02.19.15

SCHUMER PUSHES COAST GUARD TO KEEP HAVERSTRAW-OSSINING FERRY RUNNING MORE FREQUENTLY IN WINTER – FERRY SERVICE LINKING 150K RIDERS PER YEAR TO METRO-NORTH’S HUDSON LINE HAS BEEN SHUT DOWN 17 DAYS THIS WINTER DUE TO ICE LEVELS

The Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry Provides A Key Connection To The Metro-North’s Hudson Line for Many Rockland County Residents, But Service Is Spotty During Winter Months; Ferry Closes 18 Weekdays Per Winter on Average – When Ferry Is Closed, Riders Are Forced to Take Buses To Tarrytown Instead, Making Commute Considerably Longer


Schumer Urges Coast Guard to Work With Metro-North & Develop a Plan That Will Help Ferry Continue To Run Safely Even When There is Ice on the Hudson – Coast Guard Cutters Currently Clear Ice Out Of the Way for Ships Traveling North-South, Should do More To Prioritize Ferry Traveling East-West

 

Schumer: The Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry Should Be An Asset for Commuters in Winter, Not A Nightmare

Today, at the Haverstraw Ferry Launch, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Coast Guard to identify ways it can help keep the Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry running more frequently during the winter. This ferry, which links close to 150,000 riders per year to the Metro-North’s Hudson line, shuts down on average 18 weekdays per winter and has already closed 17 days this year due to Hudson River ice levels. Schumer said that this ferry is critical to the commute for many Rockland County residents, and when it shuts down, riders are forced to take buses across the Hudson to Tarrytown instead, making their commute considerably longer. Schumer called on the Coast Guard to develop a plan, in conjunction with Metro-North, that will limit the number of days this ferry is closed. Schumer said that the Coast Guard has cutters that clear ice along the Hudson and they should do more to prioritize clearing a path for this ferry.

“Many Rockland County commuters depend on the Haverstraw-Ossining ferry to get to and from work each day, and we must make sure the ferry is as dependable an option as it can possibly be. When it’s running, the ferry can be a real godsend for local residents who are able to shave precious minutes off of their commute. But in the winter, frequent service suspensions turn this ferry from a blessing into an inconvenience, and we need to do all we can to change that,” said Schumer. “I am calling on the U.S. Coast Guard, which patrols the river and has multiple boats that cut ice, to do more to prioritize keeping this ferry running more frequently. The Coast Guard should be able to find a way to keep the ferry open more often without compromising safety.”

The Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry, which runs between Rockland and Westchester Counties, provides a critical link to the Metro-North Hudson line for many commuters west of the Hudson River. Schumer explained that this ferry, along with the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry that links Orange and Dutchess Counties via the Hudson River, allows commuters to cross the waterway each day to access Metro-North trains that carry them to their jobs in Westchester and New York City. Schumer said these ferries provide commuters and residents the convenience of avoiding car traffic on major roadways and interstates, like the Tappan Zee Bridge, during rush hour periods. According to Metro-North, since 2001, ridership on the Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry in particular has experienced significant growth, by approximately 320 percent. While there were roughly 70 passengers per day back in 2001, ferry ridership increased over the years to roughly 300 per weekday by 2014.

However, Schumer said, despite the increased ridership on this ferry, over the past few years, service has been suspended for days, weeks, and even months, during the winter. Schumer said that, almost every winter, the Haverstraw-Ossining ferry must shut down because icing conditions on the Hudson River make regular operation unsafe for passengers and for the boats that carry passengers. When the ferry is closed, residents and commuters are forced to take buses across the Hudson River to Tarrytown, making the commute considerably longer and more difficult.

Because the ferry shuts down so frequently, Schumer is calling on the Coast Guard, which has boats with ice cutters that can clear ice along the Hudson, to work with Metro-North to develop a protocol from removing ice from the river that would limit the number of days this ferry is closed during the winter. Schumer said that the Coast Guard’s is tasked with clearing this ice, something they do all the time in winter along the Hudson, and they should prioritize clearing a path and making safe conditions for this ferry because it is a critical link for local residents who depend on it to get to and from work each day.

