Field Trip: East River Ferry

As I mentioned yesterday, my friend Lisa and I took a spin on the new-ish East River Ferry. Here’s what we learned, besides the fact that we’re both fond of the word “thrum.”

Schedules: The ferry runs from Pier 11 (Wall Street) to DUMBO, South Williamsburg, North Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Long Island City, and E. 34th Street—then back again. In summer, it also makes a “Lower Harbor Loop” with Governors Island and Atlantic Avenue/Brooklyn Bridge Park, Friday through Sunday.

Fares: It’s $4 whether you’re taking it one stop or going all the way from Pier 11 to E. 34th St. There are day passes ($12) and monthly passes ($140), with surcharges for bikes. The bike surcharge for a one-way trip is $1. As for kids, “Tickets are not required for up to two (2) children five years old or under for each accompanying ticketed adult passenger. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Due to the number of children’s life preservers on board each vessel, no more than 15 children may be on board a vessel at any one time.”

Pets: We saw a woman carrying her dog off, so we’re assuming they’re OK. “Only service animals accompanying customers with disabilities or their trainers, police dogs, and small pets in carry-on travel cages,” said a rep via Twitter.

Pier 11: I hadn’t been to Pier 11 in a million years—not since I took the SeaStreak to Sandy Hook, burned my feet on the hot sand, and saw a lot of unattractive naked people—and it was nicer than I recall. There’s a terminal building with restrooms (I took a photo that I’m saving for the next Photo Safari) and a kiosk with ice cream treats such as the irresistible King Cone.

The boat: You enter on the lower level, where there are indoor seats (including some with tables, in case you want to play canasta), a snack bar (not open during our rides), and a bike rack. The upper level has indoor seating and some outdoor benches, with more area for standing. You can’t sit or stand outside in the front of the boat, which was a bummer. I’m like a dog: I want to face the breeze.

The ride: Very fast and thrummy enough. I found it difficult to walk while we were moving, in part because I was trying to take photos without losing my camera, and also because the railings are a bit low (at least to a person with a relatively high center of gravity).

The passengers: Mostly tourists, from what I could tell, although it was a weekday afternoon. The ferry was free for its first two weeks of operation, and there were reports of lines during that period, but our boat was nearly empty.

The views: Spectacular!

The ports: This trip was more about enjoying the boat ride, but I love the idea of taking the ferry to a part of town I don’t know. (Well, as long as it’s not E. 34th Street. I feel about E. 34th Street the way I feel about Staten Island: I’ll look at it from the boat.) We didn’t get off anywhere except E. 34th (to get right back on), because we would’ve had to pay $4 more. If I were to take it to Greenpoint or LIC, I think I’d first do some research about how far the interesting parts of those neighborhoods are from the port, because it sure looked like passengers were being unloaded into industrial wasteland.

Longterm economic viability: Let’s just enjoy the moment, hmm?



  1. Some of the stops are definitely worth a $4.00 visit. North Williamsburg has some charming restaurants as the artists transform it into a place they will eventually have to leave — what a world. And Long Island City has a terrific waterfront park with hammocks! and four fishing piers. Amazing things are happening on our waterfront.

  2. Greenpoint has some amazing restaurants, shops, bars etc 2-3 blocks inward from the ferry stop. On my way to the ferry last week I was stopped by a man, obviously not from around there and walking down West Street which is quite industrial, if there were cafes nearby. I directed him to the next block over, Franklin Street, which has loads of stuff. Hopefully most people who disembark in Greenpoint will know to go one more block over (though I am fond of the industrial-ness of West Street, as a resident).

  3. Is it handicapped friendly, i.e. for a walker?

  4. @William: I’d say so—working from memory—though the only way to get to the top deck (where there’s outside seating) is via stairs. Sitting inside downstairs isn’t so bad, though…. I have no idea how much walking would be involved at any of the Brooklyn/Queens ports (except DUMBO, where the dock is near the “action”).