June 5, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
The city is nearing the completion of a study that seeks to examine alternative sites for a new ferry terminal at Hunter Points South Park, which will replace the existing station.
The NYC Economic Development Corp., which oversees the city’s ferry routes, said it is considering the feasibility of four new locations at Hunter Points South Park where a large docking barge would be built to accommodate ferry vessels.
The current ferry terminal, known as Hunters Point South, needs to be dismantled since it is coming to the end of its useful life, according to the EDC. The terminal, which the EDC says is around 30 years old, is located in front of the beach volleyball court near the waterfront café.
The EDC says it is unable to replace the current structure — at its existing location — as the new terminal needs to be much bigger and would require several piles to be driven into the seabed, which poses a danger to the tunnels underneath.
The EDC filed plans in October to build the new dock in front of the main west-facing boardwalk saying the site was the most practical location to put the new structure. Two boats would be able to dock at the barge.
However, residents and local stakeholders argued that a new ferry structure built at the site in front of the boardwalk — and its docked boats — would block the waterfront views, a key feature of the park.
Community Board 2, in a recommendation to the EDC, voted against the plan in December, while Council member Julie Won also voiced her opposition to the plan. Frank Ottomanelli, who owns the waterfront café is also against the plan, as is the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, a local volunteer group that helps with the upkeep of the park.
Some residents have backed the plan.
The weight of the public push back from those against the initial plan — and those who were hesitant without exhausting alternative options — forced the EDC in January to pause its plans to demolish the existing ferry terminal while it considered other locations.
Then, at the June 1 Community Board 2 meeting, representatives from the EDC informed members of its study which is examining the four different sites for the new ferry terminal. The study is expected to be completed over the summer and then the EDC will share its findings with the community in the fall. The EDC will then seek public feedback before it issues a final report later this year.
The study is seeking to determine if each site is safe for boats to navigate, if it can be built responsibly, and what are the environmental impacts. The total cost is also being considered, as is the effect each site will have on the community. McLaren Engineering Group, a Manhattan-based engineering firm, has been gathering data for the study.
The first site, known as Option 1, would essentially see the new station constructed at the location of the current structure, only it would be attached to the south-facing wall of the boardwalk.
This option, the EDC said, would not require new piles to be drilled into the seabed and thus it would not interfere with the tunnels below. It is unclear if passengers would board and disembark from the boardwalk or if there would be a footbridge where the current footbridge entrance is located, in front of the volleyball court.
Another location, Option 2, is south of the current terminal at the Hunter’s Point South Park Extension, a sloped turf area also known as the Luminescence that contains several moon-shaped concrete rocks.
The third location, Option 3, is at the southernmost section of the park at the mouth of Newtown Creek in front of the outdoor gym near the new Gotham Point Development.
The fourth location being considered, Option 4, is also at the mouth of Newtown Creek and is at the kayak ramp, located to the southeast of the new Gotham Point Development.
The EDC had previously told board members that alternative locations at Hunters Point South Park had already been considered and were ultimately rejected for being impractical.
Sites to the south of the existing location, where the Luminescence is situated, were found to be too soft or too narrow, the EDC said at the meeting in December.
Meanwhile, sites at Newtown Creek were also deemed incompatible due to its superfund status and having a federal navigational channel, the EDC said in December.
The EDC also previously stated — and reiterated Thursday — that the new terminal would need to be much bigger in size than the current station given ridership numbers have increased sharply.
The new terminal must be able to accommodate vessels carrying up to 350 passengers whereas the current ferry dock can only cater to ferries with a maximum capacity of 150 passengers.
Nina Verzosa, a transportation planner at EDC who spoke at Thursday’s meeting, provided updated ridership figures revealing that weekday numbers at Hunters Point South are up by 33 percent on average compared to 2019, while weekend ridership has jumped by eight percent during the same period.
She also said that the route from Hunters Point South to Wall Street – the only route the location serves — accounts for more than 40% of the entire system’s traffic.
“It’s a critical element of the most productive route in the ferry system,” Verzosa said.
CB2 June 1 2023 Board Meeting
The EDC will share the findings of its study with the community in the fall and will then present its final report on the proposed locations later in the year.
The initial proposed site, in front of the west-facing boardwalk, is still being considered and is now known as Option 0.
It is unclear who will ultimately have the final say on where the new ferry landing will be constructed.
Franny Civitano, who spoke on behalf of the EDC, said it would likely be determined by a combination of people, including representatives from Parks, the EDC and the city.
“EDC not interested in putting in a landing that is opposed by everyone, that is not something we see as a successful project,” Civitano said.
“Our goal is to find a location that can be sustainable for the long term … Parks, EDC, [the] community, we all want everybody to be aligned.”