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Opinion

Don't overlook West Harlem for ferry service

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 20: Ice floes

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 20: Ice floes are viewed along the Hudson River in Manhattan on a frigidly cold day February 20, 2015 in New York City. New York, and much of the East Coast and Western United States is experiencing unusually cold weather with temperatures in the teens and the wind chill factor making it feel well below zero. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Spencer Platt

Mayor Bill de Blasio captured New Yorkers' imaginations last month with his proposal to create a citywide ferry network. But look at a map of the routes and one thing jumps out: The entire West Side of Manhattan is blank.

Yes, existing ferry lines connect to Brookfield Place and Pier 79 at West 39th Street. But points farther north along the Hudson River are unserved and would remain so under the mayor's plan.

This omission is most glaring at West 125th Street.

The place where uptown's main east-west thoroughfare meets the Hudson River served as a ferry landing throughout most of New York City's history. The piers were demolished in 1965, but years of neglect were reversed in 2009 with the opening of the West Harlem Piers, which included infrastructure for a new ferry landing.

The location is ideal. It would provide easy connections south to West 39th Street and north to Inwood's Dyckman Marina. And the piers are across from New Jersey's Edgewater ferry terminal -- accessible over water in less than five minutes.

Ferry service from West 125 Street would alleviate crowding on the increasingly overcrowded 1 train, which runs on Broadway just a short walk from the river. With thousands of new students and staff set to descend on Columbia University's soon-to-be-opened Manhattanville campus, the need for a new transportation hub is even more acute.

A West Harlem-to-Edgewater ferry would give uptown residents access to jobs in Bergen County. And it would bring New Jersey customers to upper Manhattan businesses, especially the burgeoning restaurant scene on 12th Avenue. Ferry service also would remove scores of vehicles from our streets, allowing New Jersey commuters who otherwise drive down from the George Washington Bridge to leave cars at home. Fewer cars spewing fumes means better health for us in a community with high asthma rates.

With a pier, adjacent subway, great nearby water connections and rapidly growing transportation needs, West Harlem is the ideal location for a ferry service. Here's hoping our community won't be forgotten as New York City embarks on a new era of ferry expansion.

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