Feeling the squeeze
Coney Island deserves a ferry. It
deserves a clean creek, too.
COURIER L 24 IFE, AUGUST 13-19, 2021
Tenants across New York
are in even more of a
squeeze nowadays than
they were at the start of the
New York State’s current
eviction moratorium is set to
expire on Aug. 31. The staterun
rental relief program,
which provides hundreds of
millions in federal relief to
debt-ridden tenants, began accepting
applications in June —
but the funding is only trickling
in currently to those who
need it the most.
The federal government
provided $2.4 billion for New
York’s rental relief program.
Eligible tenants making 80%
or less of their area’s median
income can get enough relief to
cover one year’s worth of rent
and utility bills.
It’s an absolute blessing for
cash-starved tenants, many
of whom were hit hardest by
the COVID-19 pandemic in
terms of illness and job loss.
The funding should be raining
down upon them like manna
from heaven — instead, it is
frustratingly bubbling up from
New York’s coffers at a hellishly
The funds have been slow to
disperse to tenants, and with
the deadline looming, lawmakers
Alessandra Biaggi and
Yuh-Line Niou want to push
back the eviction moratorium
until Oct. 31. Embattled Governor
Andrew Cuomo had promised
to overhaul the program
last month, but tenants are
still having issues.
Cuomo’s offi ce reported
that more than $20 million in
rental payments were released
just last week, and they expect
that number to only increase in
the weeks ahead. They must be
held to that promise, and there
should be an investigation as to
why it’s taking so long for the
state to turn the spigot and let
the relief fl ow into hard-working
Meanwhile, anxiety continues
to grow for tenants who depend
on the relief program and
have no other recourse to keep
their landlords from soon slipping
an eviction notice under
New York should extend the
eviction moratorium through
the end of October to put their
minds at ease, and provide
enough time for everyone to
get their relief. No question,
the state must right this wrong
before it’s too late.
One more thing: Small landlords
who rely on the rental income
from one or two tenants
to pay their mortgages also
need their relief, and they need
it today. New York must do
what it can to help them, too.
BY KOUICHI SHIRAYANAGI
& CRAIG HAMMERMAN
You don’t have to live in Coney Island
to know the traffi c there sucks.
The amusement parks, beaches, ballpark
and amphitheater are a global
destination and despite ample subway
service many choose to drive there.
And why not? The area lacks basic bicycling
Bus service is spotty and unreliable.
Despite the incredible surges
in seasonal traffi c volume, many
streets have a surplus of unused asphalt
that could otherwise provide
safe refuge and passage for pedestrians
and cyclists. Vision Zero roadway
improvements that are ubiquitous
in Manhattan and the tony Brooklyn
neighborhoods seemed never to have
reached Brooklyn’s southern shore.
It’s no wonder that many Coney Islanders
overwhelmingly support the
concept of ferry service.
For the city, expanding ferry service
to the Coney Island peninsula is a
no-brainer. A ferry already passes the
region on its way to the Rockaways. A
ferry could shave 30 minutes off many
Coney Islander’s commutes to Lower
Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.
But it could also provide an alternative
mode of transportation for the millions
of visitors annually to the amusement
district. For a brief moment it seemed
the powers-that-be had heard the community
and were providing something
everyone could benefi t from. Then, the
City’s Economic Development Corporation
slowly started to share the details
of the plan they cooked up for Coney Island
in classic bait-and-switch fashion.
EDC’s Coney Island ferry expansion
plan has been cheap and dirty. Instead
of bringing ferry passengers close to
the amusement district, where the overwhelming
majority of people coming
to the area want to go, their plan is to
strand them more than a mile away at
the fi shing pier in the neighborhood’s
local Kaiser Park on the Coney Island
Creek. Saying it is to serve the neighborhood’s
commuter needs, not the
amusement district’s visitors.
But Coney Island commuters already
have to get to the Stillwell Avenue
subway station as part of their daily
commute. A ferry near the amusement
district would still be a signifi cant improvement
to local commuters, while
also providing much-needed alternative
transportation for the tourists
when they come to town. When fi nding
themselves stranded more than a mile
from their destination once, a tourist
leaving their car home for the Coney
Island Ferry will not take the ferry a
second time. The next time they return
to Coney Island, and they will, they’ll
be back in their car again.
In public forums, the EDC has argued
that they are concerned about
the liabilities associated with the ferry’s
exposure to ocean wave action,
and thus they felt it will be safer for
the ferry to be docked in the sheltered
creek. Had they consulted a maritime
map they would discover that in fact
Southern Brooklyn is not exposed to
the ocean. The area’s beaches are part
of the Lower New York Bay, Rockaway
Inlet, and Jamaica Bay. That’s why
surfi ng is impossible in Coney Island
though it can be done in the Rockaways.
The area doesn’t get that kind
of action on local beaches. And a ferry
successfully operated from the Coney
Island beach to lower Manhattan from
the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth
centuries. It has been done before
and can be done again.
The other problem with using the Coney
Island creek is that for over a hundred
years it served as an industrial
waterway and it now contains legacy
contaminants that are among the highest
measurable toxic concentrations according
to the EDC’s own environmental
study documents. Area residents
have known this all along. So has the
city. But EDC’s cheap and dirty plan
isn’t proposing to remediate the creek to
make it safe and clean. Instead, they are
proposing to spot dredge small portions
of the creek because the ferries otherwise
wouldn’t be able to navigate it. And
they’d have to come back every three to
fi ve years for maintenance dredging.
Their plan leaves toxic elements in
place but improves the creek for navigability.
Recently, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency had confi
rmed what many have feared — that
the levels of contamination in the Coney
Island Creek rise to the level of being
considered a potential Superfund
clean-up site. Yet the City continues to
abrogate its responsibility.
The truth is Coney Island needs
a ferry. And Coney Island deserves
a ferry, but not at Kaiser Park where
amusement district visitors won’t be
served. The area deserves a ferry at
the amusement district serving tourists
and locals alike. Anything less is
Kouichi Shirayanagi is a part-time
journalist and full-time dad living in
Coney Island. Craig Hammerman is a
former Community Board district manager
currently living in Brighton Beach
as a southern Brooklyn activist.
This op-ed has been edited for length.
For more, visit BrooklynPaper.com.
It has been done before and can be done again.