Dec. 6 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Community Board 2 has rejected a city plan to demolish the existing ferry terminal at Hunter Points South Park and build a new dock about 300 feet away in front of the main boardwalk by the Oval.
The board voted against the project, in a 20 to 8 vote, at its monthly meeting Thursday via Zoom following a presentation of the plan by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which oversees the city’s ferry routes.
The plans call for the construction of a large floating barge about 100 feet out from the boardwalk. Two boats would be able to dock at the barge with the EDC looking to begin construction in the fall of 2023.
The CB2 vote is merely advisory but sends a clear message to the city that the local board opposes the plan.
The board said it rejected the overall plan and objected to a new ferry landing being placed in front of the Oval. The vote came after board members and residents voiced fears of increased pollution spewing onto the Oval and that the new ferry landing structure — and its docked boats — may block the waterfront views.
The board’s motion added that the EDC and Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) – which is responsible for approving a permit for the project – should consider all the concerns of the community and be more transparent about the process.
In rejecting the plan, many board members said they were unhappy about the conduct of the EDC, saying the plan was essentially finalized well in advance of Thursday’s meeting and that the EDC had sought to limit its public engagement.
“What do we have to contribute to this discussion because it seems like you have it all wrapped up already,” Lisa Deller, CB2 2nd Vice Chair, said to the EDC representatives. “This is kind of like window dressing to come to the Community Board because it’s not a real dialogue.”
Thursday’s presentation was the first time the EDC had presented its plans publicly, although it met with CB2’s Transportation Committee in June to discuss the project. It also notified Councilmember Julie Won about the plans in June – while Jimmy Van Bramer was also told about the project when he was in office.
The EDC then filed permits with the Army Corps of Engineers on Oct. 18 with the ACE issuing an initial deadline of Nov. 18 for public comments to be submitted.
The speed at which the plans were moving along sparked concerns among many residents and local stakeholders – with the vast majority of residents only becoming aware of the plans when news outlets such as the Queens Post broke the story on Nov. 2.
The deadline for the public to weigh in on the proposal was then pushed back to Dec. 5 following appeals from Won and the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy (HPPC) a local volunteer group that helps with the upkeep of the park.
CB2 chairperson Morry Galonoy hit out at the EDC at Thursday’s meeting saying the organization should have been more proactive in its engagement with the public.
“With the dates, times and deadlines – things don’t add up,” Galonoy said. “It’s unfortunate and it makes me very concerned about the openness [of] the project.”
Tara Das, from the EDC, said that the ACE is responsible for the timeline pertaining to public feedback and not the EDC. Das said that the EDC’s public outreach is ongoing and the public response will be incorporated into the design process where possible.
However, Galonoy said the EDC should have presented its plans to the Community Board much earlier.
“Nobody from the EDC ever reached out to us about coming to the full board meeting until the very last minute when the council person’s (Won) office urged you to,” Galonoy said.
“I find it very disingenuous… you could have arranged with us or made some attempt to meet with us in September, October or November, it’s very disconcerting to me. People rely on the community board to have engagement; you were made aware of the process, and it didn’t happen.”
The EDC provided the board with a rundown of the project and then took questions from board members and the public.
Franny Civitano, who spoke on behalf of the EDC, said that the current landing is reaching the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced.
She said a bigger terminal is needed for the area since ridership numbers have increased. The new terminal will be able to accommodate vessels carrying up to 350 passengers whereas the current ferry dock can only cater to ferries with a maximum capacity of 150 passengers.
However, a terminal of the size being proposed cannot be constructed safely at the current landing given there are road and rail tunnels running directly under the site, she said. A new terminal would require several piles to be driven into the seabed which poses a danger to the tunnels underneath, she said.
“Drilling piles over these tunnels is not feasible for this construction,” Civitano said.
Therefore, the ferry dock has to be moved given the new terminal’s larger size, she said.
Civitano said the site of the proposed new terminal was chosen as it is the most feasible option. She said that various other locations at Hunters Point South Park were considered and ultimately rejected for being impractical.
For instance, sites to the north of the proposed location were rejected for also having tunnels running underneath as well as having shallower waters, she said.
Sites to the south of the proposed location were found to be too soft or too narrow while Newtown Creek was also incompatible due to its superfund status and having a federal navigational channel, Civitano said.
Some members asked if the barge could be situated further out from the boardwalk, but the EDC said it could not.
Board member Kelly Craig said she was concerned about the new location, worried that it would generate pollution at the Oval. She said that children could suffer health effects from the fumes of the boats.
“You’re going to back this right up into the backyard of where children [play],” Craig said.
Other members and residents voiced concerns about the negative impact the ferry could have on the local economy, particularly the local waterfront café called Frank Ottomanelli’s.
Ottomenelli, who unsuccessfully tried to call into the meeting, told the Queens Post Friday that he opposes the plan, saying his customers would be driven away from the location because of the obstructed view.
He said a couple have already canceled a wedding reception at the location in 2023 after hearing about the proposal.
Not everyone was against the proposal, however.
Some welcomed the increased capacity the new location would bring. Many noted that the area is still growing in population and the community needs greater access to public transit.
For instance, Émilia Decaudin, a resident who regularly uses the ferry, is in favor of the EDC’s proposal.
“I don’t believe a mile, mile and half long park with two ferries that won’t even be there most of the time… are really going to spoil the views,” Decaudin said.
“I also think that having a more reliable service is going to benefit people like me who use the ferry to commute and to get to other parts of the city.”
Community Board 2 Meeting