NYC Ferry exceeds expectations--commuters and joyriders push service past 1-million mark

By Georgia Kral  | July 27, 2017 - 10:59AM

NYC Ferry

Maybe it’s the ever-failing subways. Or the hot, sweaty platforms. Maybe it’s the over-crowding on basically every train line. Or it could just be New Yorkers always looking for the next best thing.

Whatever it is that has ferry ridership numbers up, they are undeniable, and the city is taking the opportunity to celebrate a victory. On Wednesday it was announced that ridership for NYC Ferry had hit 1 million, a number the city didn’t expect to see until late August.

“We knew NYC Ferry would be popular, but a million riders in less than three months is beyond our wildest expectations,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation president and CEO James Patchett in a press release.

But who is riding the ferry and who actually benefits from the service, and how will development along the city's waterfront affect future ridership?

Some people take it because it truly is a more enjoyable commute.

Kimberly Sevilla lives in Williamsburg and commutes via bicycle and ferry to her studio in Sunset Park 3-4 times each week. 

"The trains are crowded, slow and claustrophobic and the BQE is miserable," said the CEO of the event and floral design company Red Rose and Lavender. "I love the ferry and it feels like a mini vacation every time I ride it. It is very exhilarating and gives me a sense of freedom."

An article on Slate published in May said the ferries would do little to alleviate congestion on the subways, since the number of people living and working along the waterfront isn't high, and only those that do live/work there are the benefactors of such a "luxury amenity." But that's changing with new developments being announced all the time along the Brooklyn waterfront.

There’s no doubt the boats are making stops in neighborhoods that have seen rampant redevelopment in recent years (Greenpoint, Long Island City) but what about Bay Ridge and Astoria, other areas service by the ferry? How will the ferries affect real estate values and future development? There are also plans for another ferry route to connect the Bronx with Manhattan. It launches next summer.

The ferry may be driving rental prices up, too. According to data from Nestio, apartments for rent near ferry stops in DUMBO and Williamsburg were going for a premium over those farther away, DNA Info reported. 

The city is also announcing new routes that will reach even more New Yorkers. On Wednesday, a new route was announced that originates in Astoria, sails to Roosevelt Island (linking up with the new Cornell tech campus), Long Island City, East 34th Street and Wall Street/ Pier 11. It launches Aug. 29.

And while the ferry routes were designed for commuters, it turns out the cheap price ($2.75) and amenities (wine, beer, beach gear) are luring tourists and New Yorkers looking for a cheap thrill, too. 

The “ferries are somewhat chic,” The New York Times reported in an article on New Yorkers taking the ferry for fun (and for rose.)

And on the weekends, lots of people take the ferries to the Rockaways and through the harbor. Everyone seems to want to get out on the water.

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