Ferries on Epic Journey From Alabama to NYC Ahead of Launch of Citywide Service This Summer

What to Know

  • The first ferry in a fleet set to hit New York City waters this summer began its journey from Alabama this weekend
  • The ferry hit a bit of a snag in Florida when it got stuck in shallow mud in a narrow channel
  • Citywide ferry service will cost taxpayers $335 million, a price tag a NYC deputy mayor called cost reasonable and well worth it

This weekend the first ferry in New York City’s new fleet began its journey north to the city, where an ambitious plan is underway to bring ferry service to residents across the five boroughs.

After the new ferry was built outside Mobile, Alabama, it traveled down to Fort Myers, Florida, and traversed part of the state via the swampy Caloosahatchee River.

But as the ferry was passing through Moore Haven, just ahead of Lake Okeechobee, it encountered a narrow channel and got stuck in shallow mud, said Anthony Hogrebe, a spokesman for New York City's Economic Development Corporation who was on board the vessel.

The captain had to turn the $4 million boat around as a curious alligator watched from the water. 

“I heard somebody say ‘gator’ and saw a head sticking up out of the water,” Hogrebe said. “It definitely reminded you we are in Florida and anything can happen.”

Despite the hitch, the ferry was soon on its way. 

“To see them assess the situation and get moving again without damaging the propellers gave me confidence we have the right people doing the job,” Hogrebe said.

Hogrebe and his team at the EDC are in charge of carrying out Mayor de Blasio’s vision of citywide ferry service. Announced last year, the ferry service will operate from 21 landings across the city, including in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, by the time it is fully operational in 2018. It will carry an estimated 4.6 million trips per year across six routes.

Hogrebe says the snag in Florida won’t have an effect on this summer’s launch of the ferry service and that the launch is on schedule.

On Friday, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen told NBC 4 New York that citywide ferry service will cost taxpayers about $335 million, including $180 million for operating costs, $84 million for new boats, $59 million for new docks and landings, and $11 million to buy existing East River Ferry boats and routes.

Glen defended the price tag to taxpayers, saying it’s cheaper to run ferries than other forms of transportation and that routes will reach under-served communities.

“The per cost tax dollar for this form of transportation is less than the express buses we run in other parts of the city,” Glen said. “This is an absolutely cost reasonable approach.”

The city hasn’t announced an official opening date for the ferry service, but it’s expected to hit the first site, the Rockaways, in June and Astora in late summer.

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