A pilot passenger ferry program between Manhattan and the Queens and Brooklyn waterfronts due to end next June instead has been extended five years into 2019.
Mayor Bloomberg made the announcement last Friday, and officials in Western Queens are cheering the decision.
“The East River ferry has been a huge success and demonstrates the demand for efficient, affordable transit to points along the city’s waterfront,” Bloomberg said in a statement issued by his office.
Operated by BillBey Ferry Co. and launched in July 2011, the service runs at regular intervals linking Long Island City, and four points in Brooklyn with Pier 11 and East 34th Street in Manhattan.
Bloomberg said the program quickly outdistanced expectations, reaching the three-year-goal of 1.2 million passengers in only 18 months. It carries 100,000 riders per month.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said the service has become an important cog in his district.
“Ferry service is an essential component of the transportation mix for residents of Long Island City,” he said. “[They] love the convenience and the frequency of the East River Ferry.”
Van Bramer believes that new construction around the ferry stop, including affordable housing and a park, will only increase the demand.
“The numbers don’t lie,” said Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), chairman of the Council’s Waterfronts Committee. “There is a tidal wave of support for ferry service in New York City.”
State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) also welcomed the news.
In a statement issued by his office, Gianaris said Western Queens remains in dire need of better mass transit “due to woefully inadequate service on the 7 subway line.”
He hopes Bloomberg’s announcement marks the first step in the direction of continued attention to the mass transit needs in and around Long Island City. City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, quoted in the statement from Bloomberg’a office, believes the benefits will be far more extensive.
““For thousands of commuters along the waterfront, the East River Ferry has grown into a transportation lifeline and a daily way of life,” she said. “As more and more New Yorkers get on board with commuting on our waterways, this commitment ensures that this crucial transit option will keep the city moving for years to come.”
Kyle Kimball, president of the city’s Economic Development Corp., said evidence of that already is manifesting itself.
“The city’s commitment to ferry service has already made a sizable impact on the economy, catalyzing further private investment in the neighborhoods served and now poised to continue to strengthen the city’s economy.”
The program already was classified as a success when Hurricane Sandy damaged or destroyed thousands of feet of tracks and bridge supports that carried the A train between the Rockaways and mainland Queens.
The EDC built a ferry ramp in the Rockaways to augment shuttle bus service for more than seven months while the tracks were replaced, and the service to and from Manhattan became an instant hit.
Numerous Queens officials including state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) are calling for more stops, possibly including a link to John F. Kennedy International Airport.