NYC Ferry operated by Hornblower
Terri Carta, Executive Director, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
6:30pm Brooklyn’s Finest Tastings
8:30pm Dessert, Drinks & Dancing
Attire: Brooklyn Festive
Thanks to our Sponsors
NYC Ferry operated by Hornblower
The Williamsburg Hotel
Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation
Michael Cairl & Jim Harvey
The Durst Organization
Rich Miller & Aviva Goldstein
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
McLaren Engineering Group
Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
Petra & J.D. Messick
Carl J. Persak
Hope & Sumner Pingree
Claudia & Ted Weissberg
Jeremy P. Wurmfeld
Brooklyn Greenway Initiative Board of Directors
Michael Cairl, Chairman
Mikiyon Alexander, Treasurer
Amy E. Turner, Secretary
Petra T. Messick
Checks should be made payable to:
Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
153 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
For more information, contact:
Brian McCormick, Director of Development
Brooklyn Greenway Initiative is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to the establishment, development, and long term stewardship of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
MEET OUR 2018 HONOREE:
Brooklyn Greenway Initiative is thrilled to honor NYC Ferry operated by Hornblower with the 2018 Waterfront Connections Award for their extraordinary contributions to increased mobility, access, and connectivity for traditionally underserved communities throughout New York City where jobs and housing are growing rapidly. Comprised of six routes – Rockaway, East River, Astoria, South Brooklyn, Soundview, and the Lower East Side – NYC Ferry has served nearly 7 million riders since launching in May 2017.
BGI Executive Director Terri Carta recently sat down with Cameron Clark, Senior Vice President of NYC Ferry operated by Hornblower, to talk about connecting people to the waterfront and new areas of New York City. Read the full conversation below!
[TC] What got you originally interested in the maritime industry and how did you come to this position at Hornblower?
[CC] This is a fun story. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area so I’m definitely familiar with being around the waterfront. I grew up going out on boats with family and friends. I really have to give credit to Mike Lingle, the father of a childhood friend who was in the Navy. He was passionate about a school called the California Maritime Academy. He wouldn’t be quiet about it and would constantly say, “Cameron, you have to check it out!” Just to get him to be quiet I went to look at the school and fell in love with it. I thought, “wait – I get to travel the world in the summer and go to 20-something countries and play on a boat, and I get to do mechanical engineering; this is just awesome!” I went home and told my parents I was going to go to California Maritime Academy instead of a UC [University of California] school. They thought it was pure rebellion on my part, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. It got me truly into the maritime industry. Life-long friendships and opportunities that I’m fulfilling today wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t listened to Mike Lingle or gone to Cal Maritime. It wouldn’t have led to the knowledge and opportunity to support and serve millions of New Yorkers on a yearly basis.
You have said that Hornblower is ‘tech forward.’ What does that mean for NYC Ferry?
Mechanical engineering in the maritime world means lots of technology. I like to think that Hornblower is pretty tech forward. We’re building a lot of tech to help communicate in today’s digital environment. At the end of the day boats are still mechanical systems and having a good working knowledge of the vessels definitely helps me to lead on a daily basis and for our team to fulfill on our operation.
NYC Ferry is part of Hornblower’s family of companies. When you look at Hornblower’s operations, we have multiple hybrid ferries out west operating in the San Francisco Bay. And we’ve also invested a lot in the software to help communicate and educate our ridership and our base on: Where’s my boat? When’s the next boat? Help me connect not just dock-to-dock but dock-to-dock and beyond.
We do this through the apps that we’ve started to build. We’re looking at tech to help support our environmental initiative, help communicate and educate our riders to make their transit and commute more enjoyable because they’ll be aware of what’s going on, and last but not least share with our riders other services we have in the regions in which we operate.
What’s unique about the NYC Ferry experience and the service you provide?
First and foremost, what I think is unique about the NYC Ferry and one of the things we talk about as a team is that we really want to make your commute the best part of your day. So many New Yorkers dread their commute. It’s a tough city to get around in; there are a lot of people all trying to commute at the same time. If we at NYC Ferry can make the commute the best part of someone’s day and something people look forward to as a chance to decompress before they get home, that’s a unique thing that our crew is doing.
What motivates you to go to work every day? What excites you about your work these days?
In terms of getting up in the morning, it’s cool to be part of an organization that’s creating amazing experiences and giving people tangible things more than just “stuff.” We’re not in the consumer business of selling goods. We’re helping people connect, commute, and helping people celebrate milestones like weddings and anniversaries. Coming to work with so many other passionate people who are also excited about what we’re doing is really what gets me going in the morning and makes work here so enjoyable.
I’m very fortunate that I also get to share what we’re doing on a national level with my family and loved ones. I have two young children, a son named Ky – the Polynesian word for ocean – and a daughter, Sylvanie. Ky loves to go on boat rides. Twenty years from now who knows what he’ll be interested in or doing for work, but for now, standing and looking at the water he’s quick to point out which are NYC Ferry boats versus other boats and his biggest hobby is getting out on the water.
NYC Ferry launched two new routes in August 2018 – Soundview and the Lower East Side. What stands out to you about these launches and what do you find most significant about these additions to service?
