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Campaign to bring ferry service to boro

Bronx Times

First dream: Metro-North commuter stations in the Bronx.

Next? Ferry commuter service plying its local waters.

“We’re waiting with baited breath,” said Roland Lewis, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA), a Manhattan-based nonprofit.

And as the city mulls potential sites for its next round of ferry service, still in the early stages, the MWA is now pushing for the Bronx to get service, especially for Soundview and Ferry Point, outlying peninsulas dubbed “two-fare zones,” requiring a bus transfer to get to the subway.

“You have to go a long way to get to the subway,” said Lewis. “Or you can take a 20-minute commute down the East River to Lower Manhattan.”

The group’s pencilled a meeting at Community Board 9’s district office at 1967 Turnbull Avenue at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 24th, to rally locals to join a community advisory board.

A representative from MWA pitched the idea to folks at CB9’s general board meeting June 20th, drawing plenty of interest, and applause, from a packed house.

“That enthusiasm from voters and constituents will win the day,” predicted Lewis.

Local Pols Step In

Staffers for City councilmembers Annabel Palma and Jimmy Vacca -- representing Soundview and Ferry Point respectively--have been spreading the word on the MWA meeting.

As far as Vacca’s concerned, a nautical trip down to Lower Manahttan has been a lifelong dream for the borough.

“We have an untapped resource here. The Bronx has been overlooked far too long,” said Vacca, also chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee.

He’s spent years pressuring city officials to include service for the two neighborhoods virtually cut off from public transportation.

“I’m going to be a pest, and I’m going to be persistence in pushing for this,” said Vacca.

He’s noticed a warmer tone by city officials with respect to Bronx ferries, now that two malls are set to open near Ferry Point, expected to draw hundreds of shoppers to the strip malls.

“I think people would consider ferry service into the Bronx as a means of getting there rather than using their cars,” said Vacca.

Bronx in citywide study

Ferry Point and Soundview were highlighted as potential ferry sites in the 2011 Comprehensive Citywide Ferry Study bgy the city’s Economic Development Corp.

The study put Soundview/Ferry Point as the quickest in shuttling folks down to Lower Manhattan using the waterway.

Other potential sites included Hunts Point, Co-op City, City Island, Orchard Beach, Yankee Stadium, Fordham Landing and Roberto Clemente State Park.

For ferry service to work in the Bronx, fares would have to remain low through city subsidies, said Vacca. Subsidy funds were proven to work for the East River Ferry Service, a pilot program that’s turned into a city revenue machine. Twelve ferry terminals run along the East River, costing $4 for a single ride.

“We are committed to determining the next steps for the future of ferries in the City,” said EDC spokesman Patrick Muncie.

It’ll also be a boon for rescue operations if a mega storm like Hurricane Sandy were to hit the city, according to Mayor Bloomberg’s storm protection plan released last month. The proposal, however, is contingent on the findings from the current EDC study.

If the Soundview/Ferry Point is chosen it’ll be part of a pipeline of projects that seek to curb congestion on Bronx highways.

Next year, the state legislature is poised to vote on a plan to extend Metro-North service to the east Bronx, with four commuter stops.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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