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Mayor De Blasio: Citywide Ferry Service on Track to Launch in 2017, with Hornblower as New Operator

March 16, 2016

For price of a single subway ride, new ferry service will connect more than half a million New Yorkers with 21 neighborhoods.

The operator of this new service, Hornblower, will create at least 155 new, good-paying jobs in New York Harbor

New transit for a growing city, accommodating new housing and jobs

NEW YORK––Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the Citywide Ferry Service is on track to launch next year, with the selection of Hornblower, Inc. as its operator. The first citywide ferry system in more than a century will be priced at the cost of a single subway ride, and operate from 21 landings across the city. When fully operational by 2018, Citywide Ferry Service will carry an estimated 4.6 million trips per year across six routes, providing new transportation to communities where housing and jobs are growing fast. The new service will fully integrate the East River Ferry, resulting in lower fares for its 4,000 daily riders.

“For the price of a single subway ride, tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers are going to have a new public transit option linking them to jobs, education and opportunities across the city. It’s going to be a commute like no other: fresh air, harbor views and a fast ride on the open water,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We are selecting an operator with an incredible track record providing service in our harbor. We look forward to launching with Hornblower next year.”

"This new citywide ferry service will offer New Yorkers yet another affordable, convenient and environmentally friendly option in getting to their destination," said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "The Council has long been a staunch advocate for ferries by providing the first ever five borough ferry service. This is an important step in keeping alternatives in our city's mass transit system. I want to thank the DOT and the Mayor for their continued support for ferries."

“Today, we move one step closer to substantially increasing transportation options for New Yorkers,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation. “Taking advantage of our natural resources in creative ways to improve lives is a huge deal for our city. I commend the de Blasio administration for their leadership and vision with this latest effort to move people about with greater ease.”

“Hornblower is honored to take the helm of Mayor de Blasio's vision for a more integrated transportation network that will make commuting and connecting easier,” said Terry MacRae, CEO of Hornblower. “We have already begun work to deliver a ferry system by the summer of 2017 which will revolutionize the way New Yorkers work, live and play, and we are confident this new system will become a local favorite for decades to come.”

Hornblower has operated in the New York Harbor for a decade and carries 13 million passengers every year, more than any other private ferry service on the City’s waterways. Hornblower currently employs more than 450 people in the New York Harbor, and has a strong record of investing in its workforce as a longtime union employer. The Citywide Ferry Service will generate at least 155 new, good-paying jobs in the Harbor. As part of the service, Hornblower will be delivering at least 18 new boats, which will be equipped with WiFi and engines that meet the highest EPA standards. All docks and boats will be accessible to people in wheelchairs and fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The selection of Hornblower marks the culmination of a year-long competitive procurement by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Following the announcement of the Citywide Ferry Service in the Mayor’s 2015 State of the City Address, NYCEDC issued a public RFP seeking one or more private operators to provide the Citywide Ferry Service. NYCEDC received multiple responses and has selected Hornblower on the basis of its ability to provide the highest quality service at the best value to taxpayers.

“Two years ago, Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City included an ambitious plan for the unprecedented expansion of ferry service, all for the same cost of a bus or subway ride, “said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “With Hornblower’s arrival today, he is keeping that commitment and providing New Yorkers with new options to travel safely and efficiently. With new means of commuter access, many communities, some of them in so-called “transit deserts,” will gain a tremendous economic boost.”

“I am proud to join the Mayor today as we take another important step toward expanding transit options for all New Yorkers, including those with disabilities,” said Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. “The new Citywide Ferry Service will meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act and, more importantly, NYC Local Law 68, which sets more stringent standards for accessibility.”

“The greatest expansion of Citywide Ferry Service in New York in a century will provide direct connectivity to underserved waterfront communities around the boroughs, while enabling resiliency, redundancy and development for our city,” said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer. “We’re very excited to be working with Hornblower, which will build upon their years of experience in New York Harbor to deliver this vital system at the highest quality and value for the people of New York.”

New Jobs:

  • At least 155 new jobs in the New York Harbor
  • Crew will earn wages above $15 per hour, along with a comprehensive benefits package.
  • Hornblower has a strong history as a strong unionized employer
  • Hornblower will participate in the City’s HireNYC program, which matches qualified applicants from neighborhood-based WorkForce1 training centers.


  • Rockaway, South Brooklyn and Astoria routes scheduled to launch in 2017.
  • Rockaway route will connect to the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Wall Street.
  • Astoria route will connect to Astoria, Roosevelt Island (Cornell Tech), Long Island City, East 34th Street and Wall Street.
  • South Brooklyn route will connect Bay Ridge, Brooklyn Army Terminal, Red Hook, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 and Pier 6, and Wall Street, with an optional link to Governors Island.
  • Soundview and Lower East Side routes to launch in 2018.
  • Routes from Coney Island and Stapleton on Staten Island are in planning stages for future expansion.
  • Combined routes will cover over 60 miles of waterway.
  • Over half a million New Yorkers live within a half-mile of one of the 21 Citywide Ferry landings, including 15,000 families living in NYCHA developments.

