By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The plan for an expansion of ferry service that will include a stop at Stuyvesant Cove Park has been met by mostly positive responses from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents.
The community got to hear about the project last Thursday, when the ST-PCV Tenants Association hosted the Economic Development Corporation for a presentation.
At the event, the EDC reps responded to concerns from tenants about the potential for crowding — which the EDC doesn’t think will happen — and promised the new landing wouldn’t impact Stuyvesant Cove Park.
Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in his State of the City address that Stuyvesant Cove at East 20th and Avenue C would be one of 20 new ferry landings for the five new routes that will soon be added to supplement the existing East River Ferry service.
Stuyvesant Cove will be a stop on the Lower East Side route, which originates in Long Island City and travels through Stuy Cove from East 34th Street on its way to a stop at Wall Street/Pier 11. The Rockaway, South Brooklyn and Astoria routes are planned for 2017 and the Soundview and Lower East Side routes are expected for 2018. Commuters from Stuyvesant Cove will be able to transfer to all of the other routes through either the East 34th Street or Wall Street stops.
While there will be free transfers available within the ferry system, EDC Assistant Vice President for Government and Community Relations Justine Johnson told the crowd that there will not be integration with the MetroCard and the subway system, but only because the MTA is phasing the MetroCard out. Johnson said that the ferries will be integrated into the whole system once the MTA updates the payment system.
Although riders won’t be able to pay for the ferry with a MetroCard, Johnson said that the base fare will be the same at $2.75 per ride.
The stop will be called Stuyvesant Cove and while some residents at the meeting were concerned that the new landing would affect park activities, Johnson emphasized that the stop itself won’t interfere with the existing park. Dina Elkan, director of communications and events at Solar One, was also at the meeting and reassured residents that EDC has been coordinating with the park, and said that the plan for the new landing will not affect Stuyvesant Cove.
“None of the upland area will be affected,” Senior Project Manager Felix Ceballos said. “It will just be a gate on the bulkhead that leads to the gangway and the barge. The only changes we’ll have to make for most of the new stops will literally just be a break in the fence.”
Johnson said that this simple installation will also help with storm preparation. Susan Steinberg, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, inquired about what would become of the barges in the event of another Superstorm Sandy and Johnson said that they can be easily removed. “One of the benefits of having a landing like this is that we can move it as needed,” she said.
The EDC had held a hearing about the new planned additions for ferry service last September at its office on Williams Street but Steinberg wanted to hold another meeting in a location more convenient for residents. The event last week was held at the VA Medical Center on East 23rd Street with roughly 30 people in attendance.
A few indicated their support and no one there said they opposed the project. However, one Peter Cooper Village resident said she was concerned about excess noise, since she already frequently deals with noise from the party boats that dock at the Skyport Marina.
“I hear those boat horns at all hours,” Peter Cooper resident Anne Greenberg said. “What happens when it’s so popular, when it comes every 20 minutes and it’s too full to let everyone on? What happens when there are too many people on the barge and you have to start sending out extra boats to deal with the extra capacity? I’m not getting the sense that you’ve thought about this.”
Greenberg also expressed concern about the potential for hundreds of non-residents cutting through Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village after disembarking and causing disruptions for tenants but Ceballos said they’re not anticipating too much of an increase in foot traffic.
“We expect about a thousand people going through this landing per day so if you break that down it’s really more like 50 to 60 people per ride,” he said. “It’s not going to be a huge influx. We don’t expect it to be like 135 people every five minutes, taking over the neighborhood.”
Since the Skyport Marina at East 23rd Street does already allow for boats to dock, other residents questioned why a new landing at East 20th Street is necessary, but Ceballos said that the marina is already at complete capacity and because there are already a number of boats docking there, they don’t want to cause confusion about which boat to board. Johnson added that East 20th Street is also a better access point for pedestrians because the Skyport has a certain level of security and isn’t completely open to the public.
City Councilmember Dan Garodnick also made an appearance at the meeting to express his support for ferries as an additional mode of transportation, in particular for ST-PCV residents.
“When you consider how close we are to the river and how isolated from other transit options we are, this is an excellent opportunity for us,” he said. “I think the improvement of ferry service is a game-changer. I think we are underusing our waterways. This is a city of water and it’s an easy way to move people around.”