A few weeks ago, we learned that the R train required drawn-out help. Its purveyor into Manhattan–the Montague Tunnel–was still wrecked by Hurricane Sandy; the construction witnessed the worst flooding of any other tunnel in New York. As a result, the MTA announced it would close the tunnel for 14 months, starting in August, leaving commuters strapped for travel options between Brooklyn Hall and Whitehall Street. Now they can strike “ferry service” off their list of possibilities.
Councilman Vincent Gentile, the Democrat representing Bay Ridge and surrounding areas, proposed the idea of reopening the neighborhood’s pier to Albany and Washington. The pier ran commuter boats between Bay Ridge and the 59th Street Pier for 10 years but, after a lack of passengers, the MTA suspended its use three years ago. The response: a resounding rejection from city, state, and federal officials.
Gentile argued that the state-run MTA could use its post-Sandy funds from Congress worth $5.7 billion to revive the much-needed service. But the agency refused; spokesperson Charles Seaton told the New York Daily News that “ferries would do little good” and advised commuters to take alternative lines into the city–which is fine for everyone but R train strap-hangers to hear.
However, the Economic Development Corporation oversees the 59th Street Pier–if ferry service between Bay Ridge and Midtown were to reappear, it would be the EDC’s decision. And, like the MTA, the EDC refused to adhere to Gentile’s proposal. The Voice has reached out to sources at the EDC to ask why the refusal if it seems as the funds are there. We’re waiting to hear back.
For comparison, Gentile pointed to the ferry service that ran to the Rockaways to supplement the downed A train as proof that this could work. Those commuter boats were paid for by Washington and still exist after the original five-month plan. Regardless, the councilman is hopeful that something will proliferate for his constituents.
“There is more than one way to get this done,” he said at a press conference. “We have until August. … We are going to keep banging on the drums. We are going to get this done.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 21, 2013