Commuting Times:

  • Rockaway to Wall Street (1 stop): Approximately 1 hour
  • Astoria to E 34th Street (2 stops): Approximately 22 minutes
  • Astoria to Wall Street (3 stops): Approximately 38 minutes
  • Soundview to Wall Street (2 stops): Approximately 43 minutes
  • Bay Ridge to Wall Street (4 stops): Approximately 48 minutes


  • Cost per ride will equal that of a single subway ride
  • 4,000 daily East River Ferry customers will see fares reduced from $4 to the cost of a single subway ride
  • Fare will allow for free transfers to any other ferry route within the system, including the East River Ferry.
  • Both paper and smartphone ticketing will be available, with payments accepted via cash, credit, or debit card. Discounts will be available for seniors, children and New Yorkers with disabilities.
  • Passengers will be allowed to bring bicycles on board for a $1 fee.

The Boats:

  • Each boat will be able to carry at least 149 passengers.
  • All boats will be equipped with WiFi.
  • Boats will be fully accessible to New Yorkers with disabilities, and will comply with the requirements of both the Americans with Disabilities Act and New York City Local Law 68 of 2005.
  • New boats will be equipped with the most modern engine design available to reduce emissions and noise, as well as an efficient hull design that will limit wakes and maximize fuel economy.
  • City contract with Hornblower allows the company to charter vessels if necessary to meet the implementation timeline.

City Support:

  • City is investing $55 million in infrastructure upgrades, including building 10 new ferry landings and rehabilitating six others. Barge construction is currently underway at a facility on Staten Island.
  • City is providing $30 million in operating support per year, over a period of six years. Based on a projection of 4.6 million annual trips, the per-trip subsidy for Citywide Ferry Service will be $6.60, lower than the nearly $8 per trip subsidy on the Long Island Railroad or the nearly $15 per trip subsidy for express busses.City is providing $10 million for additional startup costs, such as vessel upgrades and ticketing machines.
  • Potential sponsorships would offset operating costs.
  • City negotiated an option to acquire at least 18 state-of-the-art, highly efficient passenger ferry vessels, allowing for greater operational flexibility and providing significant savings to taxpayers over the life of the service (roughly up to $5 million per year).
  • City will receive a portion of fare-box revenue if ridership exceeds 5.6 million passengers.

“The announcement of this long-awaited Citywide Ferry Service is tremendous news for the five boroughs,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “This is a mode of transportation that is convenient and affordable for all. I congratulate Mayor Bill de Blasio for pushing forward on this project and Hornblower, Inc. for being selected as the operator of the Citywide Ferry Service, which will result in more alternatives for commuter transportation, helping alleviate rush-hour traffic for those working in other boroughs.”

“With the selection of the operator, it is my hope that the Citywide Ferry Service will be launched on time and provide service to New Yorkers across the city including the entire Rockaway peninsula. I’m pleased that Mayor de Blasio and the NYCEDC has selected an operator of choice for the ferry service which will connect more than half a million New Yorkers. The Citywide Ferry Service is set to launch next year and it will provide thousands of New Yorkers with another transportation option that will provide better access to more job opportunities, less congested commutes and a scenic view," Congressman Gregory W. Meeks.

“This new service will allow another commuter option throughout the boroughs, connecting people to the latest jobs and housing opportunities,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris. “I look forward to working with the city to ensure that this forward-looking option will fully benefit the residents of western Queens.”

“It's great news that citywide ferry expansion continues to move forward, including lower fares for East River Ferry riders, which I pushed for,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I thank the City and EDC for continued transit investment and expansion.”

“In New York City, where public transportation is vital and you can never have too many options, the announcement of expanded ferry service is exciting news. It will help commuters arrive at their destinations quickly, conveniently and at an affordable price. I am also pleased that the Mayor has kept his promise to bring the ferry back to Far Rockaway, once again linking the peninsula to the rest of the city. This will help reduce commuter travel times and bring more economic opportunities to the area,” said State Senator James Sanders

“Every step forward in the citywide ferry plan is a step towards providing our families with the transportation equality we deserve,” said Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder. “Today's announcement brings southern Queens and the Rockaways closer to once again having the ferry service that will alleviate some of the longest commutes in the entire city. I commend president Torres-Springer and EDC for their leadership in this effort, and I wish Hornblower many years of successful service to our community.”

“I’m excited that the expanded ferry service will provide New Yorkers, including residents in Astoria and Long Island City, with expanded transit options while creating over 100 good-paying union jobs,” said Council Majority Leader James Van Bramer. “As more people move to our city’s waterfront communities, we must work so our transit infrastructure keeps pace. The expanded ferry service is a great first step in ensuring residents a quick, inexpensive and pleasant commute.”

