Riders of Mayor Bill de Blasio's subsidy-soaked ferry system are significantly richer and whiter than their mass transit counterparts, according to new data reluctantly released by the city.
The long-sought figures reveal that 64 percent of ferry riders are white, with a median income ranging between $75,000 and $100,000. By comparison, studies have shown that two-thirds of subway riders and three-quarters of bus riders are people of color, with median incomes at around $40,000 and $29,000, respectively.
The disparities are likely to intensify criticism of the troubled transit project, which will cost New York City taxpayers more than $600 million over the next three years. In order to keep the price of a trip equal to a subway swipe, the system currently benefits from a per-rider subsidy of about $10, set to jump to nearly $25 on some newly-expanded routes, according to an analysis from the Citizen Budget Commission.
Faced with questions over the ballooning price-tag, de Blasio has repeatedly championed the service as an antidote to transit inequality, part of his broader agenda to make New York the "fairest big city." A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office did not respond to inquiries about whether this new breakdown in ridership would force him to reevaluate that position.
The Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency that operates the system, previously declined to provide data to back up that claim. The results of three previous rider surveys were not made public, and the agency has ignored multiple freedom of information requests sent by
Gothamist and other media outlets.
The new demographics were shared with the media in a slideshow marked "not for distribution," which has not yet been posted online. An EDC spokesperson would not say why the slideshow was being withheld from the public.
Is anybody going to factor the $10 subsidy per rider with the free shuttle buses the NYC Ferry provides?
Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to run the most transparent administration in Big Apple history, but City Hall appears to have violated the state’s open records law by withholding key data about the East River ferry, experts said Wednesday.
In April, The Post demanded the statistics compiled by the Economic Development Corporation about the $637 million NYC Ferry system’s ridership under the state’s Freedom of Information Law — only to be repeatedly rebuffed and told the search for the records was still ongoing.
However, EDC revealed the existence of the data by leaking a presentation summarizing its findings to another newspaper Monday night.
“It violates the Freedom of Information Law,” said John Kaehny, an open-records expert who runs the good-government group Reinvent Albany. “It’s really unacceptable — and particularly lame.”
The Post filed the FOIL request on April 15 asking for “the results of the demographic survey of boat riders, by line and by stop, if available,” as well as for contracts and other related documents.
The agency confirmed it received the records request on April 22 and later released the contract and some supporting paperwork, but never provided the crucial ridership data.
Instead, it claimed in letters dated May 20, July 5, Aug. 2 and Sept. 6 that agency officials were “continuing to search for additional documents.”
However, EDC’s 13-page presentation summary reveals that as it stonewalled The Post and others, it had already conducted at least three surveys of its ridership.
“This is the 4th onboard survey conducted in NYC Ferry’s 2 years of service,” it disclosed on the second page of the presentation.
The document shows that the previous surveys covered summer 2017, winter 2018 and summer 2018. The most recent survey covered in the memo examined ridership from this summer.
“This is really not acceptable conduct by any government agency,” said Susan Lerner, the head of watchdog group Common Cause New York. “The data is subject to FOIL, there is no excuse for playing games.”
“Certainly the spirit of the law has been violated,” she added. “This sort of game-playing should not be countenanced.”
Recall that Mayor de Blasio broke the "spirit of the law" with his illicit pay to play Campaign For New York PAC he ran in City Hall and still avoided indictments from Attorney General Cy Vance and acting Southern District Attorney that replaced Preet Bharara. So whatever the spirit of the law entails is pretty much dead.