relax the ideal location? Does anyone who appreciates that park space want it to be a congregation point for frat bros traveling in for their pre bar crawl kickball game and other riders of the ferry that will no doubt congest a rare enclave on the waterfront? It is more logical to have it down by Montgomery with a more serviceable pier, parking lots, concrete, less green space, and direct openings to the street. I’m farther from the Montgomery stop but don’t think I’m above walking walking the extra couple blocks down since it is a better location. For Seward park and many other developments the Montgomery stop is more convenient especially considering the direct connection to the street, but to assume the author knows the neighborhood is giving him too much credit. He talks selectively about the proximity to the amphitheater when, during sporadic concerts, the Montgomery st stop would only be another few hundred feet away (Oh the humanity!!) yet ignores the fact that the much more frequent walks to the subway from Montgomery are shorter while editorializing that they will be “windy.”

    He acts like he deserves our thanks for making an online petition and circulating it to his contact list. He epitomizes the self important NYC gentrifier. He just showed up. He regularly talks down patronizingly about our neighborhood. He acts like he knows better than the people who built their life and family here through the good and the bad. Who didn’t only arrive once it became the next hot neighborhood to tweet about.

    The reason I worry about whether my kids will be able to grow up in the same place their family comes from is precisely because of people who act like him. Those who act like their mere presence and ideas are a gift to whatever neighborhood is next on the list. That the people who made the neighborhood a place to move to are just background noise to their goal to attract more pompous people of their ilk rather than the plebeian LESers who don’t know what’s good for them.

    You know those two quacks suing for 40 million over the smoke odor from the East village explosion- Do any of you doubt they would all have a splendid midweek brunch together while the New Yorkers steeped in reality are at work? Damn, there are toddlers that have more experience here than him. No matter what development you come from I think we can all agree on who we should not be listening to….that’s my opinion piece 4 you.

  4. I’d like to correct some misinformation in Mr. Hanania’s op-ed piece. He has misunderstood my comments about the Lower East Side ferry proposal. I did not say that the proposed stop at Grand St. would take up valuable park land. What I said was that CB3’s Parks committee and other relevant committees, as well as the Lower East Community should vet and discuss all proposals for proposed ferry stops. To date, the EDC and other entities that back the proposal for more ferry service have no engaged the community to hear its needs and opinions.

    All of a sudden, we hear that there is a proposed ferry stop at Grand St. No public input, no community discussion.

    I agree that there are many great activities going on down on the East River and that ferry service at Grand St. could make sense. What I don’t agree with is the lack of community input.

    And, by the way, ANY ferry service from the river will need to consider shuttle service from the ferry to the closest F Station (East Broadway or Essex and Delancey). Either way, the river is a long walk to the train. In mid-town, there is a Ferry Service shuttle that runs all the way from the Hudson terminal through mid-town. Do you really think the 14A bus that runs so infrequently is the answer to shuttling people to the train? I don’t think so. Currently there are something like 5-8 14Ds for every 14A and everyone in the neighborhood knows it. Many of us have spoken up about the lack of 14A service to the neigborhood.

    My point is:
    1. There must be community input on proposed ferry stops, pros and cons. There has been none to date.
    2. Consider the influx of new residents coming into the neighborhood (for example, from the Extell development) and other areas.
    3. Consider the fact that people who take the ferry will want to get to the closest F Train. Let’s consider the LARGER picture and offer pros and cons for each scenario.

    Thank you to the other commenters here.

Comments are closed.

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