“We are a city of islands, and as such it only makes sense to utilize our waterways for more efficient and sustainable transportation,” said Council Member Deborah Rose, Chair of the Committee on Waterfronts.  “Today's selection of Hornblower, which has a long history of operating on our waterways, is a significant step forward for our city. My hope is that this service proves so successful that it will expand to make additional connections – such as St. George to Brooklyn, and Manhattan to other parts of Staten Island – and alleviate even more of our traffic woes and commuting times.”

“Today’s announcement is a major step towards bringing ferry service back to the Rockaways, where we are in need of as many additional transportation options as we can get,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “Giving Rockaway residents another means to get to Manhattan within an hour will help ease the burden on the A train and the crowded bus routes off the Rockaways. Now, we can also begin to discuss the full details of the shuttle service and how we can better serve the residents on the east end of the peninsula. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio and EDC President and CEO Maria Torres-Springer for their commitment to bringing the ferry back to the Rockaways.”

“I am ecstatic that the Citywide Ferry Service will be ready to set sail in 2017 beginning with South Brooklyn!” said Council Member Vincent Gentile. “If you look at a map of New York, you’ll see a whole lot of blue. Indeed, before there was a city, there was a harbor. Right along with San Francisco and Hong Kong, New York City has one of the greatest natural harbors in the entire world – and now the waterfront of southern Brooklyn will be connected to it all! We must keep pace with New York City’s rapid growth and the five borough ferry service will not only generate jobs but serve as a catalyst for expansion in communities where housing and employment are rising. Thank you EDC for conducting a thorough search and for securing a reputable operator in Hornblower, Inc. Thank you Mayor de Blasio for anchoring this initiative and continuing your groundbreaking work towards making our city the standard for citywide transit be it rail, road or water.”

“I am elated that ferry service will be accessible in the Soundview neighborhood of my district,” said Council Member Annabel Palma. “This commitment from the de Blasio administration illustrates the burgeoning vibrancy of the area. A launch of this magnitude will render easier commutes for residents coming and going to work, as well as for tourists seeking to explore all that the borough of the Bronx has to offer. This initiative will have a multiplier effect, and I am looking forward to working with all stakeholders in ensuring that its implementation is successful.”

“I am pleased to see that the Citywide Ferry Service is on track to launch by 2017, with Pier 11 at Wall Street acting as the central terminal for the City,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “I also congratulate Hornblower, Inc. for their successful bid with the NYC Economic Development Corporation procurement process. By 2018, residents across New York City will have the option to cut their commute time by taking the ferry at no additional costs. I look forward to utilizing the ferry services in Wall Street, Governor’s Island and the Lower East Side.”

“We’re pleased that the plan for Citywide Ferry Service is progressing, and on behalf of my constituents, I want to thank the Mayor for keeping his promise to return ferry service to the Rockaways,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich.

“Citywide ferry service will help transform our East River Waterfront while utilizing one of our city’s biggest and most sustainable resources – our water.  Our westernmost neighborhoods, which have long been a too-long walk to the subway, will now have accessible and quick public transit directly to Manhattan and connecting to Brooklyn.  This environmentally-friendly and green method of public transit will also bring us closer toward our goal of reducing our carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.  I’m proud that we’ve reached this important step in implementing ferry service on schedule next year.  I thank Mayor de Blasio for his bold leadership on this important issue,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides.
“We thank Mayor de Blasio for his leadership in establishing this Citywide Ferry System,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “By strengthening ferry service, while expanding other transportation options like Select Bus Service and the bike lane network, the Mayor is making it easier for more New Yorkers to access emerging housing and employment centers.”

“The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School applauds Mayor de Blasio's expansion of ferry service,” said Murray Fisher, Executive Director of the New York Harbor Foundation and co-Founder of The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. “Citywide Ferry Service is especially valuable for the Harbor School because it will make the school commute easier and will provide more job opportunities for our graduates. More broadly, Citywide Ferry Service is an important step in reconnecting more New Yorkers to the Harbor that sustains and surrounds them."

“With the announcement of Hornblower as operator, Mayor de Blasio's Citywide Ferry Service has taken another great step toward improving the lives and commutes of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from the Bronx to the Rockaways,” said Roland Lewis, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. “A red letter day for the blue highway!”

“Cornell Tech applauds Mayor de Blasio for the expansion of ferry service in New York City, including a new stop on Roosevelt Island” said Meghan French, Senior Director of External Relations at Cornell Tech. “Our campus will open in summer 2017, bringing hundreds of students, faculty, staff and several tech companies to the island. The ferry service will provide a new way for the Cornell Tech community, Roosevelt Island residents and visitors to get to and from the island, create a commute with expansive views of the city, and improve much needed connections to the growing tech hubs in Brooklyn and Queens.”

“On the behalf of the Astoria Tenants Association, we are exhilarated that Citywide Ferry Service is moving forward,” said Claudia Coger, President of the Astoria Houses Residents Association. It is an added amenity to our community, and we are looking forward to having more options to connect to other boroughs throughout the city.”

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