In Brooklyn, Ikea Offers Sailing Option

Big-box store Ikea has gone into a sleepy industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., changing not only the landscape but the transportation options it offers. Now you can get your Sklar bookshelves and sail back to Manhattan.

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NPR: All that free transportation is being provided by the furniture giant Ikea as a way of getting people to their new store. But for some, it's also a convenient short cut across the East River. NPR' Robert Smith tried out the Ikea commute.

ROBERT SMITH: Normally, to get from Wall Street, where we are right now, to Brooklyn - specifically Red Hook, Brooklyn - you would have to take two subways, maybe a city bus. You'd probably have to walk.

GIL TALIBER: Yeah. It was a long, long schlep.

SMITH: But this is a beautiful, sunny day, a ferry boat is about to arrive. What's wrong with that?

TALIBER: Nothing at all. My name's Gil Taliber. My wife's name is Armgaard(ph). And we're going to Red Hook partly for the ride, but also to buy of sheets.

SMITH: From Ikea. People may not know this, but Ikea, in order to find a space in a crowded as New York City, had to locate their giant store out in a very industrial neighborhood of Brooklyn. And so, in order to get people there, they've had to provide basically free public transportation.

(SOUNDBITE OF BANGING)

SMITH: And sure enough, totally free to walk on the ship, and we're about to embark. So I've come down to here in the hold, and I'm sitting here with...

DELORES ARTIST: Delores Artist.

SMITH: ...from Staten Island, who is used to talking ferries everywhere, so she knows this could actually be a public transportation option, a free one for people.

ARTIST: If they could do a better job than MTA, go for it.

SMITH: Well, you know, I live in Brooklyn, and they run a shuttle bus going the other way up to where I live. So I'm thinking, I mean, I could take the boat to the shuttle bus.

ARTIST: Sure. Sure. Believe me, some people, they're just not coming to Ikea for it. But...

SMITH: It's New York City. You offer something for free...

ARTIST: And they will jump on it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: The ferry drops us off in front of - surprise - the Ikea store on the waterfront of Brooklyn. And the downside of commuting by Ikea is you're tempted to go inside. I do have to say this, though: This is the only commute in town where you get free samples.

Unidentified Woman: They're Swedish meatballs.

SMITH: Nice.

The final leg of my journey is get on one of the shuttle buses that wind their way through Brooklyn. Does this go to 9th Street?

Unidentified Man: Yes, sir.

SMITH: And the best part of the ride is I get the honor of sitting next to Niche Rodriguez(ph).

NICHE RODRIGUEZ: Yes, yes. I cannot wait (unintelligible).

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SMITH: What did this cost you?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. It cost me 7.99.

SMITH: See, this is what happens. You think you're just going to take a free bus over here. You think it's all going to be a free morning.

RODRIGUEZ: No. They have a way of charging you for this bus ride.

SMITH: So you're saying there's no free ride in New York City.

RODRIGUEZ: There ain't.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE)

SMITH: And the shuttle bus has dropped me off at 9th Street and 4th Avenue, about two blocks from my home. Total commute time: around 42 minutes, not counting the time I spent in the store. And the price: free - as long as you don't buy anything along the way.

Robert Smith, NPR News, finally home in Brooklyn.

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