This story was produced through the City Limits Accountability Reporting Initiative For Youth (CLARIFY), City Limits’ paid training program for aspiring public-interest journalists.
An hour and 20-minute commute turned into a 55-minute commute for Pius Amoh, 31, a Shorehaven resident, thanks to the new Soundview Ferry.
Before the ferry launched in the Bronx on Aug. 15, he would have to catch the Bx29 bus to the 6 train, then transfer at 125th Street to take the express 4 train to Wall Street. Amoh said his commute was roughly an hour and 20 minutes, on a good day, to get downtown.
“There’s always a signal malfunction and they never tell you what’s wrong with the train,” he says. “I don’t need to spend an hour and a half a day to go to work.”
When Amoh first heard about the launch of the New York City Ferry system a few years ago, he kept his fingers crossed, hoping that one of the stops for the ferry would be located in the Shorehaven area.
“I was praying for something like this,” he says. “I’m like, ‘God please, just let us have this ferry.'”
It’s been more than three months since the city launched the Soundview line, currently the only NYC Ferry route in the Bronx, which charges $2.75 per trip. Many riders, like Amoh, say the new service is more reliable and comfortable than their former MTA commutes, especially for those who live near the Shorehaven and Clason Point waterfront, where the nearest subway station is a trek away.
“It leaves on time,” Amoh says of the ferry. “It’ll get you there the exact time it says it’s going to get you there.”
On its first day of service, 3,737 riders used the Soundview Ferry line, which starts near Clason Point Park and ends at Manhattan’s Wall Street, with stops at East 90th and East 34th streets in between. In total, 190,124 riders have used the route as of Nov. 12, and the line is projected to see about 400,000 riders a year, according to Vanessa Figueroa, director of public affairs at Hornblower, which operates the ferry system. There are currently over 325 NYC Ferry employees working across the six routes, and Hornblower is constantly recruiting for more staff, Figueroa added.
“We are thrilled to have delivered ferry access to the Bronx. And Bronxites are certainly showing their love for the Soundview Route as ridership has remained strong since launching in August,” says Stephanie Baez, a spokeswoman with the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which oversees NYC Ferry.
Johana Manzuelta, outreach coordinator for Soundview Family Resource Center, located not far from the new ferry landing, says many of her clients are happy to have a new way to get to and from the neighborhood.
“In the beginning, the families were really excited. I think that they enjoy the idea of being able to travel at a low cost to the city,” she says, adding that it allows families with small children to avoid the “intense” ride of the bus and train to get to Manhattan.
“Going on a boat is exciting for them,” she says.
Danette Davila, 45, a Soundview resident, enjoys taking the ferry every day.
“Nobody wants to take the bus. This is the best way to get to work,” she says, adding that she’s glad the Bronx’s lone ferry route is in her part of the borough, even if some other Bronxites balked at the Soundview location.
“I think that a lot of people were upset over [the fact] that it was on our end because it wasn’t closer to where they are. I’m not upset about it,” she says.
But there have been some issues with the new service. Community Board 9 has received complaints about ferry riders who leave their cars in the neighborhood while they take the service to work.
There are no designated parking spaces for ferry commuters, so local leaders are fighting for a parking lot, as well as a bus shelter for the ferry stop, according to William Rivera, district manager of Community Board 9.
Though the MTA has expanded the Bx27 route for commuters to get easy access to the ferry, many still drive there, according to locals.
“I think that people that love it are people that don’t have a car, and people that don’t love it are people that have cars,” says Manzuelta. “They try to find parking and it’s gotten a bit crowded in the area.”
According to the EDC, a majority of NYC Ferry riders—70 percent—walk to the system’s landings. Still, the agency is working with elected officials to try and identify areas near the Soundview stop that could be used for parking. A new concession restaurant is also expected to open within Clason Point Park in the next year and will have a parking lot, which should help alleviate some of the pressure on street parking, according to a spokeswoman.
Cindy Arenas, 27, a Shorehaven resident, says parking in the neighborhood around the new ferry landing — located on the edge of Clason Point Park — has been slightly more difficult since the ferry launched, but thinks it’s worth it to have the ferry nearby.
“Better than waiting for the bus and sitting on the stinky 6 train,” she says.
Shorehaven resident Alberto Moore agrees.
“People come from outside the neighborhood to use it, but I don’t blame them. It’s public [parking],” he says.
Among those who drive to Soundview for the ferry is Phillip Golub, 25, a Murray Hill resident who parks his car in Soundview and leaves it there when he’s not using it because the streets nearby have no parking restrictions. So far, he has heard no complaints from neighbors, Golub said.
Gerardo Mena, a Shorehaven resident, gave rave reviews for the Soundview ferry—and said he would like to see boats run more often. He has to be at work by the World Trade Center at 6 a.m., but ferry service does not start until 6:30 a.m. This gives him no choice but to use bus and train service in the morning, which takes about an hour and 40-minutes, he says.
However, when Mena takes the ferry home, he gets there in about 46 minutes.
“You can’t beat this,” he said while riding the boat home on a recent weekday evening. “This is the best.”