Ridership on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature East River ferry service is sinking fast thanks to the coronavirus — with passenger numbers dropping 80 percent, according to figures obtained by The Post.
“Sometimes I see three people on the boat — the captain and two crew members,” said a mariner who views daily pick-ups and drop-offs at the Brooklyn dock in Red Hook that is part of the New York City Ferry Service, which is run by Hornblower.
New data show that just 19,851 riders used the heavily subsidized service in the last week of April, or 2,836 passengers per day on its six current routes.
That’s down from 97,256 for the last week of April 2019.
The city pays private operator Hornblower $52.95 million to provide the service.
All the current routes have stops at Wall Street/South Street Pier 11, and a Post visit there one morning last week found few passengers disembarking from ferries between the typically packed rush-hour time of 8 and 9 a.m.
Medical workers were among those still using the service.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s lock-down order issued in March forbids all but essential workers to leave home in a bid to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and that order has caused a dramatic decline in all forms of transit ridership.
The Staten Island ferry service to and from Manhattan dropped 70 percent after the lock-down was imposed.
New York City subway and bus ridership has also largely disappeared.
The mariner in Red Hook said it’s typical to see only two passengers boarding or exiting the Hornblower service these days. The most he’s seen is seven.
According to the new data, the ferry service’s South Brooklyn route, which includes the Red Hook stop, reported 1,928 riders during the last week of April — a paltry 275 per day. During the same week last year, 9,535 passengers were using the service.
Weekly ridership is dreadful on the other routes as well:
-On the East River route, ridership plummeted from 46,241 last year to 7,480 now.
-On the Rockaway route, it sunk from 8,878 to 2,502.
-On the Astoria route, the numbers fell from 15,705 to 3,404.
-The Soundview route saw ridership tumble from 10,274 to 2,682.
-The Lower East service saw weekly ridership plunge from 6,623 to 1,855.
Critics have complained that the NYC ferry service is highly subsidized.
The de Blasio administration last year also spent $82 million to purchase 19 ferry boats for the service.
Riders of the ferry service also are well-to-do – making $100,000 and $150,000 a year on average, according to city Economic Development Corporation surveys obtained by The Post. That means higher-income riders primarily benefit from the high taxpayer subsidy.
But the councilman who chairs the investigations committee said the ferry service can’t be faulted for lower ridership during the pandemic.
“It would be unfair to judge the value of the ferry service on how it performs during the lockdown. I favor the ferry service as an alternative. The more, the merrier,” said Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres.
Torres did say that before the pandemic, he argued there should be variable pricing for the ferry service based on income.
De Blasio has defended the East River ferry service as a welcome transit alternative.
City officials said service has been reduced during the pandemic to adjust for lower ridership.
“We are currently running reduced service across the system. We’re running about 37 percent less than the standard spring service,” said Chris Singleton, spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corp., the agency that oversees the ferry service.
“We’re running our smallest, most fuel-efficient vessels on this reduced schedule, and we continue to maintain an exceptionally high cleaning standard for those vessels,” he said.