Nov. 25, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The final date for the public to provide feedback on a proposed new ferry terminal at Hunters Point South Park has been extended to early December following appeals from local leaders.
The deadline for the public to weigh in on the controversial proposal – which would see the city demolish the current landing and build a new larger dock in front of the main boardwalk by the Oval — has been put back by more than two weeks to Dec. 5. The initial deadline for public comments to be submitted was Nov. 18.
The move comes after officials such as Councilmember Julie Won and representatives from the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, a local volunteer group, requested the city extend the deadline.
Won, for instance, penned a letter to the EDC arguing that the date change was necessary in order to give residents adequate time to review the plans since news of the project only came to light earlier this month.
The EDC, which oversees the city’s ferry routes, filed permits on Oct. 18 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.
However, the vast majority of residents only became aware of the plans when news outlets such as the Queens Post broke the story on Nov. 2.
The short time span – coupled with the advanced nature of the plans — sparked alarm among some residents who felt the EDC had not properly informed the community of the project and that they had not been given adequate time to review the plans.
Long Island City residents were also upset that the EDC scheduled to publicly present its plans to Community Board 2 on Dec. 1 – nearly two weeks after the initial public comments deadline of Nov. 18 had passed.
The EDC told the Queens Post earlier this month that it had kept local officials up to speed with the plan — which was first proposed in 2019 when NYC Ferry, the city’s ferry service, announced it was expanding its city-wide operations. The EDC said Won’s office and Community Board 2’s transportation committee were briefed about the plans in June – and that the former Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was also told about the project when he was in office.
The approval of the extension now means that residents will get a chance to hear and learn about the EDC’s proposal at the CB2 meeting on Dec. 1 at Sunnyside Community Services, located at 43-31 39th St.
The public will then have until Dec. 5 to submit feedback. The timeline for public feedback is overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), which granted the deadline extension. The ACE is also responsible for approving or rejecting the permit.
Despite the deadline being extended, Won says she is still not satisfied with how the process is playing out and criticized the EDC and ACE.
“It’s a shame that EDC and the ACE have decided to try to skirt our community on a project of this scale,” Won said in a statement to the Queens Post earlier this week.
“Significant changes to the waterfront like this proposal require significant community input. When I see that my community is being excluded from impactful decisions such as this, I will always fight to make sure their voice is heard and listened to.”
Won also said she had called for the deadline to be pushed back until the end of December, a request that was ultimately denied.
The Queens Post reached out to the EDC for comment on the matter but has yet to receive a response.
While the time frame for the public to weigh in on the project has drawn criticism, so too has the substance of the plans given it would bring about significant change to the waterfront.
Critics argue that the new structure – which would be much bigger than the current ferry landing located in front of the beach volleyball court — would spoil the view of the Manhattan skyline and fill the boardwalk with hundreds of passengers. The HPPC, for example, says the view is a major feature of the park and attracts many visitors each year.
However, the EDC says the current landing is reaching the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced with a bigger structure in front of the boardwalk to meet the demand of increased passenger numbers. It says a new, larger ferry terminal cannot be constructed where the current terminal is located given there are road and rail tunnels running directly under the site.
The EDC is looking to expand its operations at the location and the new terminal would be able to accommodate two vessels simultaneously – as opposed to the current structure that can only take one.
The new terminal would be able to accommodate vessels carrying up to 350 passengers whereas the current ferry dock can only cater to ferries with 150 passengers, according to the EDC.
The city has authorized $12.2 million in funding for the project, according to the EDC.
All public comments regarding the permit application must be prepared in writing and emailed to [email protected]