By David Brand
When a ferry makes its maiden voyage from Long Island City to the Lower East Side on Aug. 29, it could be the precursor for a new fleet of passenger boats carrying commuters along the Queens waterfront.
The new ferry route will depart from Gantry Plaza State Park and enable Western Queens commuters to travel to the Lower East Side in about a half-hour.
The LES route will run from Wall Street/Pier 11 to LIC, a 32-minute trip with stops in Corlears Hook, Stuyvesant Cove and East 34th Street. Council Member Francisco Moya, along with local business leaders like the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation and the Flushing Chamber of Commerce, have called on the city to extend service to the waterfront along northern Queens.
“We’re excited about what we’ve done and about the expansion,” said Cameron Clark, senior vice president at NYC Ferry. “We’re excited to hear there are advocates saying, ‘We want ferries.’”
Despite the advocacy, Clark said there are no concrete next steps for extending ferry service.
“We’ve delivered on a Herculean task,” Clark said. “Let us get through it and let us assess [the Lower East Side line] before we expand service. The conversation has not happened yet.”
Clark said the city selected Long Island City to host the next ferry port based on a 2013 study of transit gaps, ridership demand and waterfront infrastructure conducted by the New York Economic Development Corporation.
“Long Island City checked the boxes for demand, which you see with the emergence of residential and commercial space in the community, and good waterfront,” Clark said. “That access made the LIC connection into the Lower East Side a positive and winning location.”
Since setting sail in May 2017, NYC Ferry has served over 5 million riders across the Astoria, East River, South Brooklyn and Rockaway routes. Last month, NYC Ferry introduced the Ocean Queen Rockstar, the first of six 350-passenger vessels that can accommodate high ridership demand.
Clark said the new vessels will accommodate a projected 1 million riders per year along the Lower East Side route.
The city’s ferry system currently shuttles commuters to and from four Queens docks located at Hunters Point South, Long Island City, Astoria and Rockaway. There are eight stops in Brooklyn between Bay Ridge and Greenpoint and four ports in Manhattan between 34th Street and Wall Street.
Next week, another new ferry line will head north to Manhattan’s East 90th Street and the Bronx neighborhood of Soundview.
Seafaring commuters can download the NYC Ferry app to review real-time scheduling, alerts and route info.
Northern Queens is not the only area clamoring for ferry access. Residents in various parts of the city have also begun requesting ferries — including spots that already have ferry service.
“We’re hearing from Staten Island, Coney Island, the West Side,” Clark said. “We’re focused on delivering on our successful commitments.”