City suspends scheduled ferry stop to Coney Island NYC for further analysis

New York City has temporarily halted plans to bring a ferry line to Coney Island, citing a “significant sand shift” at the creek where the dock is proposed.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation met with residents and leaders of Coney Island this week to provide an update on the ferry service, which the agency originally sought to launch in 2021.

But officials instead said the project was delayed indefinitely as they assessed how much additional dredging was needed at the creek. And following community backlash against the location, they also plan to assess the feasibility of moving the ferry landing to the rougher ocean side of Coney Island, those officials said.

“They encountered some difficulties. The sand shifts are bigger than they anticipated,” said Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus, a Democrat who represents Coney Island and helped organize Tuesday’s meeting.

To move the dock to the ocean, the EDC said a jetty or other structure would have to be built to protect boats from waves and winds. That could further increase the cost of adding a route to Coney Island, EDC officials told residents.

“The Coney Islanders want a ferry, and we continue to work aggressively towards that goal,” EDC spokeswoman Regina Graham told THE CITY on Thursday. “We will continue to respond to community requests and concerns, and we are exploring all options for a ferry landing that would maximize operational safety, access and ridership. We will continue to work in partnership with residents and look forward to keeping them informed.

EDC plans to review the work needed for the ferry by late summer and early fall, the spokesperson said.

Troubled waters

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced a planned NYC ferry service to Coney Island in 2019, after the community for years clamored for a boat to the seaside destination.

The proposed route would connect Coney Island to Bay Ridge and lower Manhattan – the end-to-end journey taking 37 minutes, according to NYC Ferry. The equivalent subway ride takes about an hour.

A child marvels at the Wonder Wheel and the rest of Coney Island as the Q train approaches Stillwell Avenue station.

Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

“As New Yorkers take to the water to get around our city more than ever before, we look forward to improving the NYC Ferry system to make it better than ever,” said de Blasio, who is currently running for the Congress.

But problems have arisen with the proposed dock at Coney Island since it was first announced.

Some local activists lobbied to move the ferry dock away from Coney Island Creek and the ocean side of the peninsula. They suggested it be moved to Steeplechase Pier, arguing that building a wharf and preparing the polluted creek for ferry service would be unsafe for the community and disrupt the water there.

People enjoy the Coney Island boardwalk near Steeplechase Pier at the start of the pandemic, May 7, 2020.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether Coney Island Creek will be designated as a Superfund site.

Late last year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation fined EDC, its contractor Skanska and its subcontractor Mechanical and Marine Construction Corp $70,000 for violates environmental restrictions when dredging. A spokesperson for Skanska referred all questions to EDC.

Frontus said she wouldn’t mind a ferry stop, but didn’t think the hurdles were worth it.

“Who wouldn’t want to board a ferry?” she said THE CITY. “Just because you want something doesn’t mean you want it at the expense of your health.”

Taxpayers soaked

Since its official launch with a handful of routes in 2017, the cost of the citywide ferry service to city ratepayers has continued to rise.

Earlier this year, EDC’s board of directors approved up to $62 million in new spending to keep the vessel’s operation afloat, allowing for the first time municipal tax money. De Blasio increased the program’s budget with an additional $23.2 million before leaving office.

A city-sponsored nonprofit that manages government real estate assets such as the Brooklyn Army Terminal, EDC subsidized the ferry from the start, with assistance last year amounting to $8.59 per trip .

A NYC ferry docks in Astoria, Queens on April 5, 2019.

Mayor Eric Adams said in February he was ready to find new ways to increase revenue for the system.

“We need to be more creative,” he said when EDC’s new president, Andrew Kimball, was officially announced.

Kimball called the ferry service “one of the great success stories of the past decade,” but that the city needed to review its funding.

“We definitely need to look at the cost structure and management,” he said.

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