The Astoria Waterfront and the New Ferry Service in the Big Picture
by Clare Doyle
Many Astoria residents have taken to the new ferry service from Hallets Cove like the proverbial ducks to water. After all, would you rather cram yourself into the overcrowded and delay-plagued subway system or stroll onto a boat where you can enjoy sparkling fresh air and fantastic skyline views as you glide easily towards your office?
Not convinced? Check out this cool video where a New York Times reporter chats to a ferry boat captain about how popular the new ferry service is, as they sail from Hallets Cove to Roosevelt Island to East 34th St. in Manhattan and down to Wall Street. Doesn’t that look like fun?
And for those who live closer to the Astoria waterfront than to the N or R trains, the ferry offers an attractive alternative route to Long Island City, Roosevelt Island or Manhattan. No more 20-minute walks to the train or long waits for dilatory MTA buses. The NYC ferry services have proved way more popular than the City anticipated, and there are plans to expand the service next year.
But what of the larger picture—how has the new ferry service affected the East River neighborhoods in general? The Times has an interesting article on how the ferry is changing the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. Rental growth is up as the ferry offers a new way to link the waterfront to other boroughs and new developments along the waterfront are planned or underway. ‘“The moment they announced the ferry, we bought as many things as we possibly could,” Brett Harris, of AKI Development, which has six projects near the Astoria landing, told the New York Times. Halletts Point, a 7-building rental development by the Durst Organization, could add as many as 2,100 additional units, “about a quarter of which will be reserved for lower-income renters, by 2022, said Jordan Barowitz, a Durst spokesman.”
Claudia Coger, President of the Astoria Houses Tenants Association, told the New York Times that she is happy that Durst’s Halletts Point development, adjacent to the Astoria Houses, will include a much-needed supermarket and will ‘bring retail jobs to the area. “A lot of people in the community don’t think beyond their environment — this opens doors,” she said about the ferry.”’
Richard Khuzami, president of OANA, which has welcomed the arrival of the ferry, is also quoted in the NYT article: ‘“We’ve been a transportation-starved desert.” Still, he said, the development the ferry has attracted has brought mostly studio and one-bedroom rentals, when there is a need for larger apartments: “You want more families in here, and right now, it’s not easy.”’
As Astoria continues to be an attractive and culturally-rich alternative to Manhattan or Brooklyn, and new developments promise to be a boon for local businesses, it’s an ongoing concern that city infrastructure will not keep apace with the growth of the neighborhood. Over the past year it’s become increasingly clear that the subway often fails to meet the needs of the many Astoria residents who rely on it for their commute, and the MTA has not provided a credible plan to upgrade service and build capacity. The new ferry service will continue to provide a welcome transit route, especially for those living in Old Astoria.
The landing slip at Hallets Cove; photo credit Clare Doyle
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