The Newburgh-Beacon ferry parking lot was nearly empty except for a few cars and passersby enjoying the sunny Friday afternoon. When the ferry finally arrived at 5:51 p.m. last Friday, only three people got off and only one man got on. The ferry almost seemed ghostly. After waiting for many minutes to no avail, the ferry finally left.
Known for its convenience, the Newburgh-Beacon ferry transports its patrons from Newburgh to Beacon from Monday to Friday during rush hours. Most patrons take the ferry to the Beacon Metro-North train station to go to New York City. But for a while now, the typically packed ferry has been nearly empty.
In the midst of the current novel coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak, ferry ridership has steadily decreased.
According to Meredith Daniels, Metro-North spokeswoman, the ferry’s average ridership for 2019 was 241 riders. Last Thursday, ridership was 43. As of Thursday, the ridership dropped by 82 percent.
Numerous factors can contribute to drops in ridership, but the current biggest factor is the growing concern over COVID-19. New York State has the most reported cases of COVID-19 in the nation. Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the state, Governor Andrew Cuomo has continuously announced new regulations and procedures to address the pandemic.
Unless the government announces a ban on public transportation like the ferry and the train, Brian Johnson has no plans of stopping his weekly trips back and forth from the Bronx to Newburgh anytime soon. Pulling his suitcase with him through the nearly empty parking lot, Johnson has just closed off one of his many weekly visits to his daughter and grandchildren in Newburgh.
“Of course I’m concerned about it [COVID-19],” said Johnson. “But, I ain’t going to let it control my life. I usually come up here, I came like I usually do.”
Johnson said he understands fears over contracting COVID-19 in tight spaces like the subway, Metro-North train, and the ferry. But, “life gotta go on,” said Johnson. He said he does follow suggestions like staying six feet away from people, but he doesn’t plan on changing his everyday life.
“I like being outside,” said Johnson. “As long as they say I [the government] can come out.” Although Johnson is 62-years-old, he isn’t too concerned about contracting COVID-19.
Last Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all non-essential businesses are to reduce their workforce at any location by 100 percent. Unfazed by the announcement, a few people still returned home from work on Friday at their usual time. The order took effect this past Sunday at 8 p.m.
Following his typical workday schedule, Raymond Shine got off the ferry last Friday afternoon ready to head home to Wallkill. He doesn’t like to take the bridge to the Beacon train station because of traffic and stress, so he typically finds himself at the ferry for the 5:33 a.m. ferry every morning.
Shine has worked in New York City as a carpenter for the past 35 years. Over the weeks he’s noticed the city become emptier and emptier. Although many are dealing with economic hardship with the current pandemic, Shine isn’t too worried about work.
“I have a reputation in Manhattan,” said Shine. “I’ll always find work.”
He doesn’t have any personal fears over COVID-19.
“I think we’re all going to get a dose of it,” said Shine. “I’m strong [but] I don’t want to go see my father [to avoid exposing him to COVID-19].”
Shine is 52-years-old and said he’s healthy mentally and physically.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect me too badly, so I’m not afraid of it,” said Shine. “To me, it’s going to make me stronger. I’m just afraid of the people I might expose.”
When he finished speaking, Shine bid farewell. He walked away and continued his typical week-day trip home from the ferry.