Weekend PATH Repairs Mean More Ferries, Thousands More Riders, to BPC

Beginning Jan. 5, the scheduled NY Waterway weekend trips between Jersey City and the Port Authority's Battery Park City terminal, shown here, will begin at 7 a.m. and end at 11:30 p.m. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 16, 2018

More than six years after inundating parts of Battery Park City, Superstorm Sandy will soon be impacting the neighborhood once again.

For the next two years, the Port Authority will close its two PATH train tunnels between the World Trade Center and Jersey City on weekends in order to replace equipment damaged by the storm. Many of the displaced riders—8,000 to 10,000 per day, according to the Port Authority—will be embarking and disembarking at the Battery Park City ferry terminal at the esplanade near Vesey Street.

The shut-down begins on Jan. 5 and is scheduled for nearly all weekends in 2019 and 2020.

To help accommodate the additional riders, the Authority is contracting with NY Waterway to begin its weekend morning service more than three hours earlier, at 7 a.m., and end it more than three hours later, at 11:30 p.m.

The prospect of earlier and later ferries on the weekends did not sit well with representatives of Community Board 1, who are concerned that the boats would bring additional noise and pollution into the neighborhood. In negotiations with the Port Authority, the agency declined CB1’s request to use a dock farther from the residential neighborhood. But they did shorten the additional hours planned for the ferry service (originally beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at midnight.) And they convinced the Authority to request that NY Waterway use its cleanest running vessels.

“While this is a compromise it is not a compromise that the community board said, yeah, this is a great idea” said Tammy Meltzer, chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, who negotiated with the Port Authority. “We are trying to be respectful and partner with them, but it is a real quality of life issue for the people who live here.”

At the committee’s meeting this month, Clarelle DeGrath, the authority’s deputy director of PATH, vowed to monitor the new ferry service. “After the first couple of weeks even, if we see that this is not working we’re going to go back to the drawing board,” she said. “We have a responsibility to our riders and to you.”

But two residents from a building near the terminal, on River Terrace, were not persuaded. They complained that the increase in departing ferries would mean more horn blasts, a U.S. Coast Guard requirement for boats entering the waterway.

“We already have problems with the horns on the current boats,” said one resident. “The thought of there being a boat every few minutes…it’s not even an annoyance, you’re changing a person’s life.”

“We can feel the vibrations from the horns inside our home,” said another.

DeGrath said there would be one boat every 30 minutes between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and every 20 minutes between 8 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.

As for the influx of additional riders, DeGrath said the Port Authority is planning for signage and additional personnel that would direct them to and from Brookfield Place.

“Our preference is that the route will be through the Winter Garden and away from the community as much as possible,” she said.

During Superstorm Sandy, water filled both mile-long tunnels, cresting to the roof and damaging all its equipment. Power-washing and repairs to the equipment were only a temporary fix, DeGrath said, because the corrosive process of the salt water cannot be reversed. She said the repairs will mean more reliable and safer train service.

“We’re basically replacing every single element that is within those two tunnels,” DeGrath said, “all communications, conduits, rails, ties, the lighting. Everything is being replaced.”

Even at the end of the two years, work will continue on weekends, but with one tunnel remaining open. “We are committing to you that we are going to single tunnel outages, which is virtually invisible to our riders,” she said.

In the meantime, McGrath said the Port Authority would monitor the impact of the ferry operation and report to the committee every three months.

“They are willing to come back quarterly. So this is not the end of the conversation,” Meltzer said. “It is the beginning of one.”