At Northside Piers, a Pier Appears;
Can it Save East River Ferry Service?
Back in July, we served up a modest proposal to bring NY Water Taxi service to Northside Williamsburg by building a temporary floating dock at either the foot of North 7th Street or within East River State Park, giving 'Burg commuters an alternative to packed L-trains, and offering the struggling ferry service access to a much larger pool of riders.
We're still waiting for appreciative phone calls from Mayor Bloomberg and NY Water Taxi owners Tom Fox and Douglas Durst. Actually, since we posted the suggestion, we've determined that NY State Parks is barely amenable to opening the Kent Avenue park for park-goers; the chances of them providing access to Water Taxi riders is probably a pipe dream. The MTA's financial black hole is unlikely to start coughing up grants to private-sector competitors any time soon. And most disappointing: in December, NY Water Taxi itself announced a five-month suspension of East River service due to high fuel costs and lack of ridership.
But one positive development could provide incentive for an early return to the East River Route: down at the foot of North 5th Street in Williamsburg, a large red crane has quietly been unloading prefab concrete slabs from waiting barges the past few months - and out of sight of residents, development bloggers, and construction sightseers, a long concrete pier is quickly taking shape.
Readers will be quick to point out that a mile down the Williamsburg shoreline, the Water Taxi stop that formerly put the landing in Schaefer Landing, is now closed - despite having been touted as an amenity to prospective buyers. To that we have three rebuttals: 1. Location 2. Location 3. Location.
Schaefer Landing is halfway between the Navy Yard and the Williamsburg Bridge, and despite the large Hassidic community nearby, the immediate neighborhood hasn't seen the massive influx of residents that the Northside neighborhood has. And based on the thousands of new housing units coming online in the next two years - that trend will only continue. Indeed, Schaeffer Landing itself has been unable to attract buyers and retail tenants, due at least in part to its remote location.
Toll Brothers should actively woo NY Water Taxi to its new pier at Northside Piers. The site has a newly-planted, pedestrian-safe walkway that leads to its sales office. That walkway could easily be extended to the new pier, and create significant foot traffic to the showroom as the developer sells units in two upcoming towers. Manhattan realtors could encourage midtown and downtown commuters to take the ferry to open houses at the site. And Toll Brothers would gain first-mover advantage toward permanent Water Taxi service at Northside Piers - an amenity that's currently being promoted by neighboring Williamsburg Edge.
Access to Northside commuters - and weekend sightseers from Manhattan - could be the key to making the East River ferry route economically viable.