What is shaping up to be the worst ice season on the Hudson River in five years forced the suspension of commuter ferry service Wednesday.
Both the Newburgh-Beacon and Haverstraw-Ossining ferries will remain in dock until at least Tuesday. Buses will be used in the interim to transport commuters between the parking lots on the west side of the river and the Metro-North stations on the east side at no extra charge.
"Just show up like always," said Pat Smith, a spokesman for NY Waterway, which operates the ferries for the railroad. "We'll get you there and back."
Smith said buses were on stand-by Wednesday morning but the ferries were able to deliver 450 commuters to their trains without incident. The decision to suspend service was made as soon as the morning rush ended.
2 ice breakers on the river
"Newburgh is one of our worst areas right now," said Chief Warrant Officer Darren Pauly, who supervises the U.S. Coast Guard's ice operations in the river. "And the ice is generally much worse than last year, when we had a pretty mild winter. We're thinking this could be the worst ice season in five years."
Pauly said the high volume of ice has caused the Coast Guard to deploy two ice breakers to keep the commercial shipping channel open to Albany. He added that he expects at least one, if not both, of the ice breakers will remain on the river for the next month.
The effort, however, doesn't aid the ferries since they are small boats vulnerable to damage from the big, fast-moving floes. In addition, the natural design of Ossining's harbor is notorious for trapping ice, making it impossible for the ferry to get close to shore.
Buses operating smoothly
Since the Haverstraw-Ossining ferry debuted in 2000, ice has stalled its operation six of the subsequent eight winters — for as long as six weeks. Newburgh-Beacon, now in its fourth winter, has a better record despite being farther north.
Commuters, however, have no quarrel with the temporary use of buses and report the substitute service operates smoothly.
The Hudson is measured north from Hudson River Mile 0 at the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan. The George Washington Bridge is at HRM 12, the Tappan Zee 28, Bear Mountain 47, Beacon-Newburgh 62, Mid-Hudson 75, Kingston-Rhinecliff 95, Rip Van Winkle 114, and the Federal Dam at Troy, the head of tidewater, at 153. Entries from points east and west in the watershed reference the corresponding river mile on the mainstem.