Agreement with RIOC and New Hiring

Is the Roosevelt Island Ferry Ready to Roll?

Updated 23 weeks ago David Stone
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Homeport for Citywide Ferry Services
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Homeport for Citywide Ferry Services
Photo courtesy of the New York City Mayor's Office

Citywide Ferry Service announced openings for 200 jobs as it gears up for launching expanded services, including to Roosevelt Island, this summer. It was time to check in with RIOC about the agreement Susan Rosenthal, President and CEO, said was near completion at the October board meeting.

"Yes, the MOU was executed," replied RIOC's lead legal counsel Jaci Flug.

An MOU is a "memorandum of understanding," a kind of gentlemen's agreement that, for various reasons, falls short of a binding contract. MOUs can keep a process requiring multiple party agreements moving ahead, agreeing on mutually acceptable points, until a fully enforceable contract can be put in place.

Vice President of Operations Shelton J. Haynes answered an earlier inquiry, "As an update, RIOC entered into an MOU with the city for this project. After speaking with our contact from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), we were informed that the ferry is on schedule to open this summer," in other words, on time.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious Citywide Ferry Service designs will bring long awaited services to Roosevelt Island. An extension of the existing East River Ferry system adds a new route that begins in Astoria, floats south to a soon to be built landing behind the old Goldwater Hospital steam plant, then moves on to a second new landing near the historic gantries in Long Island City before crossing to Manhattan at 34th Street.

The trip from Roosevelt Island to LIC will take seven minutes, including docking times, and the ride from there to Midtown, another six minutes. 34th Street is a major hub for the system and connections from there will take you south to lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

At the onset, Citywide Ferry Service will cost the same as a single subway ride, $2.75, although transfers and Metrocards will not be honored. The system is expected to cost the city millions in subsidies for operations along with its initial cost for construction and equipment.

Although expanded waterway travel is discussed as part of an effort to relieve currently overstressed mass transit systems, relief for Roosevelt Island subway and Tram riders is expected to be insignificant. Ferries will dock here about once every half-hour and can carry only 150 passengers, at any one time, from and to all destinations.

But for some, the convenience will be considerable as it speeds commuting time to Midtown and Wall Street and offers ready access at all hours to otherwise less easily accessed areas like Gantry Park, just across the East River in Long Island City, previously accessible only by car.

One thing some local residents will need to begin getting used to is that, despite previous denials, the name for the Roosevelt Island docking station is evolving. In yesterday's press release from the mayor's office, it was "Roosevelt Island (Cornell Tech)." The designation is reasonable and more accurate, but there will be complaints, especially from those fearing that the campus will so overshadow the community as to make it invisible.

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