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Google Maps and The NY Ferry

NyFerryGoogleMapsby Owen Voutsinas-Klose

Ferries have been carrying passengers across the Hudson River between Nyack and Tarrytown for almost 200 years. The last water taxi stopped operation in the late 1990’s, but, inexplicably, Google Maps is keeping the dream alive with an intriguing dotted line in the Hudson near Nyack labeled  “The NY Ferry.” Why does Google Maps show a ferry line for a ferry that isn’t there?

Ferries have been used on the Hudson River since 1807, but the NY Ferry which the line is mostly likely charting was first launched by Joseph Mitlof in the early 1990s. Mitlof was a serial entrepreneur who was looking for a way to take advantage of a cleaner Hudson River and a growing ferry industry at that time. Mitlof’s Tappan Zee Water Taxi and Tours quickly found success shuttling people between Nyack and Tarrytown.  Ferries offered a pleasant way to see the beautiful river and avoid traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge. As the business grew, Mitlof acquired more boats.  One such boat, the Conservator, was bought from the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT and had previously been used as a tour boat of coastal Connecticut.

1921 photo of "The Rockland," a ferry, on river between Nyack and Tarrytown, New York.  Photo Credit: Library of Congress

1921 photo of “The Rockland,” a Hudson River ferry that operated between Nyack and Tarrytown.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

While leaving Nyack for its regular 4p run to Tarrytown on August 25, 1998, the boat overturned, sending its 28 passengers into the Hudson River. While most were able to make it back to shore safely, Milt Salkind, an 86 year old Nyack resident, died as a result of the incident.

Restaurant owner Mike Hekker used another boat that belonged to Tappan Zee Water Taxi and Tours to rescue 15 passengers from the river, according to the New York Times. Hekker brought them into his restaurant, the River Club, covered them with tablecloths, and served them coffee and brandy.

The boat, which was carrying 28 passengers at the time of the accident, was well over its 21 passenger limit. Coast Guard investigators reported that the boat lacked a proper permit, and shouldn’t have been on the water.  In 2001, Mitlof was ruled to have been negligent in the sinking by a federal court.

The accident led to the closure of Tappan Zee Water Taxi and Tours and the end the local ferry business between Nyack and Tarrytown.

In the years following the accident, Mitlof created a small museum in an old barn on Catherine St in Nyack to commemorate the conductors of the Underground Railroad in Nyack. Mitloff’s Underground Railroad museum on Catherine Street was torn down in 2013. Joseph Mitlof passed away in April 2014.

Nyack Ferry

Before the Tappan Zee Bridge opened in December 1955, there was regular ferry service to move cars, goods and people across the Hudson between Nyack and Tarrytown.
‘On November 30, 1941, Ferries Operating Company, Inc. discontinued its Nyack-Tarrytown ferry run, ending 101 consecutive years of service. Piloted by Captain James O. Harper, the “Wyoming” made its final journey, described by The Journal-News as having “many of the qualities of a jolly wake.” South Nyack Mayor Raymond D. Gurnee was aboard. And Mr. and Mrs. Robert Marchak of Congers had the distinction of having the last car to get off the boat.’

In 2014, Nyack Mayor Jen White proposed exploring a new ferry route from Nyack to Manhattan.  The village is still in the exploratory phase and needs to address traffic and environmental concerns.

No one is quite sure what the “Nyack Ferry” marking on Google Maps represents, but it seems logical to assume it’s a holdover from the past and not a secret plan for the future. It’s been in Google Maps since the app was first released in 2005, living unobtrusively as a quirky and mysterious marker on a map to some. And for others, it’s a reminder of a tragic incident that ended an era of ferry transport to Nyack on the Hudson River.



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