Around-the-clock efforts get Staten Island Ferry running

NOVEMBER 4, 2012—Even as New York City struggles to get to its feet following the devastating blow from Hurricane Sandy, critical subway, rail, bus and ferry transportation links are slowly returning thanks to major and often unheralded, behind-the-scene efforts.

One of those is the iconic Staten Island Ferry, which is a proud symbol and vital commuter link for many Staten Islanders. The bright “safety orange” fleet of ferries carries almost 22 million commuters and tourists annually between the St. George Terminal on the north shore of Staten Island and the Whitehall Terminal at The Battery in lower Manhattan.

The ferry resumed service on Nov. 2, following what NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan called “around-the-clock” efforts to repair the damage.

“The Staten Island Ferry, where I road out storm, was hit pretty hard,” James DeSimone, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer, Ferry Division, NYCDOT, told Marine Log. “The good news is that no one was injured and the ferries survived unscathed due to the expertise of our captains and crews, who manned the vessels throughout the night, tending the moorings and working the engines alongside the Ferry Maintenance Facility piers and our shore staff who supported them. As the storm approached, we clocked frequent gusts over 75 knots before our weather station failed,” says DeSimone.

The ferries were on heavy weather moorings, but one mishap did occur when two moorings on the unmanned, laid up 1,200-passenger ferry Alice Austen let go. DeSimone, however, says ferry crews quickly responded to the problem and secured the vessel.

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Above, passengers board the John A. Noble, a sister vessel to the Alice Austen. At right, the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in lower Manhattan

The ferry terminals did not fare as well, says DeSimone. “Our facilities in both Staten Island and Manhattan were inundated with saltwater.” He says about four to five feet of saltwater flooded lower level offices, shops and store rooms in both the terminals and the maintenance facility. He also points out there was a tremendous amount of damage in both terminals to electrical and mechanical systems and to a number of piers and slips.

“Thankfully, we had no injuries or damage to the vessels, but did suffer significant electrical and mechanical damage to both terminals which prevented us from resuming service immediately. All of the electrical relays and controllers in the slips were inundated with salt water. So, it took a major effort to get two slips operational in each terminal, let alone clearing debris.”

But thanks to the efforts of our employees the ferry was able to resume regular half hour service on Nov. 3. “I cannot say enough about how our captains, crews and shore staff conducted themselves,” says DeSimone.