Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Urban Environmentalist NYC: Q&A with New York Water Taxi

February 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Here’s one of our weekly features from the Center for the Urban Environment (CUE). This week’s interview is with Tom Fox, President of New York Water Taxi.

CUE: Where are you from originally?

Fox: Flatbush, Brooklyn. I lived there until about two years ago—except for a few years in both Vietnam and Washington DC.

CUE: When did New York Water Taxi open for business and what lead you to start up the venture?

Fox: Originally in 1997, but the initial service had the wrong boats, was undercapitalized and failed so I started over in 2002. I had spent 25 years building parks, a number of them along the New York City waterfront. While working on the creation of the Hudson River Park, I realized that you couldn’t move easily north and south along the waterfront. As the first president of the Hudson River Park Conservancy, I approached the ferry operators in the harbor to ask if they would be interested in operating an intra-city transportation service and they all said “no.” So I started the business at the age of 50 when my wife told me that it was time for me to get a real job.

CUE: People say that the aquatic life gives you a different perspective on the city, what do you see from where you stand?

Fox: Completely. We are a city of islands and people have looked at NYC from the water for over 11,000 years. So I feel deeply connected to the past and the future because the waterfront connects New Yorkers and visitors from around the world to a whole new set of dynamic neighborhoods, parks and
cultural institutions.

CUE: It also sounds like a business built around sustainability.

Fox: Absolutely. It is environmental education at work. Our vessels have state of the art design to reduce noise and wake damage. Water-borne transportation gets people out on the water and leads to increased interest in the health of our waterways and water quality. Our water taxis reduce pollution and provide real alternatives to surface transportation that reduces traffic congestion. Neighborhood streets are crowded so more use of waterways opens the streets up to greater use as public space. And you can’t forget the mental health value. There is nothing like being out on the water. In short, water is under-utilized. And it is our future.

CUE: What is your most popular route?

Fox: Hop On and Hop Off that connects 10 different locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

CUE: When you get together with other local business owners—what’s most on their minds?

Fox: First, land use issues. Many manufacturing and commercial jobs are being pushed off the waterfront for residential development. Second, utilities and city services. Service is not the same for employees along the waterfront as it is for residential areas—from cell phone coverage to snow removal, the quality of life is dramatically different than our residential counterparts.

CUE: If you could pass a law tomorrow that would help small businesses locally, what would it look like?

Fox: Financially encouraging small business to recycle and use alternative energy for heating, cooling and transportation.

(Interview conducted by Rebeccah Welch, Senior Associate Director of Communications at the Center for the Urban Environment. As a guide to a more sustainable New York City, the Center is dedicated to educating individuals about the built and natural environments. For more about our work visit www.thecue.org.)

Tags: Urban Environmentalist

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Tystarr // Feb 21, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I’m still waiting for that Coney Island/Manhattan Ferry. That would be perfect for everyone, especially in the summer.