Get Onboard! Now Is The Time To Expand NYC Ferry Service To City Island.

Photo Credit: The New City Island Bridge Facebook Page

The following is an Op-Ed by John Doyle, Kim Jones Woodruff, and David Diaz, board members of the community based non-profit group, City Island Rising.

As proud residents of City Island, we are passionate about our unique community. Like many Islanders, the tranquility that washes over us as we cross the City Island Bridge returning home is a feeling we cherish.

Our community’s history as the “Seaport of The Bronx” is deeply ingrained in our culture, evident in our yacht clubs, marinas, and boatyards, and in the countless vessels crafted here over the centuries.

So why, as New York City invests more into the NYC Ferry service, with routes seeing record ridership, is our maritime haven being excluded from this transportation network?

Change is inevitable and City Island has seen its fair share. Most residents no longer work in the boat-building industry, and a significant portion (about 9%) commute daily to Manhattan with some even traveling farther into Brooklyn. City Island commuters will tell you that their journey into Manhattan takes, at best, 90 minutes each way. Let that sink in for a moment – spending three hours, on a good day, traveling to and from work.

Devoting 12% of your day to commuting (even more if you discount sleep time) significantly impacts your quality of life. These challenges are a major obstacle in attracting and retaining young professionals to City Island, and revitalizing our nightlife and culture.

Unfortunately, those who are unsatisfied with their commutes are making the difficult decision to leave.  

The NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) suggests that a ferry can trim the commute to Manhattan by about 30 minutes each way, offering us the gift of time — more moments with our families, to pursue passions, or to engage more deeply within our community.

But it’s not just about the commute. Even City Island residents who would not be using the ferry on a regular basis would benefit from the positive impact a ferry terminal could have on our community. Here’s why:

Revitalizing Our Economy:

A ferry could provide a boost to our local businesses. Ferry riders would arrive on foot and are more likely to explore City Island Avenue, breathing new life into our local shops. Currently, the majority of visitors arrive by car, park in a restaurant’s lot, dine, and then leave without visiting many of our small businesses.

Essentially, we have two different economies that coexist but are not interconnected. Our main street is still grappling with the aftermath of the ’08 recession, and many storefronts remain vacant or underutilized. In fact, the majority of City Island local stores close by 9pm.

By arriving via ferry, visitors would have the opportunity to fully experience City Island and the small-town feel that attracts so many of us. The influx of foot traffic could bring scores of new customers into our shops, revitalize local businesses, and encourage extended business hours. It would create jobs and strengthen our local economy.

Alleviating Traffic Concerns

Traffic is a well-known annoyance on City Island. While some make baseless claims that building a ferry terminal will lead to more traffic and parking problems, the experts at the EDC say otherwise.

They argue that people are incredibly unlikely to drive 20 minutes out of their way and search for parking when they can choose other terminals with closer parking or use Metro North. Moreover, this ferry could potentially reduce traffic.

It offers an exciting new way for people to visit City Island and appreciate its nautical heritage.

Which option sounds more attractive to visitors: sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic with vehicles spewing exhaust everywhere or visiting City Island via our scenic waterways on a beautiful day?

Expanding Opportunities for Youth

The ferry could open up new educational horizons for our students. Easier access to different schools and institutions can significantly benefit our youth, and in turn, lessen the burden on parents who drive their kids to school every day.

For many years, City Islanders have complained about the lack of opportunities for young people within the community. A ferry terminal would provide them with an easier way to explore neighboring communities while making it easier for others to visit here.  

Enhancing Emergency Preparedness

As a Zone 1 evacuation area, having an alternative means of evacuation via a ferry could be a crucial safety net in emergencies.  Our emergency exits within Pelham Bay Park (along with some City Island streets) currently flood under routine rainfall.

A ferry would provide another way for Islanders to escape in the case of an emergency, particularly if something happens in or around the single escape point, the City Island Bridge.

We shouldn’t wait for tragedy to strike before developing alternative evacuation routes. 

While the island’s diversity of opinion is a strength, it’s essential to base our decisions on facts, figures and accurate information. The concerns some have about street parking due to a ferry have been addressed by the EDC, indicating minimal impact.

Additionally, while there’s interest in a ferry at Orchard Beach, logistics suggest it might not offer the same benefits as a City Island service.

A City Island Ferry isn’t just a nod to our past but a bridge to our future. By integrating modern transport solutions with our maritime heritage, we can ensure that City Island remains a thriving, connected community for generations to come. Let’s unite in support of this vision.

After all, to flourish, communities must adapt and evolve. 

We encourage you to sign our petition to expand Ferry service to City Island here and to speak to the Bronx Borough President’s Office and your New York City Council Member. 

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