If you haven’t taken the East River Ferry yet, but have been planning to because you have some kind of romantic vision of what it could be like, I highly suggest that you stay at home and keep romanticizing.
Ever since I heard about the inception to create a waterway link between Brooklyn & Queens to Manhattan, I had been looking forward to this kind of rendezvous, not as a utilitarian way to commute, but as a fun and exciting way to travel within the boundaries of where I already live.
A ferry service from little old Greenpoint definitely sounded fascinating to me at some point. A little over two weeks ago, the East River Ferry service began with free service one way through the end of last week; a little freebie before they start charging $4 a ride ($5 with a bike!). Just so you know, if you plan on doing a round trip, it will cost you $8! I actually chose to go over after the freebie session, because I had heard that there were so many people excited about the service that there were long lines and over-crowding, so I figured that I’d rather pay a few bucks and get a lot less of a congested ferry ride. So I made plans with a friend to check it out.
We decided to meet at the Long Island City ferry stop which is located where the old Water Taxi Beach used to be and that’s where things immediately became a lot less romantic. I arrived at a desolate parking lot with a bunch of concrete barriers, temporary construction fencing and literally not a soul in sight.
I eventually found a small machine like an ATM to purchase my ticket from and continued down a long stretch of empty concrete siding, which led to a very random yellow mobile home.
I wondered if perhaps the ferry service wasn’t running.
I also thought that this would be a great place to do anything: have sex, kill someone, dance around naked, dump a body or smoke some crack.
Finally, I saw a small floating vinyl tent structure that seemed equipped to board a ferry from. A girl on her bike showed up and asked me if the ferry was running today. We both seemed kind of confused about the whole situation.
My friend showed up shortly after that and so did a couple other random ferry seekers. Right on time at 3:44pm, a small, unattractive ferry arrived and unloaded a handful of people and once we gave our tickets to the unhappy attendant, we got on and headed for the upper deck.
Unfortunately, the upper deck was roped off and no one was allowed on the outside part of the ferry. The ferry attendant told me that they were missing one deckhand and that’s why we couldn’t go up there, but later on the same day, I was told by some mothers who were excited about taking their kids on the ferry last week when it was free that the same thing happened and they were all forced to sit in the dark, empty pit of the boat that has a very similar feeling of sitting on a train in a tunnel. At that point, I felt like I had wasted four dollars, an afternoon that I had off early from work and an idealized notion of water travel.
So we sat down in the foam cushion seating that I’m sure will be chock full of bed bugs by the end of Summer and enjoyed the view from our window. I was surprised how fast the ferry goes; our captain was hauling ass and we got to the India Street terminal in a matter of minutes. A quick and certainly an efficient exchange of riders and we were off to Williamsburg’s North 6th Street dock and our little waterway journey was already drawing to a close.
I shot some video (below) of the old Domino Sugar factory, some boats and the Williamsburg Bridge, which does make the trip seem kind of fun, but before we knew it, it was time to depart at Schaefer Landing (home of the Hasidic Luxury Condos) and get back onto land.
To summarize, the East River Ferry is the unromantic and overpriced version of a mode of transport that you might have thought sounded like an exciting, romantic way to cross the East River. Now, if your current work situation did make this new way to commute more convenient and you don’t mind spending an extra $170 for a monthly pass (in addition to your $100+ MTA Metrocard) then it appears that it’s an efficient and quick way to do it. This was my first and last ferry excursion, though and I kind of wish that I never did it in the first place.