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Nyack Weighing Benefits Of Ferry Service, Mayor Says

The Admiral Richard E. Bennis ferry, which goes back and forth across the Hudson from Nyack to Ossining, approaches the dock. Nyack is weighing options for a similar ferry service from the village to either Tarrytown in Westchester or Manhattan.
The Admiral Richard E. Bennis ferry, which goes back and forth across the Hudson from Nyack to Ossining, approaches the dock. Nyack is weighing options for a similar ferry service from the village to either Tarrytown in Westchester or Manhattan. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The Nyack Marina is where Mayor Jen Laird-White is proposing as a site for ferry service from the village to Westchester or mid-town Manhattan.
The Nyack Marina is where Mayor Jen Laird-White is proposing as a site for ferry service from the village to Westchester or mid-town Manhattan. Photo Credit: nyack-ny.gov
Nyack Mayor Jen Laird-White says she believes ferry service to Westchester or mid-town Manhattan could be a good thing for the village.
Nyack Mayor Jen Laird-White says she believes ferry service to Westchester or mid-town Manhattan could be a good thing for the village. Photo Credit: nyack-ny.gov

NYACK, N.Y. -- Nyack residents and officials appear to be coming around to the idea of ferry service from the Hudson River village to Westchester or mid-town Manhattan, says Mayor Jen Laird-White.

A petition, being circulated online via MoveOn.org, a progressive public policy advocacy group, has garnered more than 300 signatures from pro-ferry folks. And a 2015 feasibility study, conducted by Columbia University students, has concluded that there are several options that would be good fits for the village.

Back in the 1990’s, the MTA floated the idea of launching a ferry from Nyack, but it was quickly squashed by opposition from the community, which feared the potential effects of increased traffic.

A 500-car parking lot had also been proposed and a lot of business leaders and government officials weren’t too keen about the MTA or the Thruway becoming major property owners in the village.

The petition is addressed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and asks the Westchester resident to review the 2015 Columbia University study, initiate the necessary environmental and traffic analyses, and to “get behind this project.”

The study was a project for student in the university's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Laird-White herself says she’s a “very big believer” that a ferry would “be great.”

“Clearly, we do need more transit options,” the mayor said.

The ferry would likely leave from the Nyack Marina at the foot of Main Street and land at the Tarrytown Boat Club, about 2.5 miles across the river.

The village is proceeding cautiously – but optimistically -- as it gathers evidence to make the case for a ferry service.

“We’re doing serious work on this, but we have to be sure that it’s something the community wants,” she said.

Backing that up is the village’s recently updated comprehensive master plan, the mayor said.

Among the things that still need addressing, the mayor said, are: parking and where the ferry would be docking. Earlier this year, she said the village was looking at the Nyack Marina at the foot of Main Street as docking site.

According to the Columbia study, these are the three main options:

  • Ferrying commuters on a 10-minute trip across the river to the Metro-North train station in Tarrytown. This would, Laird-White said, require subsidies from the MTA for capital improvements and operating costs.
  • Weekend excursions from the 39th Street pier in mid-town Manhattan to Nyack and the lower Hudson Valley as a test of providing more extensive commuter services.
  • And lastly, a 40-minute trip to midtown Manhattan. This would require more infrastructure and changes in parking, the mayor said.
  • Currently, there is not a market for ferry service to lower Manhattan.

According to the petition, Rockland is the second highest taxed county in the nation, yet it has “practically no mass transit options into New York City,” which is just 20 miles away and the biggest jobs center in the United States.

Real estate values are not keeping pace with Westchester, across the river, and are not, the petition says, “in sync” with the taxes Rockland residents pay.

According to a report by Nyack News & Views, the first chartered ferry service from the village was launched in 1839 in a sailboat and continued, in one form or the other, until 1941.

Contrary to popular belief, the media outlet says, it wasn’t the advent of the car that killed off the ferry, but the bridges they were driven over.

The Tappan Zee Bridge, which is now undergoing a $3.9 billion rebirth, was opened in 1955. The Bear Mountain Bridge, about 30 miles north, opened in 1924 and the George Washington Bridge, which links Fort Lee, N.J., to upper Manhattan, was built in 1931.

Besides transit benefits, the Columbia study found, ferry service could lower greenhouse gas emissions and “jump start” a weekend tourism business in Nyack and the rest of the county.

Copies of the village's comprehensive master plan are available at Village Hall, 9 North Broadway.

For more on the Columbia study, click here.

To view the MoveOn.org petition, click here.

To read Nyack News & Views stories on the ferry issue, click here and here .

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