Enhancing Red Hook ferry service - Red Hook NY Rising CRP discussion

Red Hook ferry walk times map.jpg

PortSide Director Carolina Salguero is on the Red Hook committee of the NY Rising "Community Reconstruction Program" (CRP) resiliency planning process. She has encouraged the committee and consultants to consider several aspects of Red Hook's waterfront in terms of emergency preparedness/recovery and economic resiliency (the latter being close to what used to be called community revitalization around here).

Below we present some information Salguero and PortSide crew pulled together pertaining to "enhancing Red Hook ferry service" and "activating Atlantic Basin."  Also, see prior related blogposts:

Comparison of Walk Times - ferry vs subway

During a committee conference call there were questions about walking distances to proposed ferry landings.

PortSide's CUNY Service Corp crew researched walk times to transportation and compared Smith & 9th St subway to ferry landings, existing and proposed.  Walk times were provided by Google Maps.

Conclusion:  The Atlantic Basin ferry stop which is currently the focus of discussion by the NY Rising CRP committee is closer than the subway for much of Red Hook. Times for the proposed ferry stops in Valentino Park and Wolcott Street by the new Est4te Four development are also included in the document.

See the full data set here.

Carolina Salguero did some research, spoke to various ferry professionals and emailed info to the committee. Below is an edit of information sent via several emails.

Use of Atlantic Basin "as is" for ferries

It is possible for ferries to use Atlantic Basin “as is” for special events.

The Brooklyn Cruise terminal in Red Hook was the site of The Taste of the NFL, a big fundraising event the Saturday of Super Bowl weekend.  Boats were used for this event both as floating commissaries and to move guests back and forth.

If this event came as as a surprise, look to Marty Markowitz’ office.  They were involved, and Brooklyn was announced as the location at a press event on 6/19/13 on steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall

Here is what I observed about the Taste of the NFL vessel plan.

The HORNBLOWER INFINITY arrived a day or two before the event and docked on Pier 12 where cruise ships tie up.

Saturday, from the MARY WHALEN, I saw ferries going in and out of Atlantic Basin and checked www.marinetraffic.com to see what was going on.  See the screenshots below for graphic representation.

  • The east side of Pier 12 was a ferry landing for the ferry GARDEN STATE.  
  • The HORNBLOWER HYBRID stayed in a static position on the east side of Pier 12.
  • The HORNBLOWER INFINITY stayed in a static position on the west side of Pier 12.

BillyBey/NY Waterways said that the Hornblower vessel in the Buttermilk brought in some top tier guests from Pier 15 (near South Street Seaport) and then stayed and served as a commissary before taking passengers out. The Atlantic Basin Hornblower delivered passengers in, stayed, and then brought passengers out.  The NY Waterway ferry GARDEN STATE made several trips in and out of Atlantic Basin. They moved about 500 out and they figure Hornblower did about the same for about 1,000 people.

In terms of docking, the tide (a particularly low low tide) did present some complications, but essentially the piers can serve as ferry landings “as is” for special events.

Ferry company freeboards (freeboard is height from the waterline to the deck):

  • NYWT small and large bowload at 6’
  • NY Waterways bowload 7’  except for their boats the Bravest & the Finest, used on the Belford,  NJ ru which bowload at 9’6”
  • SeaStreak bowload 9’ and side load 7’

Without a spud barge, the ferry freeboard has to closely match the pier freeboard for the ferry to use the spot. As the tide drops, that pier freeboard grows.  My guess is that the smaller NYWT boats are too small to use Atlantic Basin “as is” save close to a very high tide. That can be answered with a tape measure.

Fyi, in 1999, NY Waterways working for the EDC installed a temporary ferry terminal in Atlantic Basin the event of an MTA strike.

Red Hook Maritime conditions affecting choice of ferry landing sites

  • Valentino Pier – a little tougher operationally due to shape of the pier, the shoaling (shallow water) making for rough water sometimes. T-boning (docking perpendicular) against the current is a bit harder. As the water space is small, there is limited turning space for boats, and all of the above adds up to several conditions to handle in a tight space.
  • Wolcott Street – no issues
  • Atlantic Basin - no issues

SeaStreak would be interested in looking into a Red Hook stop and suggested that, rather than adding Red Hook to the current Rockaways-Sunset Park-Manhattan run, it would be better to break the current run into a Rockaways-Manhattan and a Sunset Park-Red Hook-Manhattan.  According to Rockaways ferry advocate Joe Hartigan, the Sunset Park stop added 11 minutes to the Rockaways run, and the Rockaways people want no more delays.

East River Ferry people and EDC and Est4te Four people are all in discussions about Red Hook (as we have heard).  Some feel “Red Hook is not ripe yet.”


A ferry landing for front-loading ferries these days usually involves a spud barge and has been costing $750,000 - $1MM for a 30x90’ spud barge with 50-60’ of ramp.  Given with new federal ADA requirements for vessels and other factors, cost may change.

All East River ferries are subsidized. Right now subsidies for ferries are similar ( $.02 difference) to the per passenger subsidy for buses (see EDC ferry study that Adam Armstrong referenced in a meeting.)

  • Subsidy requirements for ferry routes are on page 6
  • Transit Fares and Subsidy per Passenger Trip, see Figure 3.1 on page 12

PortSide team feels that it would help to have additional info:

  • information on ability to activate BCT.
  • info on what kind of retail will be on the lower two floors of 160 Imlay.
  • what kind of visitation numbers and type Est4te Four expects for their Coffey Street art center and what is going into their building at the end of Wolcott.
  • what kind of jobs and B-to-B opportunities are there on Governors Island with the new hotel and spa.

Regarding cruise passengers taking ferries, BillyBey/NY Waterway said that they have low numbers from Port Imperial to the Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal and the ferry option has to be embraced by the cruise operator to work.