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Residents Call on City to Bring Ferry Service to the East Bronx

By Alice Speri | January 24, 2014 10:26am

CASTLE HILLBronx residents want in on a proposed expansion to the city’s ferry service. 

Residents and transit advocates discussed the possibility of bringing ferries to the Bronx at a meeting Wednesday night, after the New York City Economic Development Corporation released a Citywide Ferry Study earlier this month suggesting 11 new stops along five additional ferry routes, including Soundview.

Soundview and Throgs Neck, in the East Bronx, are densely populated neighborhoods with sparse public transit options.

“Creating wider accessibility to the Bronx waterfront is an important policy consideration,” the report said. “There is opportunity for connecting Bronx residents to hospitals and other job centers in the Upper East Side.”

Though there is no definitive proposal or plan at this time to expand ferry service to the Bronx, the study has the overwhelming support of the community, which would benefit from an influx of visitors to the more isolated parts of the borough, as well as drastically reduced commutes to Manhattan.

Most residents touted the ferry as a long-awaited alternative to express buses, which are regularly delayed in traffic.

Rep. Jose Serrano hosted the forum to discuss the possible ferry route in collaboration with community representatives and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, which promotes the greater New York area’s waterways and eco-friendly transportation.

“We all agree that our neighborhoods deserve a variety of transportation options, just like other boroughs in the city,” Serrano said in a statement to DNAinfo. “When the community has a unified vision, I will be working diligently to support it in all ways possible.”

Roland Lewis, president of the waterfront alliance, said that the Bronx is “grossly underserved.”

“The subways are far away. It takes a couple hours to get to most spots in Manhattan,” he said.

The group had been working to bring ferry service to the Bronx with the previous city administration, but the project never materialized because of budget concerns.

“They announced a commitment toward creating a five-borough ferry service. Unfortunately, we got four out of five boroughs, but we haven’t gotten any in the Bronx yet,” Lewis said.

Lewis and other supporters pointed to the wide success of the East River Ferry as evidence that city residents need and will use alternative transportation options. 

An online petition calling on the city to bring ferry service to the Bronx reached 672 signatures on Thursday.

“The remarkable success of the East River Ferry has proven that New Yorkers will use ferry service that is fast, reliable, affordable, and convenient,” said the petition, which calls for a six-month pilot program connecting Throgs Neck, Clason Point and Manhattan. “We ask that you ‘test the waters’ in the Bronx.”

Joseph Oddo, wrote in the petition’s comments that ferry service would allow the East Bronx “to be more engaged with the rest of NYC.”

“A ferry service means a Renaissance of the East Bronx,” he wrote.

Ingrid Gonzalez, another supporter, said the service would bring more visitors to the borough.

“We need to increase accessibility to the Bronx. Our waterfronts are beautiful yet underutilized or advertised to non-Bronx residents,” she wrote. “Increase our marketability, bring new people to the Bronx.”

The citywide expansions proposed in the NYCEDC report would cost an estimated annual subsidy of close to $10 million, plus an $80 million capital investment to build docking stations, including barges, ticketing machines, benches and bike racks. A ferry route reaching Soundview would cost about $19.6 million, according to the report, which also mentions that extending service to the borough would entail additional challenges due to distance and modest ridership.

“The subsidy levels mentioned above are immediately reduced by 40 percent if Route 3B (which includes service to Soundview) is not included in a service expansion,” the NYCEDC report said.

But supporters of expansion to the Bronx hope the borough won’t be left out once again.

They say the ferry is “a real New York bargain” and that the infrastructure work required would be a “drop in the bucket” when compared to subway work and other transit projects.

Subsidies for the ferry would be comparable to those for city buses and one-seventh the cost of subsidies for the express bus, on which many Bronx residents rely heavily.

“As we have seen on the East River service, the bang for your buck is enormous,” said Lewis, adding that the expansion would reflect the mayor’s commitment to “transit equity.”

“We’re hopeful,” Lewis said.