Ferry service on Newark Bay?

Residents are onboard

Officials from the Hudson County Planning Department led a discussion on March 4 about the prospect of ferry service to and from the west side of Bayonne. The county has been surveying residents as part of the Hudson County Ferry Service Expansion Study to gauge interest in ferry routes between local municipalities as well as to New York City.

Meeting virtually, more than 50 people took part in the event, including Hudson County officials, City of Bayonne representatives, real estate developers, and commuters.

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The service would operate in addition to the service already in the works from the former Military Ocean Terminal on Bayonne’s east side to New York City.

Expanding ferry service

Kevin Force, principal planner from the Hudson County Department of Planning, said that the ferry planned to run between MOTBY and Manhattan was “an inspiration for us” to look at additional ferry options.

He cited several reasons for the county’s interest in ferries. The county’s dense population, waterfront access, congested roadways, and crowded transit systems all point to the need to expand transportation options.

Possible sites include the waterfront along Newark Bay, the bay front on the west side of Jersey City, South Harrison, South Kearny, West New York, and Hoboken.

Force cited the success of NYC ferries between various neighborhoods in New York. Those ferries, he said, operate with subsidies, and can offer fares of only $2.75, the same price as the bus and subway in New York.

Force polled meeting participants about the factors involved in taking a ferry. The most important was having a ferry that would travel to where they want to go. The second was the availability of ferries, and their schedules.

Other factors were frequent service, pedestrian access and connections to multiple modes of transportation.

West side ferries?

Possible terminals include the former Texaco site at Bergen Point, the foot of West 5th Street, the former A&P property, and the lower level of DiDomenico-16th Street Park. West siders said the neighborhood around West 16th Street was underserved by public transit.

According to county planning officials, among the issues are waterfront access, transportation connections, and the water depths in Newark Bay. Maritime traffic in the Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay between Elizabeth and Newark would also have to be considered. County officials pointed out that there are variable water depths in Newark Bay off  Bayonne.

Favored destinations for west side ferries included Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth.

Broad support

Residents called for equity, affordability, and a focus on areas where there is limited access to transit.

Developer Ehab Gamal of Bayonne suggested two ferry terminals: the foot of West 16th Street and Bergen Point, advocating for a shuttle to pick up ferry passengers.

Another developer, Gary DeBode of Gallium Real Estate, advocated for a ferry terminal at the former A&P site being redeveloped by Gallium into senior living. He also pointed out the importance of jobs expected at a future movie studio at the former Texaco property and the demand for transportation those jobs would create.

Resident Shavonn Mainor said that she would appreciate a quicker commute to New York. She endorsed the idea of a shuttle to any additional ferry stops.

Bayonne Nature Club member Mike Ruscigno said that ferries can be used for leisure activities, recalling the days when ferries from Brady’s Dock in Bayonne carried passengers to Sandy Hook. Force responded that the county is looking at ferry trips to the Jersey Shore, Jersey Gardens Mall, the Prudential Center, and Harrison for Red Bulls’ games.

According to Force, the ferry planned to run between the former Military Ocean Terminal and Manhattan was “an inspiration” to study these additional ferry options. He said that comments from the Bayonne meeting and other recent meetings, plus the results of an online county survey, would be shared with the public.

Currently, there is no funding to execute any of the ideas.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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