Schumer explained this ferry service has also led to increased tourism throughout the Lower Hudson Valley as a result of increased ridership and convenience. According to a report done by The Journal Newsin 2010this ferry has become a critical part of economic development in the region due to the revenue these visitors to the Lower Hudson Valley generate. According to the report, the visitors who come in via the ferry end up staying at local inns and hotels as well as eating at local restaurants and visiting local attractions. However, Schumer said, the tourism generated by the ferry is negatively impacted in the winter when the ferries frequently shut down. Schumer said the unreliable and suspended service during the winter could potentially threaten the growth of this transportation asset that has garnered significant investment from both the federal and state governments.

 

Schumer said that, despite the fact that the Coast Guard breaks up ice on the Hudson River, it is insufficient to keep the ferries open many days out of the year. Schumer made it clear that he did not want the ferries to run if conditions are unsafe, but he wants the Coast Guard to come up with a plan to see what more they can do to make the ferry run more frequently. Schumer said the Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry should be a regional asset to commuters, rather than an inconvenience every time it shuts down.

 

Schumer has long fought to ensure the Coast Guard has the resources it needs to be able to move these cutters up and down the Hudson River for the purpose of clearing the ice during the winter months. In 2011, Schumer stood in Ulster County in the Town of Saugerties and pushed to keep the Esopus Creek dredged so that these ice cutters can easily move from Saugerties, where they are stationed, down its channels to the Hudson River. Schumer explained that, if the Coast Guard cannot get the cutters from the port to the river it must patrol, they could be forced to move it elsewhere. This would have taken a key resource out of the Hudson Valley and the critical equipment needed by the Coast Guard to clear this ice for commuters and those who take the ferry. In 2010, Schumer led the fight to keep nearly 100 Coast Guard members in New York City, after a push to move them to the Port of Boston. The Coast Guard uses aircrafts, 140-foot seagoing icebreaking tugs, 65-foot small harbor tugs 225-foot Juniper-class buoy tenders to break and remove ice up and down the Hudson. The boats are stationed in Dutchess, Ulster and New York City.

 

Schumer was joined by Rockland County Executive Ed Day, NYS Senator David Carlucci, and NYS Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski.

 

“For Rockland County commuters who depend on the Haverstraw-to-Ossining ferry, the fickleness of Mother Nature this winter has made it difficult to schedule a workday.  Driving a car to a bus to a Metro-North train is far too disruptive for any longer than a few days.  I join with Senator Schumer in calling on the United States Coast Guard to keep this region free from dangerous ice.  We simply cannot allow the weather to chill the growth in ferry ridership and freeze economic growth in our towns and villages,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day.

 

“The Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry is a critical transportation hub for Rocklanders commuters. Any stoppage in ferry service, whether for a day or weeks, disrupts the commute of hundreds of residents who rely on the ferry to get to work every day. I applaud the efforts of Senator Schumer and the Coast Guard to reduce the service interruptions during winter months,” said Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the United States Coast Guard appears below:

 

Dear Commandant Zukunft,

 

I am writing to express my concern on behalf of constituents in the Lower Hudson Valley who are experiencing long travel times and often must find alternative transportation due to the suspension of the Haverstraw-Ossining and Newburgh-Beacon ferries. Almost every winter, both of the ferries must shut down due to icing conditions on the Hudson River that would make regular operation unsafe for passengers and for the boats that carry passengers. This regular suspension of service presents an undue inconvenience to the ferries’ almost 150,000 yearly riders.

 

Currently, both ferries are inactive and have been shut down since January 28th. There has been no date set for the resumption of service for either ferry and while service is suspended, customers who depend on ferry service as their primary means of transportation across the Hudson River must either add additional time to their travel to or take a bus provided in place of ferry service or find another means of transportation altogether. Over the past few years, ferry service has been suspended for days, weeks, or months at a time and service resumes only when ice is thawed on the river. The current suspension of service may last for an extended period of time as the weather continues to get colder. In addition, although the Coast Guard breaks the ice that remains on the river after a snow, both ferries must still shut down as the amount of ice left on the river after breakup makes travel conditions on the river unsafe.

 

In light of the undue inconvenience placed on customers during service suspensions, I am requesting that the Coast Guard develop a protocol in conjunction with Metro-North to reduce the number of days each winter the ferries must shut down. I am hopeful that the Coast Guard and Metro-North can find a solution that will eliminate the burden of alternative sources of transportation while ensuring the safety of ferry riders. Please do not hesitate to let me know how I can be of help in this endeavor.  

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

 

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