BY COLIN MIXSON
It’s like Uber for the exact opposite of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd.
A ritzy private evacuation service tailored for Lower Manhattan’s executive class is now leasing dock space at North Cove Marina, whence it plans to whisk Downtown’s masters of the universe safely off the island come Judgment Day.
“It’s the contingency backup that people who live or work Downtown have been asking for,” said Pat Dowhie, CEO of Plan B Marine. “Plan B boats are docked at Brookfield Place now, so that subscribers can get off the island in the event of critical infrastructure failure or other catastrophic circumstance.”
Plan B Marine allows businesses to lease military-grade all-weather boats, which are maintained in a constant state of readiness so that Downtown honchos and their C-suite posses can make a B-line across the Hudson whenever Helter Skelter strikes — or even, according to Dowhie, just if the tunnel gets backed up.
“If the railroad is down and it’s jeopardizing your business, or the roads are gridlocked and you need to get from point A to B, the only way to immediately get off island is by water,” Dowhie said.
The business started up six-months ago with docks at Chelsea Piers, but Plan B took its inspiration from the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Dowhie recalled.
Before 9/11, Dowhie and her partners operated a telecommunications company based out of the World Trade Center, but had begun moving to another building nearby not long before the attack, so fortunately, all she lost in the conflagration was equipment and some furniture. But the panic and chaos Downtown, and watching besuited executives’ desperate efforts to escape a Financial District suddenly cut off from the outside world made a big impression on her.
As did the massive water-borne evacuation in which hundreds of civilian watercraft transported as many as half a million stranded Downtowners to safety. That’s what lead Dowhie to the revelation that, in a true Doomsday Scenario, the only sure way out of Lower Manhattan was by water.
“We understood that evacuating your family and employees can turn into a nightmare, and that the only viable, fast way of leaving Manhattan was by boat,” she said.
And having a dedicated craft gassed up and ready to go you wouldn’t have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
Plan B Marine typically allows the customer to specify where they want their get-away boat docked, but the move to North Cove came from Dowhie’s conclusion that Lower Manhattan is the perfect place to sell peace of mind to a first-class clientele.
“The market seems to be Lower Manhattan,” Dowhie said.
Not all Downtowners are on board with the idea of selling a subscriber-only flight to safety when a catastrophe strikes.
“My first reaction is, how disgustingly repulsive,” said Patrick Harris, captain of the historic sailing ship Ventura, who participated in the epic 9/11 boat lift — free of charge. “This flies in the face of the ethics of the boating community, the first tenet of which is give aid to those in peril. You don’t make that a commercial service, you do it because it’s the right to do.”
Nautical ethics aside, Harris, who operates out of IGY’s North Cove marina in the summer sailing season, did admit that the business plan makes sense, whether he likes it or not.
“From IGY or North Cove’s perspective, it makes good business sense. But from Plan B Marine’s perspective they’re exploiting fear. You might as well vote for Trump.”
Currently, Plan B Marine docks one boat at North Cove Marine, with another soon to follow, although the North Cove’s management is flexible in allowing the business to expand its operation as its Downtown market expands, said Dowhie.
Though the evacuation provider keeps trained captains on standby, Plan B Marine also trains customers to operate the Coast Guard-certified craft. Subscribers are encouraged to have four to five members of its survivor group primed and ready to operate the craft.
The boat currently moored at North Cove, a 25-foot Safe Boat Defender, goes for the low-low price of just $750-per month for year-round access. A small price to pay, perhaps, when the zombie apocalypse starts.