Real Estate Snafu Sinks NYC Ferry Service in Greenpoint
Sail on the Oops John B.
Greenpoint has lost ferry service for three days and counting after the city was seemingly caught unaware about the sale of the India Street dock.
On Saturday morning, the ferry service tweeted that service in Greenpoint was suspended because of “temporary restrictions,” which turned out to stem from the fact that the land where the ferry docked was sold to Australian development firm Lendlease. (This is not the first time that Australian real estate interests, which were once accused of driving up home prices in Bushwick, have made trouble for north Brooklyn)
A spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which sets ferry routes and manages docks, said that that service interruption stemmed from an unresolved insurance issue.
“Both the ferry operator and landlord are actively working to resolve insurance coverage,” said EDC spokesperson Christopher Singleton. “EDC spoke with all parties [Monday] morning and anticipates resolution quickly with service restarting as early as tomorrow morning.”
The EDC did not respond to a follow-up question regarding how the snafu happened, who was to blame for the missing ferry service, or how come the city agency in charge of the mayor’s signature transportation initiative didn’t see any of this coming or pre-warn commuters who rely on the ferry. It is difficult to imagine, for example, the Department of Transportation suddenly eliminating service for hundreds of thousands of drivers on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in an insurance dispute.
City Council Member Stephen Levin tweeted that he was “livid” over the screw up and that he’d never been told that the city “didn’t have ongoing legal access to the pier” as the suspension of ferry service proved.
That the city/@NYCEDC didn’t have ongoing legal access to the pier. Apparently the property sold this week for $110m to “1 Java LLC” c/o @LendleaseGroup-that’s all I could find from public records at 11:30 on a Sunday night. Will update in the morning.
— (((Stephen Levin))) (@StephenLevin33) October 19, 2020
Mayor de Blasio was also in the dark about exactly how the city lost access to the India Street dock, telling reporters on Monday that “it’s a quizzical situation.”
By 12:30 on Monday afternoon, a shuttle bus was transporting uh, ferry riders between Greenpoint and Hunters Point South in Queens. But that only came after the situation was most hilariously captured by Elizabeth Adams, Levin’s legislative director and a candidate for his open seat in 2021, who got a video of a ferry employee shouting the service change to confused Greenpointers who’d made their way to the eighth-most popular ferry dock in the city. (The neighborhood itself has about 36,000 people in walking distance of the pier.)
Greenpoint @NYCferry stop out of commission ‘indefinitely’ bc the developer sold the property. This isn’t how public transit functions.
— Elizabeth Adams (@ElizabAdams) October 19, 2020
The insurance issue is another black eye for the ferry service, which critics have called a distraction from more workable and equitable mass transit solutions from the moment the mayor put on the captain’s hat. The ferry system is one of the most subsidized transit options in the entire city, with Citizens Budget Commission analysis last year showing that even with more riders and additional routes, a ferry ride comes in at almost 10 times the cost of a subway or bus ride for city taxpayers. The high subsidy, the result of a $2.75 fare to match what landlubbing transit riders pay, has mostly benefitted riders making between $75,000 and $99,000 per year. The ferry also struggled with long lines and frustrated riders earlier this year due to returning crowds attempting to get on boats operating at reduced capacity due to coronavirus restrictions.
Stu Sherman and Lincoln Restler, both of whom also want to win the 33rd Council District seat, also got on Twitter to assure their potential constituents they were big mad about the lack of ferry service, calling it “absurd” and “incredibly disappointing.”
The ferry situation in Greenpoint is absurd and easily preventable. The city should have a usage right that transfers with the property, that no new owner can extinguish. And all sales should be contingent on first sorting our continuous operation.
— Stu Sherman, Candidate for Anarchist Council, D33 (@stu_sherman) October 19, 2020
Incredibly disappointing. How could NYC not ensure long term site access to pier for ferry?
I imagine new owner is taking aggressive act to gain leverage over the City. Hope @LendleaseGroup & @Redskymanagemnt get their comeuppance for depriving us of safe transit during pandemic https://t.co/HdrllgsGaJ
— Lincoln Restler (@LincolnRestler) October 19, 2020
In addition, the Lendlease Group’s tweet celebrating the company’s acquisition of the ferry pier is currently being ratio’d by outraged New Yorkers demanding the return of their dock.
This is unbelievable. You have completely removed a public transit option for hundreds of people a day in our community. You are purposely RUINING the neighborhood you just purchased. What is wrong with you?
— sally burtnick (@sallysputnik) October 19, 2020
when are you clowns going to open up the Greenpoint ferry stop?
— Schubes (@Schubes17) October 19, 2020
babe read the room
— Gus (@goldisacks) October 19, 2020
When will the tide turn? Stay tuned.