Civic News

Will there really be an economic impact from the new ferry system?

Time will tell, but startuppers, incubators and everyone we talked to thinks it will certainly help.

Crossing the river. (Image via YouTube)

Earlier this month, the city announced with no shortage of excitement that the first line of its new ferry system will be ready to go May 1, with other lines to follow it this summer. In particular, a Brooklyn Navy Yard stop will be added to the East River line. More Brooklyn transportation = more access to workers and companies, or so the thinking goes. But will it?

Well, we asked around the Brooklyn tech world and it seems like startuppers, incubators and everyone we talked to thinks it will help.

“The new City Ferry will not only impact 1776, it will fuel New York City’s startup ecosystem as a whole,” said Rachel Haot, the managing director of 1776NY, a D.C.-born and Brooklyn Navy Yard-based incubator that’s host to many startups. (Haot was previously the chief digital officer of New York City and later New York State.) “Potential ferry access was a critical factor in 1776’s decision to locate on the beautiful waterfront in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.”

The NYC Ferry system will launch May 1 with the Rockaway line.

The NYC Ferry system will launch May 1 with the Rockaway line. (Courtesy image)

The city has studied all this, of course. The East River Ferry, which launched in 2011, served as the blueprint. In a 245-page report on the impacts of the East River Ferry and suggestions for a larger ferry system, the New York City Economic Development Corporation said that East River Ferry service increased property values in the areas around stops by fully half a billion dollars.

“Residential property values within 1/8 mile of East River Ferry stops in Brooklyn and Queens increased 8.0% over comparable property values farther from the stops,” the survey states.

But economic impacts go far beyond just property values, of course. Andrew Hoan, the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce wrote in an email that he thinks the ferries will help startup companies sprout up in old, cheaper, industrial spots.

Inside 1776NY, housed in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Inside 1776NY, housed in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (Courtesy photo)

“We see areas such as Red Hook and Sunset Park becoming hubs for manufacturing. With more proposed development in Red Hook, the Mayor’s Bush Terminal project, and more space being filled in Industry City the need for access grows,” Hoan said. “What this all means is that more people from outside of the borough will be making their way to these areas for jobs and more Brooklynites will have the access they desire and deserve.”

New Lab, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, is an example of exactly the kind of economic activity the city would like to see. In what had been an abandoned shipbuilding factory, developers built a shared office space for new-era manufacturing and design companies. Vanity Fair called New Lab an “84,000-square-foot tech paradise.” The space has a shuttle bus for people who work there to and from the closest subway station, but the trip can still be several minutes, and you have to wait for the bus to come.

“The Navy Yard and New Lab are not very easy to get to from most of NYC/Brooklyn,” explained Joe Hollier, the cofounder of a New Lab-based startup, Light Phone, that’s making phones for people who don’t want phones. “In thinking about future hiring, and just for us to be able to get to the city more easily for meetings, the ferry is a welcomed addition. Too early for me to tell if the boat would really change the calculus for us at the moment.”

From inside New Lab.

From inside New Lab. (GIF via YouTube)

New Lab itself thinks the ferry will make it a more attractive destination for startups.

“We’re very excited about the ferry,” wrote Molly Erman, the director of communications at New Lab. “And [we] do expect that it will have a positive effect on New Lab’s business as well as our neighbors’ here in the Navy Yard.”

The Brooklyn startup world has already come a long way. With more than $100 million raised by Brooklyn-based startups in the last six months — and most of that in waterfront-facing neighborhoods — we wonder what the year that comes could be like with improved transportation.

Companies: 76 Forward / New Lab / Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Series: Brooklyn

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