Bayonne chooses ferry operator

City crests the wave of river commuting

The site of the Bayonne ferry terminal
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The site of the Bayonne ferry terminal

SeaStreak, a private ferry operator based in Atlantic Highlands that serves the NY/NJ, Long Island, and New England regions, may come to the former Military Ocean Terminal Base (MOTBY) if a resolution designating the company as the city’s ferry operator is approved at the Bayonne City Council’s October 17 meeting.

The terminal, currently under construction, is on a 1.5-acre tract of land about a half-mile east of the 34th Street light rail station. It is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and in March of 2017, the city agreed to lease it for $2 million over 10 years.

Fares, routes, schedules, and when the ferry will begin operation are yet to be determined. Right now, SeaStreak runs a ferry route from Highlands and Atlantic Highlands in Monmouth County to Wall Street and 34th Street in Manhattan. Bayonne may be an added stop along the route. According to city officials, SeaStreak may also provide seasonal ferry service for Jersey Shore day trippers. The Bayonne terminal would be SeaStreak’s first in Hudson County. The rest are operated by NY Waterway.

Fares from Monmouth County to Manhattan are $27 per person, with a $5 fee to bring a bicycle. In April of 2017, city officials estimated a ferry would come online by the spring of 2018. With that date long past, spring of 2019 seems likely.

“We talk about being the gold coast all the time. This is what completes that transformation for us.” – Gary La Pelusa

Residents and city officials have been calling for ferry service in Bayonne for more than a decade. Until now, the amount of residential development on the city’s eastern shore was insufficient to support the demand for ferry service. That’s changed in recent years as Mayor James Davis’s administration has implemented housing policies that encourage real estate development on MOTBY, albeit by employing controversial tax abatements. Also coming to MOTBY is a Costco, which is currently under construction, and a waterfront walkway on MOTBY’s southern shore.

“We are very excited about the return of ferry service to Bayonne,” said Mayor Davis in a press release. “The ferry would provide a convenient commute between Bayonne and New York City, and would make Bayonne a more attractive location for commuters.”

“This is a very exciting time. We talk about being the Gold Coast all the time. This is what completes that transformation for us,” said Third Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa, whose ward includes the area of the ferry terminal. “Transportation in and out of Bayonne really defines our town. With the Bayonne Bridge and NJ Turnpike projects done, this is the last transportation project that completes our transformation.”

SeaStreak responded earlier this year to a request for proposals issued in April of 2017 for a ferry provider. The same month, the city secured a $650,000 federal grant for dock construction on a ferry terminal on MOTBY’s southern shore, where SeaStreak would pick up passengers. The grant is part of $58.2 million in Federal Transit Administration grants distributed to 20 passenger ferry projects in 12 states.

“There’s no better way to commute,” said Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, who commuted by ferry for years to Manhattan from Brady’s Dock in Bergen Point, which closed down in the early 1990s. “You know what was great about it, when there were snowstorms, they asked how I got here. The ferry didn’t get interrupted by snow. I could jump on the ferry, walk to my office and be at work. Never had traffic. I was always on time.”

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com