Schumer urges funding of three new ferries for New York

MARCH 24, 2014—Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) is urging the federal government to provide $267 million in funding for a New York City Department of Transportation plan to build three new 4,500-passenger ferries, as well as upgrade existing ferry terminals in Staten Island and Manhattan to better withstand flooding and add barge-based ferry landings that can be moved around the city in cases of emergency.

The NYCDOT is expected to apply for the grant next week from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Sandy Resilience Program, as part of the third portion of $3 billion in disaster funding from the Sandy Relief Bill. The $267 million represents about 75% of the total $356 million cost of the project.

“Superstorm Sandy’s immense wrath and critical damage underscored the need for modern, updated and more resilient infrastructure in New York City,” says Senator Schumer.  “Ferries are a key piece of resilient infrastructure because, with the right landing equipment, they can begin running immediately after a storm.”

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS OF NEW FERRIES

It is estimated that the new 4,500-passenger ferries will cost a total of about $309 million to build. Each will be fitted with four Voith Schneider cycloidal propellers, providing exceptional maneuverability. Additionally, the double-ended ferries will also be fitted with side loading doors, allowing for more flexible passenger embarking/disembarking scenarios in the event of an evacuation or emergency. For example, the new ferries would have greater capacities than small privately owned passenger-only ferries typically used at ferry landings in Brooklyn or Queens that connect to rail transit services.

NYCDOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, says, "Resilient, dependable and adaptable waterway infrastructure will be a game changer in any future storm response and an essential link when our subway, road, tunnel and bridge networks are compromised.”  

In addition, the new boats are also expected to provide improved fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, the new ferries would allow the NYCDOT to retire some of the older boats in its nine-vessel fleet. Among them are the 49-year-old, 3,500-passenger John F. Kennedy and two 33-year-old, 6,000-passenger Barberi Class ferries, the Andrew J. Barberi and the Samuel I. Newhouse.

One of the largest ferry systems in the U.S., the Staten Island Ferry carries 22 million passengers annually between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan.

Besides the new ferries, the project would also allow for flood protection upgrades at the St. George Terminal on Staten Island and the Whitehall Terminal in lower Manhattan. The terminals were hard hit during Super Storm Sandy. The upgrades are estimated to cost $7.5 million.

Lastly, as much as $40 million in funding will be used to enhance ferry landings at four locations to accommodate the new ferries and hardened them against damage from future storms and the effects of a sea level rise. Among the locations are Hunters Point in Queens and E. 34th Street in Manhattan 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.