ferries

Comptroller: Put NYC Ferries in DOT Hands

An NYC Ferry heads toward a DUMBO pier.
An NYC Ferry heads toward a DUMBO pier. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The agency that runs the Staten Island Ferry should consider taking the helm of the city’s new ferry system “as soon as possible,” City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Wednesday in the wake of THE CITY’s report on the high price paid for boats.

Taxpayers are on the hook for as much as $369 million worth of ferries – a cost that might have been avoided had the Economic Development Corporation picked a bidder that offered to provide its own vessels, THE CITY reported Tuesday.

The agreement between Hornblower and EDC includes a provision that gives the ferry operator the power to force the city to buy the full fleet of boats in operation for the program.

Last month, Stringer kicked back a plan to buy 19 boats to EDC with a set of questions.

He went further Wednesday afternoon, arguing in a written statement that the contract “raises serious questions about the exploding costs and liabilities that the city is choosing to absorb, all while handing over millions in revenue to a private contractor — questions that to date have not been sufficiently answered.”

Stringer suggested putting the ferry system in the hands of an agency that has more transit experience both on and off the water.

“That’s why I’m calling on the city Department of Transportation to immediately explore taking over NYC Ferry,” he said.

Stringer said a DOT takeover would allow the city to save money and require “a level of budgetary and operational transparency that EDC has to-date refused to provide.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also called for “real transparency and accountability” following THE CITY’s analysis. But he noted he had made the same suggestion as Stringer last month in a “Let’s Go Transit” report that accompanied his State of the City address.

“I am glad that conversation is gaining steam,” Johnson said in a statement on Wednesday.

Johnson and Stringer are both likely mayoral contenders in 2021.

In response to Stringer, Seth Stein, a City Hall spokesman, said: “The comptroller should put politics aside and recognize the necessity of expanding public transit for all New Yorkers. At the same time, the only way for the city to run the service ourselves requires purchasing the boats — the exact action the comptroller is currently opposing.”