SEEKING SAFE PASSAGE: Traumatized by last summer’s boating tragedy, Piermont residents lobby for Hudson River channel


close-up of the channel and proposed area for digging.
close-up of the channel and proposed area for digging

As boating season nears, concerns about safety and river access after last July’s fatal boating accident prompted a grassroots lobby for Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) to reopen the Piermont Channel near Cornetta’s Restaurant & Marina.

“It wouldn’t take more than one week to dig an outlet 10’ deep and 40’ wide (about one mile) from Piermont to the main channel,” petition author and Boating on the Hudson publisher John H. Vargo told a concerned group last Sunday.

A marked channel would also provide river communities safe access to the river. “TZC is required to do this,” Vargo said. “Shoreline access would open the Piermont business district and other marinas, and is away from bridge construction.”

Hudson River Fishermen’s Association president Gil Hawkins likened it to a highway onramp. “The channel on the river is the highway, and the marinas along the river need to be able to access that highway without it the marinas isolated.”

Vargo stressed restrictions on boaters near the bridge — and the security zone restricting access to and from the western shore south of the bridge — resulted in a demand for access to Piermont. Special project advisor Brian Conybeare would not comment at this time.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s revised Local Notice to Mariners details the Regulated Navigation Area (RNA) — 300 yards north and 200 yards south of the existing Tappan Zee Bridge — established in September. One month later, temporary navigational lights were installed to mark the 600 foot-wide main channel. Both temporary and permanent piles are illuminated at night.

Suren Kilerciyan, one of Cornetta’s three partners, was to have read the group’s statement at the Village of Piermont Board of Trustees’ March 18 meeting:

The Coalition for Safe Access from and to the Village of Piermont and the Marinas hereby requests that a marked channel be dug based on an existing channel (that is now filled in, and whose state will be worsened as a result of the bridge replacement project) before the start of boating season.

“It’s about safety,” Kilerciyan reiterated. “Access to the channel now depends upon the tides, which change every six hours, more with the full moon. What if someone needs immediate medical attention, or has another emergency?”

Discussion turned to last fall’s boater safety roundtable in Tarrytown that drew NYS Assembly members, Westchester and Rockland marine law enforcement, marina owners, boat club officials and project officials.

To date, the circulating petition has over 200 signatures; several of the 57 people who signed it online included comments. John Langschultz of Old Tappan, NJ, said he’d go to Piermont more often, while West Park, NY, resident Viki Bissinger wants a safe way out of the village.

“We have seen many boaters getting stuck in the mud with kids on the bow, just trying to get into their slips,” New Jersey resident Dan Harrison said. “If this channel is cut entering and leaving Piermont, it won’t be as harrowing any more.”

Last summer Lindsey Stewart of Piermont and Mark Lennon of Pearl River crashed and died in a Hudson River boating accident as they went for a ride with friends before Stewart’s wedding that weekend. Jojo John has been indicted on charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter for driving the boat while intoxicated and slamming into a barge.

See the petition here:

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