By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A bipartisan group of elected officials is floating the idea of expanding the city’s East River commuter ferry service to Bay Ridge and Coney Island.
Members of the group include Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino, Democratic Assemblymen Alec Brook-Krasny and Steve Cymbowitz, Democratic Councilman Vincent Gentile, and Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. They would like to see the East River ferry make stops at the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge and at a pier at Coney Island.
The East River Fast Ferry Service has exceeded all passenger projections and has carried more than one million New Yorkers between Queens, North Brooklyn and Manhattan in its first year of operation, the lawmakers said.
“Lest we forget New York City was founded because of its access to deep, navigable waterways, in these times of increased traffic and decreased funds for infrastructure improvements it behooves city leaders to follow your return to the traffic-free blue arteries that have served New Yorkers so well for centuries and a million New Yorkers in the last year alone,” Savino said.
“These benefits can and should now be reaped by [southern] Brooklynites,” said Savino, whose district includes parts of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst.
The elected officials said it makes sense to incorporate the 69th Street pier into the ferry service. Residents from both Bay Ridge and nearby Sunset Park could board the ferry to go to work in Manhattan, the lawmakers said.
According to the 2010 Census, 132,605 Brooklynites live within a mile radius of the 69th Street Pier.
The lawmakers said they believe a ferry service at the pier would be a success.
“It has always been my goal to enhance our relationship with the water and the ways in which we can use it. Right now, our waterfront is a tragically underutilized asset hidden in plain sight,” Gentile said. “Direct commuter ferry service in Bay Ridge ended when the deteriorating 69th Street Pier was closed back in the early 1990s. But it was rebuilt and renovated 13 years ago!”
Malliotakis said it’s important for South Brooklyn not to be ignored in discussions about improving public transportation in New York City.
“We need to explore all options to provide Brooklynites with a better commute and, as a densely populated coastal community, this just makes sense,” she said.
Coney Island was pointed out as another possible South Brooklyn ferry site.
Coney Island has undergone major renovations recently for its beaches, boardwalk and amusements and has reaped a substantial benefit in newly realized tourism, according to the lawmakers.
Coney Island and Gravesend boasts a total population of 126,588 within a mile radius of several proposed ferry pier sites, according to the 2010 Census.
Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, whose district runs from Bay Ridge to Coney Island, said it makes sense to increase ferry services from an environmental standpoint.
“By launching ferry service, we have the unique opportunity to use our waterways to create a greener, sustainable transportation option for our residents, and also potentially spur private investment along the waterfront,” Brook-Krasny said. “This has the possibility to increase tourism and have a huge impact on the economic growth and development of our waterfront neighborhoods.”