Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand, De Blasio Announce $190m In Federal Funding For Two New Ferry Boats For Staten Island; Updated Boats Will Offer Critical Resiliency In The Face Of Future Storms Like Sandy

Sep 17, 2014

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced $191,550,000 in federal funding for two new storm resilient ferry boats on Staten Island, Staten Island Ferry Facilities’ Flood-proofing Resilience Upgrade and Ferry Landings Resilience Upgrades at strategic locations city-wide. Earlier this month, Schumer and Gillibrand urged the Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide federal funding for these upgrades as part of the third tranche of disaster Federal Transit Authority (FTA) funding from the Sandy Relief Bill.

First, the new vessels will be more capable of operating in a wider range of conditions and locations. With a recent increase in severe storms, service outages due to weather will become more common for the older vessels and so, the modern and updated vessels are sorely needed. Second, the new vessels will be able to better respond to emergencies and be able to handle large volumes of people in the event of an evacuation. Lastly, the project will support citywide transit continuity by modifying several landings at key locations to accommodate the more maneuverable new generation of ferries. The new ferries offer a greater capacity than small private ferries typically used at these landings and this could provide critical support to rail transit services faced with outages. The terminal and landing upgrades are part of the City’s comprehensive resiliency plan.

“Following the unspeakable devastation on Staten Island wrought by Superstorm Sandy, with this massive federal investment – that we fought so hard to secure – we can truly say that Staten Island’s ships have come in,” said Senator Schumer. “After Sandy, we were again reminded how important ferries are to our transit system during emergencies, and that’s why we need modern, resilient and reliable ferries that our Staten Island commuters and emergency response personnel can rely on. This announcement of over $190 million is some of the best news ever for Staten Island commuters; I’m proud to have worked closely with my colleagues, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to secure this federal funding.”

“This is a major investment for Staten Island’s critical transportation infrastructure,” said Senator Gillibrand. “After Superstorm Sandy tore through Staten Island, our communities were left with unprecedented damage. This funding will be put to good use, with upgrades to vital ferry fleets and flood proofing of facilities. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure our communities are able to make a full recovery, with even stronger infrastructure that can better withstand future storms.”

“The Staten Island Ferry is a lifeline that’s vital to New York City’s economy and to the health and safety of our people. These upgrades will improve commutes for thousands of Staten Islanders and ensure we have more reliable, more flexible ferry service when emergencies strike—a key part of our comprehensive resiliency plan. We are deeply grateful to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and to our congressional delegation for working with the US Department of Transportation to make this critical investment,” said Mayor de Blasio.

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, who led a delegation-wide support letter, said, “The funding will also be used to modify facilities at critical locations to accommodate the new vessels, while also hardening these landings against damage from future storms and the effects of sea level rise.”

“This funding will provide better ferry service for the 22 million passengers who ride the Staten Island Ferry every year, and better prepare New York City for future storms,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “On behalf of our dedicated Ferry division and the commuters and tourists who ride the ferry every single day, I want to thank USDOT, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and our congressional delegation for their support in making our ferry system safer and more resilient.”

The funding will support the NYC Department of Transportation’s (NYC DOT) Comprehensive Ferry Transit Resiliency plan, which Schumer and Gillibrand urged the FTA to support earlier this year. There are three main resiliency benefits of the project.

First, the funding will be used for two new 4,500 passenger vessels for the Staten Island ferry system. The modern ferries will offer critical protection and replace two vessels that have reached their useful life. The new boats will have 4 modern cycloidal drives each, along with side doors, which will allow them to operate in more extreme weather conditions and dock at other terminals around the city in case of emergency. NYCDOT has already funded the design of the new ferry fleet and now, this funding help NYC DOT move forward with construction.

Second, funding will be used to for dry and wet flood-proofing protective resilience upgrades at the St. George and Whitehall terminals to protect against the type of damage experienced during Sandy.

Third, funding will also be used to modify facilities at critical locations to accommodate the new vessels, while hardening the landings against damage from future storms and the effects of sea level rise.  The landing enhancement would be at four locations – Hunters Point and E. 34th Street as the priority and two others, at least one of which would likely be in Brooklyn.  There will be two “flex barges,” capable of being deployed to multiple locations, in addition to the four modified landings.

The Staten Island Ferry provides 22 million people a year (70,000 passengers a day, not including weekend days) with ferry service between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan. The ferry is the only non-vehicular mode of transportation between Staten Island and Manhattan. NYC DOT operates and maintains the nine-vessel fleet as well as the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island, Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan, the City Island and Hart Island Facilities, The Battery Maritime Building and all floating dock building equipment.

The current Staten Island ferry fleet includes a number of aging and outdated vessels. For example, the fleet includes the 33 year old Barberi and Newhouse ships as well as the nearly 50 year old Kennedy ship.