First of all, I have to give credit to Mayor de Blasio and NYCEDC [NYC Economic Development Corporation] for their foresight and vision to revive ferry service in NYC and to push this project forward.
Launching all these routes, you’re reminded how amazing New York City is and the diversity of people who live here. I was enamored by the joy and excitement of the people in the Bronx. The Soundview stop serves a community that’s in a transit desert. Residents commute to jobs in Manhattan and being able to serve them and to see their excitement and how thankful they are for this new service is one of the things that sticks out in my mind about that launch.
The Lower East Side route launch serves a different community and mix of people coming down from Queens to the Lower East Side. People tend to forget where the Lower East Side is on the island of Manhattan; there isn’t a subway around the corner. NYC Ferry launching on the Lower East Side helps people get more connected to other parts of the City and other boroughs that they typically didn’t think about. Hopefully the Lower East Side service helps people connect with other communities and helps people get out, cruise their city, and see all that’s great in New York City.
Operating NYC Ferry must be a complex endeavor. What goes into preparation and training of staff. Are employees required to come in with previous maritime experience?
Hornblower is committed to is its training programs. We have a Health, Safety, Security, Quality and Environmental department which focuses on compliance to ISO [International Organization for Standardization] standards. We look for best practices across our business units and how we can deliver not only a safe experience for our guests and crew but also deliver in an environmentally friendly way.
For example, we have engineering teams focused on low emissions and zero emission vessels. We also don’t take for granted the operation and its complexity so we invest a lot of time and energy in building proper plans, training against those plans, and looking to find ways to continually improve.
That leads to an operation where we spend over 200 hours per person doing drills, skills assessments, working with the small boating community… our whole operations team is focused on best practices and building on them.
Within the Hornblower family, we have over 700 employees in New York City who come in with a mix of maritime experience or training and those coming in without any. The biggest thing is attitude; if someone has a great attitude and wants to be on the water, come on down. We’ll get you up to speed. People coming in with maritime experience will be poised for stepping into more opportunities quicker, but for us it’s all about attitude. We can train the rest.
With your waterfront and on-water experience you’ve certainly been to many places along the Brooklyn waterfront. Where’s one place you haven’t been along the Brooklyn waterfront that’s still on your bucket list?
As much as I’ve cruised along the Brooklyn waterfront I have never biked, walked, or ran on the Shore Parkway Greenway along the Belt Parkway from the Fort Hamilton area down past the Verrazano Bridge. I’d like to do that.
How do you use the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway now? How important is the Greenway to you personally?
By default, I spend a lot of time along the Greenway at what my son calls “Sandpit Park” at Pier 6 and what he calls “Pirate Ship Park” in DUMBO – both in Brooklyn Bridge Park. This is probably not uncommon for New Yorkers with kids.
I’m really excited by what we’re seeing in terms of bike access along the waterfront. A little over two years ago I took a CitiBike and rode everywhere into Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Now, seeing where the Greenway continues to go is very exciting as people’s access to waterfront spaces continues to expand. The Greenway from Brooklyn Bridge Park down to the cruise ship terminal/Atlantic Basin in Red Hook is also spectacular. Having the waterfront so accessible along the Greenway changes your perception of Brooklyn from being just a “hipster” area to having really great access that is also very family friendly.
If you could wave a magic wand for the waterfront what would you wish for?
That all New Yorkers knew how amazing the waterfront is and would spend more time on the waterfront and on the boats connecting them to other areas of our city.
What’s in the future for NYC Ferry and Hornblower?
As it relates to Hornblower, our CEO Terry MacRae is always focused on what’s ahead. If we just focus on continuing to do a great job, focus on operations, and taking care of our crew, guests and passengers, opportunities will present themselves. We just hope to continue to deliver amazing experiences for riders and great career opportunities for our crew.
Cities across the globe are turning back to their waterfronts in new and exciting ways. What do you see as the biggest opportunity in the maritime industry right now?
“Cruise locally; think globally” is our mindset. I think locally we’ll continue to see a renaissance of people getting back to their waterfront. Young people want to live where they can work and play. As cities continue to grow and expand – you know, roadways aren’t infinitely scalable and tunnels and bridges are costly. Waterways don’t require much in order to access them and use them at the scale of other transportation infrastructure projects, so when you look at environments around the United States and around the world, a generation of people is investing in experiences right where they live, which will lead to a continued renaissance of the waterfront and better ways to connect, commute, and get around on boats.
Everybody’s talking about ride sharing…well, boats have been doing it since humans started traveling on water. New York City was founded by people on boats. In the 1800s before there were bridges in NYC people would commute by boat. More than 40 million people used to commute every year between Brooklyn and Manhattan over ferries. Commuting by boat is not a new idea. We’re just working to make it relevant and prevalent again.
Any last words you want to share?
There are lots of ways for people to access the waterfront these days – riding bikes, walking, kayaking. I’d say to the locals, taking a brunch or lunch cruise or getting out to Ellis Island to learn about your ancestors isn’t just a tourist thing. Get out and enjoy your waterfront!