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Wishful Riverdale Commuters Willing To Trade The Rail Fore The Shore
“As you can see,” Ari Hoffnung says of the commute by ferry along the Hudson River, “there’s no traffic or congestion here.”
ARI HOFFNUNG, a rosy-cheeked 34-year-old bundled in a dark overcoat over his business suit, boarded the 7:50 a.m. ferry from Yonkers as a rising sun bathed the Palisades in golden light. Seagulls squawked overhead, and whitecaps licked the edge of the yellow, high-speed catamaran as it glided smoothly down the Hudson River.
“As you can see,” Mr. Hoffnung said as he surveyed the river from his perch at the bow of the boat, “there’s no traffic or congestion here. No tolls. No delays.”
His point was underscored four miles south of Yonkers as the ferry passed Riverdale, where Mr. Hoffnung lives. Gazing wistfully at the shoreline, he imagined out loud how convenient it would be if the ferry could stop and pick up passengers there.
The idea came to him last summer when he was waiting at the Metro-North station at Spuyten Duyvil to begin his daily commute to Midtown, where he works in finance. In the distance, he saw the yellow commuter ferry operated by New York Water Taxi, a private company, that had begun service in May from Yonkers to the World Financial Center and Wall Street. A luxury vessel, the boat is outfitted with nearly 100 upholstered seats and a flat-screen television set.
To make the idea a reality, Mr. Hoffnung formed an organization called the Riverdale Ferry Coalition, which includes two other members. The group’s activities were first reported in The Riverdale Press, a local weekly.
Because Mr. Hoffnung, who ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 2005, works in Midtown, he would not be among the likely users of such a service. But in his opinion, the audience could be sizable. According to the 2000 census, more than 2,000 people from Riverdale, North Riverdale and Fieldston drive to work in Manhattan, and the commute to Lower Manhattan by bus and subway can take more than an hour.
Critics of the idea, however, point out that building a ferry dock in Riverdale is hardly as simple a task as it might seem to many New Yorkers, who, though a coastal people, are often clueless about matters involving boats and water.
“You’d have to build a significant pier and a significant structure to get to the pier,” said Anthony Perez Cassino, chairman of Community Board 8. “There’s no easy way a ferry could come in and out, and there’s been strong sensitivity in the past to development along the shoreline.”
Mr. Cassino also expressed reservations about potential ticket prices. Currently, a monthly pass for the Yonkers ferry to Lower Manhattan costs $400, compared with about $230 for a monthly Metro-North pass and MetroCard.
Another obstacle might be lower ridership during winter. Starting last week, New York Water Taxi suspended its service on the East River for four months, in part because of fewer customers and rising fuel costs.
Nevertheless, Mr. Hoffnung remains optimistic, and he predicts that his neighbors would be willing to pay higher ticket prices in exchange for a faster and easier trip.
“When you talk about cutting 25 minutes each way off a commute,” Mr. Hoffnung said as the ferry pulled up at the World Financial Center pier at 8:30, just 40 minutes after leaving Yonkers, “people either sleep more, spend more time with their kids in the morning or get home earlier for dinner. I think there’s a willingness to pay a premium for that.”
Tags: ARI HOFFNUNG, Bronx Living, Bronx Neighborhood News, Bronx News, Bronx People, Hudson River, Metro-North, New York Water Taxi, Palisades, Riverdale, Riverdale Ferry Coalition, Spuyten Duyvil, World Financial Center, Yonkers