NY Waterway makes Billybey buyback

More than a decade after splitting its fleet, NY Waterway on Friday said it is acquiring Billybey Ferry Co., its 11 commuter ferries and rights to operate between Hoboken, Jersey City and Manhattan.

Terms of the deal were not revealed. All NY Waterway and Billybey ferries have operated under the NY Waterway flag since 2005, when William Wachtel, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, started Billbey to help rescue ferry pioneer Arthur Imperatore’s company.

NY Waterway struggled in a downturn following the 2001 World Trade Center terror attacks, after the company and other operators had distinguished themselves in a massive boatlift from lower Manhattan.

A few years later NY Waterway was on the verge of insolvency when Wachtel took over debt payments on 16 of its ferries, a deal brokered by the Port Authority of NY/NJ. Controversial at the time among other ferry operators, the agreement averted a shutdown that would have left some 30,000 daily passengers needing another way to work.

The acquisition came just a week after NY Waterway marked its 30th year in business – the anniversary of Imperatore’s start in 1986 with a single boat crossing the Hudson River. The company has been spending money to upgrade its fleet of 31 ferries and 80 buses, the largest privately owned and operated ferry network in the United States.

“We intend to continue to operate all routes, boats and equipment at our high standards so that we may continue our quest to serve our loyal riders with the best service possible,” Imperatore said in a letter to 400 employees announcing the deal. “We will continue to grow the company so we can become even better, even though I truly believe we are the ‘World’s Best Ferry.’”

NY Waterway will continue to operate two other ferries, chartered by Billybey, that operate between the Paulus Hook terminal in Jersey City and the World Financial center terminal in lower Manhattan.

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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