Expand the Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry into “Off-Peak” Hours

BY JARED RODRIGUEZ

The State of New York is moving toward replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. With no viable alternatives to driving and paying soon-to-be double digit (no one knows how high) tolls, we need a solution to preserve growth and economic development that makes historic Hudson River towns like Haverstraw more attractive to those seeking downtown living in the Hudson Valley. A wiry group of residents and community leaders in the Village of Haverstraw and the Village Board of Trustees itself have called on Governor Cuomo and New York State government to consider expanding the existing Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry system beyond commuter hours.

The Village Board recently passed a formal resolution that calls on Governor Cuomo to publicly commit to studying, once more, passenger transit service across the proposed Tappan Zee Bridge replacement and focus on the expanding the ferry services in the Village. Without expanded transit, Rockland continues to feel the negative effects of jobs inaccessibility, car-oriented development, pollution, pressure on government services, high taxes, and stagnating growth. Please, read a recent report by the Brookings Institution ranking the NYC Metro area as the worst urban/suburban imbalance for transit access to jobs: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2012/07/11-transit-jobs-tomer

In particular, Rockland’s lack of transit access and weak development patterns pushes the metro area to achieve this poor ranking. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Papers/2012/7/transit%20labor%20tomer/pdf/New_York.pdf Cities in the region have a labor access rate of 58 percent. Conversely, outer suburbs have a labor access rate of around 14%. This is a very large imbalance. We are beginning to see the consequences of this imbalance as lackluster jobs and housing market performance in these transit weak areas. The State must consider existing transit services when meeting the Cuomo Administration at the negotiation table in preparation for building the colossal new Tappan Zee Bridge and planning for future transit service.

In Haverstraw, the Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry has enjoyed major success over the last 10 years. Each day, the ferry service moves hundreds of North Rockland, Clarkstown, and southeastern Orange County residents across the Hudson River to jobs in Westchester and New York. A growing number of Westchester and New York City residents are using the ferry to access jobs and recreation opportunities in Haverstraw, Rockland and beyond. Visitors arrive each Friday evening, stay in local inns and eat at local restaurants. The Haverstraw Downtown Restaurant Row is beginning to boom and more visitors arriving on foot and by ferry can only boost this emerging economic phenomenon.

The ferry is a vital service to the community and to Rockland as a whole, driving real value for tourism and development. Downtown Haverstraw’s continued growth and renaissance is contingent upon expanded reliable and convenient off-peak ferry service to Westchester and beyond. Today, the ferry does not run mid-day, at night, nor on weekends. Expanded transportation service would capitalize on clear demographic and housing preference shifts occurring now, where young home buyers prefer to locate nearer to quality, walkable downtowns and convenient transit service into New York City. Such an expansion of transit options in this area of the County would have significant impacts to home values from New City to Tomkins Cove.

Off-peak and weekend service is driving record growth for MetroNorth Railroad. The Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry is a “feeder” service to the Ossining MetroNorth rail station. There is no reason Haverstraw cannot become a “station” on the MetroNorth Hudson Line, given expanded service to meet each departing and arriving train at Ossining. MetroNorth is part of the busiest commuter railroad on this continent, which handled 85 million trips in 2011 and is now adding 230 mostly off-peak trains to schedules. Please, read: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-07-19/metro-north-expanding-weekend-service-as-n-dot-y-dot-mta-restores-cuts Ferry schedule expansion is relatively cheap when compared to rail or even bus expansion.

Expanding ferry service, and existing rail service, should be a bargaining chip in discussions over the future of cross-Hudson transportation. If Governor Cuomo cannot consider transit for the Tappan Zee Bridge on the day the bridge opens, then he should supply alternatives and steps toward creating expanded service in the corridor. The region cannot functionally grow without transit service enhancements. We cannot forget that by enhancing our existing ferry (and rail) service, government can create real and lasting economic growth.

To lend your name to the petition, please visit: http://www.change.org/petitions/boost-the-economy-expand-the-ferry