Assorted Ideas

How Durst Won NYC Ferry Astoria Battle But Lost War

Beginning today, the NYC Ferry Astoria Line extends one stop west, from Queens to Manhattan. The move’s something of a yawner, but a big money battle simmers behind it.

By David Stone

It took a full year, plus a couple of months, before the Durst Organization‘s push to extend ferry service from Astoria to Yorkville succeeded. But in the meantime, the war brewing around the NYC Astoria Ferry netted a giant loss.

NYC Ferry Astoria Line passing Roosevelt Island
A NYC Ferry passes Roosevelt Island on it’s way to Astoria.

Durst Wins As NYC Ferry Extends Astoria Line, But the War’s Already Lost

In May, 2019, Durst organized a push to extend the Astoria Route from its Queens terminal across the East River to Yorkville in Manhattan.

The reasoning was simple. Durst is building a massive housing project at Hallet’s Point, a hop, step and a jump from the Astoria Landing. If you want to get there from Manhattan by mass transit, it takes 1 hour and 15 minutes, but by ferry, it’s only 4 minutes.

Weary commuters won’t even have time for a floating martini.

And just like Long Island City, soaring Astoria real estate values beckoned after the NYC Astoria Ferry opened. Things could only get better.

But there’s a burning forest around those trees…

Trouble is, Durst’s Hallet’s Point monster project ground to a complete halt in January, following dispute with the city over subsidies. And that gem of a battle followed a falling out between Douglas Durst and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A $21.6 million subsidy promised by the city for infrastructure improvements fell through when the state demanded that 5% of the new units be affordable housing.

Durst wanted to renegotiate, but de Blasio’s administration said, “No.”

Construction stopped, and Durst said it would wait for the next administration in hopes of a better deal.

Who wins?

While Durst loses, for now, a handful of workers gain a shorter route to jobs in Manhattan, but the 90th Street Landing is in a mass transit desert. Mayor de Blasio put something there as well as in Astoria for exactly that reason.

Same story. You get off the NYC Astoria Ferry, and you’ve got a long walk to any subway. Bus service is limited, and you can already get to Midtown and Wall Street faster by existing ferries.

A few folks who’ve never visited the neighborhood suggest Manhattanites might enjoy easier access to Astoria’s ethnic restaurants and other attractions.

Attractions are few and a good distance from the ferry.

“By building a more connected city, we are creating greater access to jobs, open space, and cultural institutions for New Yorkers,” James Patchett, president and CEO of the NYC EDC, said in a statement.

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