Council Member Vallone Says NYC Ferry Deserves a Captain

Council Member Vallone Says NYC Ferry Deserves a Captain
Council Member Paul Vallone

April 17th, 2019

City Hall – On Wednesday afternoon, Council Member Paul Vallone co-chaired a joint hearing of the Committees on Economic Development, Governmental Operations, and Transportation, where his bill (Int. No. 1512-2019) to establish a Director of Ferry Operations within the Department of Transportation was heard. The legislation would amend current law under Chapter 71 of the New York City Charter to establish this position.

“We can agree that the ultimate goal is to establish a self-sustaining citywide ferry system that connects all five boroughs using the city’s abundant waterways,” said Council Member Vallone. “Delegating a Director of Ferry Services to manage our waterways will ensure that we chart a smart, fiscally responsible course to an expanded and reliable ferry system.”

The Director of Ferry Services would be appointed by the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. The Director’s responsibilities would include the operation and maintenance of existing ferries, ferry route development and evaluation, identification and assessment of potential sites for expansion of ferry service, and public outreach and community engagement. The Director would not be responsible for the Staten Island Ferry.

In response to Council Member Vallone’s inquiry as to the envisioned future of NYC Ferry, EDC Chief of Staff James Katz said during testimony that NYC EDC was “open to conversations about [NYC Ferry] finding a new home, a permanent home, in whatever place policymakers, be they mayors or City Council, best see fit.”

“Finding a sustainable future for NYC Ferry, and one in which it can grow, we think is an important conversation, and one we thank you for starting in the form of this bill,” Katz said.

The existing NYC Ferry system was developed by the Economic Development Corporation and began service in May 2017. The service, which currently operates 21 stops across the City with more stops in development, gives New Yorkers an affordable transportation option to and from the City’s waterfront communities. A recent EDC report recorded a 93% approval rating among riders.

The company Hornblower currently operates ferry service with oversight from the city’s Economic Development Corporation. The bill would not change this overall operational structure and control of the system could lie under any city entity – namely either EDC or DOT.

“As we continuously look for ways to meet the extraordinary demand for public transit, our City should ride the wave of this successful mass transit mode, which brings a viable transportation option to areas of the city that are otherwise difficult to access,” added Vallone.

If passed, the Local Law would take effect after 120 days.

At the hearing, a bill (Int 0982-2018) to create a New York City Office of the Waterfront was also heard. The Office’s responsibilities would include coordinating and collaborating with city agencies responsible for matters related to waterfront use, working with state and federal agencies involved in the waterfront permitting process, serving as an advocate for the waterfront within city government, and managing and implementing the New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan. The bill was introduced by Council Member Debi Rose.

“I believe these two bills, when considered together, can transform our waterways and waterfront areas for the better,” said Vallone. "The 520 miles of waterfront that surrounds New York City serves important ecological, recreational, commercial and industrial purposes and is a fundamental part of the city's framework. I'm proud to co-sponsor this bill and thank my colleague Council Member Debi Rose for bringing it to the table."