By Sabina Mollot
Despite temperatures climbing high enough to warrant an official heat advisory from the city, cool winds prevailed along the East River on Wednesday for those aboard the new ferries along the Lower East Side route that launched that morning. The ferry that made the maiden voyage took off from Long Island City at around 6:30, arriving at Stuyvesant Cove at exactly 6:45 a.m. as the sun rose, carrying a mix of Stuyvesant Town residents and reporters.
The ferry, named the Ocean Queen Rock Star, then proceeded — at around 26 miles per hour — to downtown landing Corlears Hook, named, like Stuyvesant Cove, after a park on the waterfront. There, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Member Keith Powers cheered the new route, which made its debut months ahead of the dreaded L train shutdown.
De Blasio mentioned that the city has been getting many requests from New Yorkers who want a ferry stop in their neighborhoods and said that by the end of the year, decisions will be made on where else they would go. As of Wednesday, there were already six active ferry routes in the city, all operated by Hornblower. According to the mayor, there have also already been six million riders so far on NYC Ferry.
“We know how crowded the subways are. We know the streets are congested,” he said. “We know we need new ways to get around the city. We will not be the city we were meant to be if we don’t have better options.”
Two weeks prior to the Lower East Side launch, another line, Soundview, also made its debut. De Blasio told reporters this was the first ferry service offered to Bronx residents since the 1930s.
“Our waterways ended up feeling like a disconnect,” said De Blasio. “People were separated by water. NYC Ferry changes that.”
Powers agreed with the mayor, saying that as a lifelong resident of Peter Cooper, he never thought the river just across the FDR Drive was something he’d get access to.
“Never did we think it would be something we’d be using in our day-to-day lives,” he said. “And it’s coming at a time when we are in a transportation crisis.”
The ferry riders too seemed excited about having a new way to get to work.
Baruch College employee Michael Marino, who lives near Corlears Hook, said before the ferry came along, he was taking the 14A bus and then two trains in order to get to his destination on East 23rd Street. That trip would take 30 minutes. With the ferry, “I’m at Stuyvesant Cove in 10 minutes,” he said, “all while enjoying the great view of the city.”
Asked what she thought of the ferry, Stuyvesant Town resident, Kay Vota, told Town & Village, “I’ll buy it. I want to move in.”
She especially appreciated that the lower indoor level was air conditioned, although she also ventured up to the roof seating area.
“With the L shutdown this will be a necessity for people,” added Vota.
Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village general manager Rick Hayduk called the ferry “impressive” as he watched the view from the roof.
“I will be using it,” he said. “It’s beautiful. You’re going down the East River and looking at the skyline and you never get tired of that. You’re using one of the great assets of Manhattan Island, the water.”
Stuyvesant Town resident Lauren Parthemos said she appreciated that the ferry was easy to get around on, since she recently injured her ankle while on a park hiking trail.
“Subway stairs do not work for me,” said Parthemos. “I can do small stairs,” she added, while gesturing to those leading to the upper level on the ferry.
Still, she was mixed about whether she’d be using the ferry to commute to her job in the Financial District on a regular basis.
“The way the ferries run now, the time I get into work, I’m either super early or just squeaking in on time,” she said.
The LES ferry makes 27 trips a day on weekdays, 23 on weekends, and the length of the route takes 33-34 minutes to travel. Stops are Wall Street, Corlears Hook, Stuyvesant Cove, 34th Street and Long Island City. The fare, which includes transfers, is $2.75 and ticket machines are located on a covered landing. To view the ferry schedule, visit ferry.nyc.