Bayonne residents and leaders alike have been clamoring for a ferry for as long as anyone in the city can remember, but manymight not believe it until they see it. On Friday, May 18, there was finally something to see — Federal Transit Administration officials, in the flesh, confirming a $650,000 federal grant for dock construction on a ferry terminalon the southern shore of the former Military Ocean Terminal Base.
“It took longer than I thought,” said Bayonne Chief Financial Officer Terrence Malloy, whose entire thirteen-year tenure at city hall has involved plans to bring a ferry to Bayonne. “We’re very happy with this day.”
What company will operate the ferry is still undecided; bids have not yet been returned to the city’s April request for proposals. But it’s safe to assume that NY Waterway is the most likely candidate. It’sthe only ferry operator serving commuters from Hudson County to Manhattan.
Also up in the air is what a ferry ride will cost, the total cost of constructing the ferry terminal, how many ferries will operate, what those routes will be, and a concrete time frame for completion. Malloy, however, speculated that a ferry would be online by “this time next year.”
Bayonne officials hope that the ferry will help bring new residents to Bayonne.
“What I realized was that the ferry service would have been very helpful for today’s meeting, and it became very apparent that it is really going to serve this community very well,” said Stephen Goodman, the NY/NJ regional administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, who commutes daily via ferry to Manhattan from NJ.“It’s an incredible way to start a day, an incredible way to end the day. It’s going to be a game changer for the passengers that use it.”
Bayonne’s grant is part of $58.2 million in FTA grants distributed to 20 passenger ferry projects in 12 states.
“It’s an incredible way to start a day, an incredible way to end the day. It’s going to be a game changer for the passengers that use it.”– Stephen Goodman, NY/NJ regional administrator for the Federal Transit Administration
A vision realized
“There was always a vision. We always understood what it would mean for the community of Bayonne and the residents, how it changes the lifestyle of people who are here and people’s quality of life in getting to work,” said Bayonne City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski.“It’s something that took a lot of people and thank you to all that made it happen.”
The award comes after the city agreed in March to lease a piece of land from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for $2 million over 10 years. That tract of land, where the press conference was held, is about a half mile east of the 34th Street Light Rail station on the southern shore of the base.Eventually, the 34th Street pedestrian bridge will be extended over Route 440 and into a park that will extend all the way to the terminal.
“This is going to bring people here and change the dynamics of the future of Bayonne for the better,” Ashe-Nadrowski said.
City officials hope that the ferry will increase demand for housing development on the Military Ocean Terminal Base because it will expand the city’s tax base, ostensibly making it easier for a historically cash-strapped city to pay for its schools and services. That’s why city officials pledged to fund 60 percent of the project, with FTA grants making up 20 percent.
“Just to be frank, part of why we’re here in Bayonne is that a lot of people in the ferry application process came in and said they’d put in 20 percent of the money themselves,” said Matthew Kopko, a counselor to the deputy secretary and senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who also happens to be a Bayonne resident. “Bayonne came in and said we’re going to put in 60 percent. Those are the things we love to see.”
“The mere fact that the ferry service is making progress, we’ve had other developers excited to build down here now looking to take their projects higher,” said Malloy.
The annual cost of ferry service from Paulus Hook to Manhattan is more than $2,700, or about 8 percent of Bayonne’s per capita income of $32,000. General personal finance principles call for about 15 percent of income to be spent on transportation. Factor in the annual cost of a vehicle, which most Bayonne residents own,and the high annual cost of a ferry may further burden many residents.
In NYC, Mayor Bill De Blasio has implemented a single-fare system in which ferries cost the same as a subway ride – $2.75. That doesn’t seem to be likely in Bayonne, where officials and developers imagine an enclave of high-income housing on the base to feed the ferry.
But officials certainly have a stake in mass transit affordability.
Said Malloy, “We want it to be affordable to Bayonne residents, so they can use it as a regular form of transportation to go to NYC as opposed to, it would just be nice to go on a ferry every now and then.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com.