HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. -- While all eyes seem to be focused on the $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge project and what it means for folks traveling back and forth across the Hudson, one Rockland resident is looking at improving transit options a little farther north.
Jared Rodriguez, a blogger and unabashed booster of all things Haverstraw, has been circulating an online petition for several years asking state and federal officials to back the expansion of ferry service between the village of 11,000 souls and the town of Ossining on the other side of the Hudson.
The double-hulled vessel -- capable of speeds up to 38 knots, or about 44 mph -- makes 14 trips a day and takes 11 minutes to cross the river.
But it does not run during off-peak hours such as midday, at night or the weekends.
(Every time the petition hits a signature milestone, it is sent to the appropriate officials. Right now Rodriguez has 700 signatures; the next milestone he hopes to hit is 1,000.)
It is an important key, he says, to economic development.
Replacing the aging span is fine, he says, but does not address the lack of viable transportation alternatives or the issue of “double-digit tolls” for drivers, Rodriguez’s petition says.
The ferry, with more than a decade’s worth of success under its belt, moves hundreds of residents from North Rockland, Clarkstown and southeastern Orange County across the river to jobs in Westchester and New York City, he said.
Conversely, hundreds of folks from the other side use the ferry to access jobs, recreation and businesses such as inns and restaurants in Haverstraw and beyond, he said.
Without expanded transit options, Rockland “continues to feel the negative effects of jobs inaccessibility, car-oriented development, pollution, pressure on government services, high taxes and stagnating growth,” according to Rodriguez’s petition.
Rodriguez cited a study done by the Brookings Institute that he said found that the New York City metropolitan area had “the worst urban/suburban imbalance for transit access to jobs.”
Citing the study, he said cities in the region have a labor access rate of 58 percent, while outer suburbs such as Rockland have a labor access rate of 14 percent.
“This is a very large imbalance,” Rodriguez says, adding that it's reflected in Rockland's "lackluster" job and housing market.
Off-peak and weekend rail service has driven record growth for Metro-North, Rodriguez says.
Weehawken, N.J.-based NY Waterway has been operating the ferry under contract from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority -- along with the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry upstream -- since 2000.
The ferry is a "feeder" service from Haverstraw to Ossining on Metro-North's Hudson Line. Haverstraw could be a virtual "station" on the Metro-North Line if the ferry met all trains stopping in Ossining, Rodriguez says.
"This would effectively put Haverstraw on the Hudson Line, which would have a tremendous impact on North Rockland's (Haverstraw specifically) economy."
Metro-North declined to comment Wednesday.
The railroad’s commuter service handled 85 million trips in 2011 and is now adding 230 mostly off-peak trains, he said.
Back in 2012, Haverstraw village officials passed a resolution asking for an expansion of services. In it, the village said the ferry, the first between Haverstraw and Ossining since 1851, had operated “uninterrupted” except in extremely inclement weather.
The village’s downtown, which is undergoing a renaissance, would benefit from having more visitors, especially during the weekends, the resolution stated.
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