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New East River ferry service lifts anchor

The New East River ferry service is up

The New East River ferry service is up and running. Here leaving Hunters Point South in Long Island City. Service was somewhat sketchy today with folks looking to go downtown but ferry service came and went a few times with only uptown service. Credit: Photo by Steven Sunshine

A new East River ferry crossing from Queens and Brooklyn to 34th Street and Wall Street opened Monday, to the relief of Manhattan workers who dread the jam-packed subway commute.

"Thank God it's here," said Ron Gallucci, 63, of Dumbo, Brooklyn. The ferry launch is across the street from his home.

"I've been taking the subway, and this is so much nicer. It's comfortable, a little less crowded, and it's a great view of the city," Gallucci said.

There are seven stops Mondays through Fridays on the route and two more on the weekend.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took a ride Monday morning, said the East River crossing "makes it easier for New Yorkers to commute from and get to these residential neighborhoods and waterfront parks."

Paul Goodman, president of Billy Bey Ferry Co., which contracts with NY Waterway to operate the ferries, estimated about 400,000 riders will use the service in one year.

Angela Tsai, 35, of Williamsburg, who can walk to the ferry launch at the Schaefer Landing, said the service "takes away that morning-rush stress."

"I live by the dock so I was able to sleep in a little," said Tsai, who works at Rockefeller Center and will take the free Waterway Ferry bus across town. "I love it. No crowded subways -- it's amazing."

But for Long Island City resident, Diana Castaneda, 33, the launch at Hunters Point was a disappointment.

"It's desolate and I don't like it. It doesn't feel safe," Castaneda said of the dock, located at a construction site with overgrown bushes.

Castaneda is pregnant and had hoped to use the ferry to get to her Wall Street job and make her commute easier and more comfortable. She said she will stick with the subway.

On the NY Waterway website link to the Hunters Point ferry launch, a photograph shows Gandry Park and two new Long Island City high-rise apartment buildings that are actually six blocks away, Castaneda said.

Relocating the Hunters Point ferry to make it more "accessible by foot" to commuters would require a new ferry landing at the state-owned Gandry Park, next to the buildings, Goodman said.

If approved, it would only take "a couple of months" to build, he said.

Goodman said any approval to build a new ramp is contingent upon the state Parks Department.

"It's true -- Hunters Point is desolate and not ideal," Goodman said.

Dan Keefe, spokesman for the state Parks Department, said the city and the state are "in discussions" about installing a ferry landing at the park. "We're not against it," said Keefe, adding it would have to be installed at a fishing pier used for recreation.

The East River ferry crossing service is free for the next two weeks. Fares are $4 one way; a monthly unlimited pass is $140 and $170 monthly unlimited pass with a bike.

Weekday ferry service is from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Peak hours include a ferry at 20-minute intervals, Goodman said.

The ferry launches are at East 34th Street in Manhattan; Hunters Point South/Long Island City; Greenpoint at India Street; North Williamsburg between North 5th and North 6th streets; South Williamsburg at Schaefer Landing at Kent Avenue; Dumbo at Fulton Ferry Landing; and Pier 11 Wall Street. Governors Island and Atlantic Avenue/Brooklyn Bridge Park ferries operate on the weekend.

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