Volume 17 • Issue 12 / August 13 - 19, 2004

Slow boat to a ferry terminal

By Elizabeth O’Brien

The temporary ferry terminal near Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City will remain at its current location until April 2006, months later than originally planned, according to a Port Authority spokesperson.

In the spring of last year, the Port Authority moved the ferry terminal from North Cove to Rockefeller Park to make way for the construction of a new terminal that was to be completed next year in front of the New York Mercantile Exchange. A Port Authority spokesperson told Downtown Express last August that air monitoring equipment would soon be installed at the Rockefeller playground and park to measure diesel emissions coming from the ferries.

But today, no building has begun at the North Cove site and no air monitoring has started at Rockefeller Park. Battery Park City residents are troubled by the black smoke that spews from the ferries and the apparent lack of progress in remedying the situation.
“From my point of view, it’s the feeling of frustration and hopelessness,” said Gary Wohl, a resident of Tribeca Park at 400 Chambers St.

Wohl said he moved to Battery Park City from the Village to be close to Rockefeller Park. But his enjoyment of the area has been lessened by the noise and pollution from the ferries.

Port Authority contractors recently completed an evaluation of the best places to put air monitors, and monitoring activity will begin shortly, said Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesperson. He said he did not have an exact date of when it will begin.

A spokesperson for New York Waterway, which operates the boats at the interim terminal, said all of the company’s new ferries have clean-burning electrical engines, and older engines are being re-powered for more efficient fuel use. Pat Smith, the spokesperson, estimated that only one or two boats per day on the Rockefeller Park run have the old kind of engines that release the most smoke.

That’s small comfort for Magdalena Hasiec, a Battery Park City mother of two young girls. She said the wind does carry ferry exhaust from the temporary terminal to the park, a distance of approximately 65 feet.

Even so, the lush, green expanse of Rockefeller playground, with its sprinklers, is so inviting during the hot summer months that many parents let their children use it in spite of their concerns about ferry emissions.

This spring, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would move forward with regulations requiring marine engines, including ferry engines, to limit their diesel fuel emissions to 15 parts per million of sulfur by the year 2012, said John Millett, an agency spokesperson.

“It’s not something that can happen overnight, unfortunately,” Millett said, noting that fuel suppliers and engine manufacturers must be given enough notice to change their products.

These regulations, however welcome, will come too late for many Battery Park City residents.

“It’s too long for even two summers for the children to breathe that air,” Hasiec said.

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