City Picks California-Based firm to Run New Ferry Service

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

The de Blasio administration announced today that Hornblower Inc., a California-based company, has been selected to run the city’s new ferry service. It will launch next year with routes to and from Astoria, South Brooklyn and the Rockaways. Service will be expanded to the Lower East Side in 2018.

The fare will be the same as a single subway ride. The new system will be integrated with the current East River Ferry, meaning fares for that service will now be reduced.

Last year, various neighborhood groups haggled over the exact location of the Lower East Side ferry stop. While it was described as a “Grand Street” dock, officials said the exact location was still to be determined. They were evaluating spots somewhere near the East River Bandshell.

Not everyone is thrilled with today’s selection. In a press release, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer raised concerns about the selection of an “out-of-state” company. Another operator, New York Water Taxi, has said it might be forced to shut down in the face of subsidized competition. The city is providing $30 million in “operating”support per year to Hornblower.  In a letter to the Economic Development Corp., Brewer wrote:

(A) key concern is the 200 workers currently employed by New York Water Taxi whose jobs will be lost – a larger number, perhaps, than those in the tourist helicopter industry, which I know EDC fought hard to protect. How many new jobs will be provided under this new contract to offset those who are let go from New York Water Taxi? What assistance will EDC make available to those whose industry was disrupted by the City?

Brewer also indicated she’s worried about the impact of New York Water Taxi’s potential demise on the Seaport Museum.  The museum relies on nearly $600,000 each year from leasing a portion of Pier 16 to the ferry company. Asked about the concerns at a news conference yesterday, the mayor responded, “It’s called competition… People compete. Someone wins. People should respect that process.”

Hornblower currently charters boats in the New York harbor, runs a commuter ferry to New Jersey and operates the Alcatraz ferry. The city expects the new ferry service to generate about 155 new jobs.