Greenpoint Chamber honors East River Ferry at annual meeting
by Benjamin Fang
Apr 01, 2016 | 4824 views | 0 0 comments | 109 109 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dozens of business owners and community members attended the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce annual meeting last Tuesday night at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg, where they honored the East River Ferry with its Community Anchor Award.

Elaine Brodsky, the chamber’s president, presented the award to Paul Salmuski, an officer on the chamber’s board of directors and the vice president of Creative and Marketing for the East River Ferry.

The award is given to a business that has made a significant impact in North Brooklyn, Brodsky said.

“Over the years, they have been involved as sponsors in a large number of community events and fundraising programs,” she said. “They are huge supporters, financially and creatively, to the Greenpoint Chamber.”

Brodsky added that Salmuski is “hardworking, tireless and a creative branding genius.”

For Salmuski, the award was bittersweet because the East River Ferry “as we know it will be going away,” he said, because the company wasn’t chosen for the citywide ferry service contract. Instead, California-based Hornblower will be running the city’s ferry system, which is set to begin in 2017.

Salmuski said the small team at East River Ferry is calling the award the “farewell award.” However, he said they’re still supportive of the citywide ferry plan.

“We think it’s great, we think the waterways are still amazingly underutilized,” he said. “We think anything that can be done to help move commuters back and forth will be great.”

Brodsky praised the ferry company for connecting “formerly isolated neighborhoods” in Brooklyn and Queens. She said the service offered commuters and visitors a bike-friendly transportation option that revitalized the waterfront.

“It unlocked large developmental potential by increasing access to opportunities, resources and space,” she said.

The East River Ferry, which launched in 2011, will run until the end of the calendar year.

Still, Salmuski said he’s proud of what the company has done to connect people from isolated neighborhoods and provide an alternative mode of transportation. He said he’s also proud of the company’s community involvement.

“We wanted to be embraced by the community, and we thought the only way that this would work for us is if the community elevated us, if the community embraced us and if the community liked what we were doing and supported us,” he said.

He said when the company turns its keys over at the end of the year, they will have moved approximately 7 million people.

The annual meeting also announced the strategic partnership between the Greenpoint and Brooklyn chambers of commerce. Brodsky said members can also have a dual membership with both chambers.

“We retain our hyperlocal identity and we benefit from all of their administrative and technical assistance,” she said.

She praised the Brooklyn Chamber, and in particular its president and CEO Carlo Scissura, for launching successful programs and initiatives. She said their efforts have been recognized as national models for business development, technical assistance and regional branding.

Scissura said the Brooklyn Chamber’s role is to make the experience better for members and to provide a host of services, including health insurance, neighborhood development, grant writing, loans for expanding businesses, hiring and access to capital.

For minority and women-owned businesses, the Brooklyn Chamber can also help certify them to have access to more state and local incentive programs.

“Why shouldn’t businesses in northern Brooklyn be getting that?” he asked. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Scissura also encouraged members to attend the Brooklyn Chamber’s marquee event, a three-day home furnishings event called Brooklyn Designs. The weekend event is set to draw about 10,000 people and is based in Greenpoint.

The featured speaker of the night was NY1 morning anchor Pat Kiernan, who is also a Williamsburg resident. Kiernan, who is behind the popular segment “In the Papers” that looks at headlines and stories in New York City’s local newspapers, spoke about changing media consumption habits and its effect on local news.

Kiernan said technology has changed the way people consume news, whether it’s radio, print or television. He said looking in a subway car, only about half a dozen people are reading newspapers because everyone else is on a device.

On the radio, he said, people who used to listen to news radio stations for news and traffic are now listening to music through their Bluetooth and getting traffic updates straight from their smartphones.

Even those who usually watch the 6 p.m. telecast may skip it because they’ve been getting news headlines from their phones all day.

“Now I’ve put the newspapers out of business, the radios out of business and the TV stations out of business,” he said. “It’s not that bad yet, but we’re moving in that direction.”

With all of the original content appearing on a multitude of cable channels, YouTube and on-demand access, audiences are now being cut up into 100 pieces now, Kiernan said. He cited Nielsen statistics that said people are watching fewer hours of television, but consuming more hours of media in general.

“The audience is still there,” he said. “They’re just not consuming the same things that they used to.”

The effect of these changes, he said, is that people are consuming a lot of content but fewer local stories that are important. Bravo, Amazon Prime and VICE may be providing a lot of original content, but they aren’t covering local stories.

“The entire pipeline of local news is vanishing and part of it is because we as readers and viewers aren’t supporting it,” he said.

The reason why local media is important, Kiernan said, is because the city government and politicians hear about local issues affecting residents or business owners. The stories sometimes lead to action, which would lead to changes.

“If that voice is weaker than it used to be, then we can’t convey that message and we can’t amplify that message and we can’t help to bring change,” he said.

Kiernan also refuted the idea that Twitter and Facebook would fill that gap of bringing change. He said they simply don’t have the same reach.

One local issue that all of the speakers touched on was the potential closing of the L train. Kiernan said he wrote about the issue briefly on his blog and added that there’s a way to keep one tube open while making the appropriate fixes.

“It’s not an acceptable solution to shut down the train for any length of time, whether it’s nights, whether it’s weekends,” Kiernan said. “We shouldn’t tolerate anything less.”

Scissura said the Brooklyn and Greenpoint chambers are united in opposition to any L train closures. He said the North Brooklyn corridor that the L train serves runs differently because many businesses are open in the evening, weekend and off-peak hours. He insisted any closures during nights or weekends would hurt businesses.

“No way, no how is the L train going to shut down,” he said. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
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