It’s the first day of school for pre-K teacher Ilene Lerea and her first day back on the New York Waterway ferry. The mother of two got her wish after campaigning for weeks on social media to get the downtown service back up and running.
“I’m very happy,” Lerea said. “Otherwise, I’d have to take a bus all the way to Port Authority and I’d have to take a subway through New York City. I have a family at home, I have two children and a husband who are also at high risk. I need to make sure I’m safe to take care of all the students and their families at my school.”
Jennifer Schuck, a spokesperson for the ferry, says at the height of the pandemic, only one of 23 routes was operating. This week, 90% of the routes opened back up with less frequency.
“Every route wants to reopen, but we just have to see where the demand is,” Schuck said.
They can’t afford to run empty boats so as demand opens up, they open more service. Rocco Sicuranza has been commuting to his office, J.P. Morgan Chase, throughout the pandemic.
“I’ve been taking different ways: driving in, light rail, Path, figuring it out until now; this is a lot more convenient obviously,” Sicuranza said.
He says this ferry will save him about 45 minutes each way.
“When you’re trying to connect with the trains and everything, sometimes the connections just don’t work,” Sicuranza said.
Monday morning’s trip felt much like the pre-lockdown rides, except for the masks and social-distance markers.
“Thankfully, the count has been going up every day and every week you see more people coming out,” Schuck said.
Thirteen people showed up to take the 6:30 a.m. boat from Port Imperial in Weehawken to Brookfield Place/Battery Park City and Pier 11/Wall Street. Thirty-nine people took the 7:30 a.m. ferry, including Erica Stever.
“It keeps getting closer to me. I live up in Weehawken, so I’m very happy the 14th street is opening because I can walk from home,” Stever said.
Stever says the light rail felt a bit crowded, so the ferry is a nice change of pace.
“You know, I never take this because it’s too expensive, but because at the bank we’re only at about 10% people coming in and the rest work from home, the bank has been so nice and has been compensating us for our commute,” Stever said.
Lerea hopes demand continues to go up so an earlier afternoon ferry comes back online, making her commute just a little easier.