With the first of its new 350-passenger-class vessels making runs to Rockaway, N.Y., in the New York City borough of Queens, NYC Ferry is preparing to launch two new routes this month that will further boost ridership.

The New York City Economic Development Authority and ferry operator Hornblower have set Aug. 15 as the launch date for service on the new Soundview route, from the Soundview section of the Bronx with a new landing at Clason Point Park, to East 90th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, to East 34th Street, and ending at Wall Street/Pier 11. The trip takes about 54 minutes.

The Lower East side Manhattan route, to launch Aug. 29, will run from the Wall Street landing at Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan, to Corlears Hook, Stuyvesant Cove, East 34th Street, and ending in Long Island City, Queens – a 32-minute ride. The new route schedules are posted on the NYC Ferry website and operators say they will be available on the ferry's smartphone app as well prior to the launch dates.

“We’re excited to launch NYC Ferry service in the Bronx, the Upper East Side and the Lower East Side, which have historically been transit deserts,” said EDC president James Patchett in announcing the plan. Extending the public ferry service, with its $2.75 fare the same as a subway ride, to underserved neighborhoods has been a marquee project for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.

It was a rocky ride for the first few months of operation in 2017, when some routes were overwhelmed by rider demand and on weekends. Within weeks city officials promised to scale up the service, chartering additional vessels from private operators in the region and starting work to acquire bigger boats in addition to the initial fleet of 16 aluminum catamarans with 150-passenger capacity.

The 97'1"x27'10" Ocean Queen Rockstar, the first of that new class of 350-passenger vessels, was delivered this spring by Metal Shark, Franklin, La., and is in service on the route between East River landings and Rockaway, the distant seaside community where NYC Ferry got perhaps its most enthusiastic reception. The new vessel carries both commuters and beachgoers in summer months.

The new routes are in addition to the Rockaway, East River, Astoria and South Brooklyn routes that have carried more than five million riders since the May 2017 startup. City officials now say demand growth could rise to almost nine million passengers annually by 2023, and they plan to put another $300 million into improvements to landings, new boats and a second homeport base for operations and maintenance.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.