Volume 16 • Issue 51 | May 14 - 20, 2004

Water Taxi expanding Downtown service this season

By Albert Amateau

Tom Fox, Water Taxi president, on the Christopher St. pier, one of his new stops. He expects to open stops at Battery Park and the Seaport in June.

A new cabstand began serving passengers in the Village on Mothers Day weekend. Not on a street but in the water at Pier 45 in Hudson River Park.

Painted like cabs – bright yellow with black-and-white checkered bands along the hulls, New York Water Taxi, which began its second summer schedule at the beginning of April, added the Christopher St. Pier as a stop on its regular run on Saturday May 8.

By the end of June, two more “cab stands” will pick up and drop off passengers Downtown, one at Gangway 6 at Battery Park and the other at Pier 17 in the South St. Seaport, according to Tom Fox, president and chief executive officer of New York Water Taxi.

“We picked up 31 passengers on Saturday and 93 on Sunday, Mothers Day at Pier 45 in the Village,” Fox said last week.

Water Taxi’s six boats serve commuters and tourists on routes that link Hudson and East River piers from Pier 84 on the Hudson to East 90th St. on the East River at Carl Schurz Park.

Water Taxi’s commuter service during weekday rush hours include a new run between the Colgate pier at Paulus Hook in Jersey City and Pier 11 on the East River at Wall St. Brooklyn commuters to and from Pier 11 are now using Water Taxi service from the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park. Another East River commuter service runs from the E. 90th St. pier near Gracie Mansion and stops at E. 34th St. in Midtown, then Hunters Point in Queens to Pier 11.

“We assumed those three runs when NY Waterway dropped them recently after the federal subsidy expired,” Fox said referring to the city’s largest private ferry company. Water Taxi also has a short commuter run between Pier 11 and the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn’s DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) waterfront.

Fox, a long-time parks and waterfront advocate, made an earlier ill-fated attempt at water taxi service in 1997. “It ran for seven weeks, but the boats were too small and couldn’t do what the guy who leased them to me said they would,” he recalled. Fox credits the success of the current water taxi venture, which began in April 2003, to his partnership with Douglas Durst, a Midtown developer who is also a board director of the Friends of Hudson River Park, a civic group devoted to the Hudson River Park being built by the state and the city between Chambers and 59th Sts.

“Last year in April, we carried 4,221 passengers,” said Fox. “This April – the beginning of our second summer schedule – we carried 49,952. It’s beginning to look like a real business,” he added. Water Taxi runs all year round with frequent service during the summer schedule from April to October.

New York Water Taxi is a corporate supporter of community events. “We’re promoting the River-to-River celebration Downtown this year, and we’re sponsoring a Greenwich Village Little League team, the Pirates,” said Fox, a former resident of the Village who now lives in Brooklyn.

Water Taxi’s six boats are catamarans with low-wake double hulls that carry 74 passengers, 54 inside and 20 on the upper outdoor deck. “They’re Coast Guard certified for up to three miles offshore and the engines conform to 2005 emission standards,” said Fox. “Low-wake is important because we operate in the [Hudson River] Park and we want minimal impact on the waterfront infrastructure and recreational boating,” he said.

In the spring of 2005, Water Taxi expects delivery of two more catamarans, slightly larger that the present one with seats for 99 passengers, Fox said.

Water Taxi’s longest run – and arguably its best bargain – is the “Hop On/Hop Off” service on the Hudson and East Rivers that runs from 10 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on weekends. It starts at Pier 84 at 44th St. just south of the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, stops at the Pier 63 Maritime barge off 23rd St. in Chelsea, followed by Pier 45 in the Village, the World Financial Center in Battery Park City, Gangway 6 in Battery Park and Pier 17 in the Seaport, both beginning in June, followed by a stop at the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn, the E. 34th St. landing in Midtown and the E. 90th St. landing in Carl Schurz Park.
The Hop On/Hop Off fare is $4 per stop, but $15 for the entire run, good for all day on one weekday or for both weekend days.

The Water Taxi foldout brochure has directions for self-guided walking tours of neighborhoods at six stops, the Village, World Financial Center, Chelsea, DUMBO, Upper East Side and Lower Manhattan.

On a run last week, Fox acted as guide for a Downtown Express reporter on a ship piloted by Capt. Donald Francis with Saquan Bush serving as deck hand. The paying passengers included a couple from Portugal, Nuno and Claudia Sarava, and two tourists from Washington D.C., Bill Bryant and Hasso Shuman. They said they learned about Water Taxi from brochures at the midtown hotels where they were staying.


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