East River Ferry Debut: Slightly Confused, But So Very Lovable


The ride was free, the kids had a half-day at school, the sun finally started to shine in the afternoon — and people just didn’t want to get off the NY Waterway East River Ferry yesterday. Some were curious about the new service. Others were actually trying to get from point A to point B. Most took a bit of extra time to ride the full circuit at least once: It’s LIC, Greenpoint, South and North Williamsburg, DUMBO (connect the hipster dots!), sandwiched by Wall and East 34th streets in Manhattan. Moms with babies, commuters, groups of friends old and young, and lone or paired explorers lined the ferry railings to snap photos of the Brooklyn and Manhattan waterfronts and of each other.

NY Waterway calls itself the “civilized commute” and, despite a few opening-day hiccups, there wasn’t too much chaos — relatively speaking, anyway (see: subway madness and taxi PDA). Delays of up to half an hour, unmarked stops, and stranded passengers who couldn’t get onto boats that were at capacity in the early evening rush didn’t help. Still, on the whole, everyone seemed pretty damn pleased to be on the water instead of a) somewhere indoor at work or b) underground in a subway trying to get from Greenpoint to Midtown.

Punk-rock activist and See Squatter Jerry “the Peddler” Wade boarded at East 34th Street and stayed for a round-trip. He was just checking out the ferry, since he often walks across the Williamsburg Bridge to visit friends. Conclusion: He’ll probably take the ferry one way, and still walk the bridge the other way. “I have to get some exercise,” he said, pointing to his belly.

Eight-year-old Greenpoint residents Matthias and Sophia Schupp (that’s right, twins!) and Mom Nona took advantage of the half-day at school and surprised their dad in Midtown with an impromptu visit and lunch. They said they really enjoyed being on the ferry, but couldn’t stay for another circuit because Sophia had to go to dance class. Nona said she wasn’t sure how often they’ll take the ferry over to hang out with Dad again, once the service starts costing $4 one-way. But wait, the kids interjected — they have been selling books and making some money. “We’re book critics,” Sophia added, “we have to write about books.”

During the ferry trial period, which runs until June 24, all rides are free. NY Waterway has employed a team of wandering information booths in the form of college kids on summer break. Feel free to stop them and ask anything. You can’t miss them — they’ll be wearing the NY Waterway T-shirts, looking a bit shy. Some common questions:

Q: “Wait, what stop is this?”
A: “It’s like Brooklyn is new to everyone,” joked Paul Samulski, Chief Creative Officer of NY Waterway. He hung around to troubleshoot, ask questions, and announce stops during rush hour. Samulski assured us that signs for all the docks are coming soon. Also, in two weeks, an online app will be ready for ticket purchases.

Q: “Are dogs allowed?”
As with most city transportation, only service dogs or dogs in carriers are allowed. Bikes, however, are fine, as are strollers. There are small bike racks at the front of the boat.

Q: “Where’s the hooch?”
A: Sorry — no booze on the boat.

Other New Yorkers helpfully offered the staff some suggestions — get with the Water Taxi to create one user-friendly schedule (not happening), or lower the fare (also unlikely).

NY Waterway is expecting even more people today as word gets out, and Governors Island service starts this weekend. Get to the dock early, check whether you’re stepping onto the downtown or uptown boat, and be patient. Remember, it’s free (for now)! Visit NYWaterway for more information.