Mayor Bill de Blasio joined community leaders in Astoria, Queens, on Friday for a ride on NYC Ferry’s new extension from Astoria to the Upper East Side.
Last week, the NYC Ferry service announced it would finally expand the line to connect the neighboring boroughs, after years of advocacy from Astoria community leaders. The line will offer a direct connection from 3-10 Astoria Blvd. to 90th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Before they embarked on what Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos called a two-minute ride across the river, the mayor held a press conference with Kallos, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Economic Development Corporation Executive Director James Wong at Astoria’s pier.
“The idea of this ferry service was to create a connection that wasn’t there before,” de Blasio said, giving credit to the many community members who advocated for the line.
De Blasio invited Astoria Houses Residents’ Association President Claudia Coger and Old Astoria Neighborhood Association President Richard Khuzami to speak, two strong advocates of the ferry for almost two years.
Coger spoke about the opportunities the quick and direct line will offer to Astoria Houses, including more access to medical facilities and businesses in neighboring boroughs.
“This is connecting us to a better entry to Manhattan and […] also to the Bronx,” she said. “We’re looking forward to greater and better things on the peninsula where the community is on the rise, and we must be a part of it.”
Khuzami spoke about the “very long journey” to make it happen.
“This is an extremely important chapter in the revitalization of old Astoria, this is the cradle of western Queens,” Khuzami said. “We suffered for many years as a victim of redlining which did not allow investment for growth and development at our neighborhood. It turned us into a transit, food services and educational desert, but we’ve made great strides — this is part of that stride.”
The NYC Ferry, operated by Hornblower through the city Economic Development Corporation, said the additional line comes at no additional cost to taxpayers and that the short detour across the East River changes nothing about the ferry services subsidy.
Maloney saluted the EDC for “doing a terrific, creative job.”
“We were here just a year ago and we had a barbecue and press conference saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got the pier here, we’ve got the pier in East 90th Street, it’s only a thousand fit, that’s all it is — you can build a small bridge easily but it’s much more fun to go by ferry,” Maloney said. “We were joining all of you and pushing for this ferry service, so I’m thrilled to be here and to celebrate it.”
The NYC Ferry’s line doesn’t just connect people from Astoria to the Upper East Side, but will also take people farther south of Manhattan. The addition of the Upper East Side stop will have a slight headway change from 34 to 37 minutes for riders. Fares for NYC Ferry are $2.75 with a city subsidy of about $9.34 per rider.
De Blasio added that while they’re celebrating the new line and how it’ll benefit Astoria Houses and the whole neighborhood greatly, he wanted to mention the history of the ferry.
“There was a ferry connection until 1936, and Robert Moses, who did some good things, but also did a lot of things that were very troubling and divisive in the city, he is the person who apparently gave the order to cancel that ferry service,” de Blasio said. “Well, we’re righting that wrong. Most of a hundred years later, we’re righting that wrong and restoring that connection.”
Councilman Kallos thanked his “BFF in City Council and in life” Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides for joining him and the community in advocating for the extended line.
“Our districts actually touch in the water […] but we were never able to physically get from one district to another without having to go through another district — now we can because of this ferry service.”