Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry
We wanted to go to Staten Island, primarily to visit the botanical gardens but to use the ferry was also a huge attraction. We left Beez, got on the subway and went all the way to the end, wandered across the road to the ferry terminal and waited with the growing crowd for the twelve thirty departure. All very efficient, on time and we really enjoyed the crossing.
The ferry leaves Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal, South Ferry, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan near Battery Park. On Staten Island, the ferry arrives and departs from St. George Ferry Terminal on Richmond Terrace. Service (like the subways) is provided twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. The Staten Island Ferry is quite a reliable form of mass transit, with an on-time performance of over ninety six percent. The Staten Island Ferry has been a municipal service since 1905, and currently carries over twenty one million passengers annually and is operated by the New York City Department of Transportation.
The five-mile journey takes about twenty five minutes each way. The ferry is now free of charge, though riders must disembark at each terminal and reenter through the terminal building for a round trip to comply with Coast Guard regulations regarding vessel capacity. Bicycles may also be taken on the lowest deck of the ferry without charge. In the past, ferries were equipped for vehicle transport, at a charge of $3 per car; however, vehicles have not been allowed on the ferry since 9/11.
For most of the 20th century, the ferry has been famed as the biggest bargain in New York City. It used to charge the same five cent fare as the New York Subway but the ferry fare remained a nickel when the subway fare increased to ten cents in 1948. In 1970 then-Mayor John V. Lindsay proposed that the fare be raised to twenty five cents, pointing out that the cost for each ride was fifty cents. On the 4th of August 1975, the nickel fare ended and the charge became twenty five cents for a round trip, the quarter being collected in one direction only. The round trip increased to fifty cents in 1990, but then was eliminated altogether in 1997.
The route of the Staten Island Ferry across Upper New York Bay
There is commuter parking at the St George Ferry terminal. On the Manhattan side the new Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal, dedicated in 2005, has convenient access to subways, buses, taxis and bicycle routes. The ferry ride is a favourite of tourists to New York as it provides excellent views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. In addition to the ferry, the city also provides a number of Manhattan to Staten Island bus services, but Staten Island has no passenger rail connection to any other Borough, either by bridge or underground, due to the cancellation of the Staten Island Tunnel in the 1920’s.
The Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Lower Manhattan
Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal (Manhattan): On the 7th of February 2005, a completely renovated and modernised terminal, designed by architect Frederic Schwartz, was dedicated, along with the new two-acre Peter Minuit Plaza in Lower Manhattan. The terminal was designed to accommodate over 100,000 tourists and commuters on a daily basis, and the new design establishes the terminal as a major integrated transportation hub, connecting it with a new South Ferry subway station with access to four subway lines, three bus lines and taxis. Additionally, through the Terminal and Minuit Plaza, access to bicycle lanes and even other water transport options are also available.
A "gateway to the city," set against the backdrop of Manhattan's greatest buildings on one side and the river on the other, the design was created to imbue the terminal "with a strong sense of civic presence." In his remarks at the terminal's 7th of February 2005, dedication, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated that "You can walk into this spectacular terminal day or night and feel like you're part of the city ... (the terminal) is a continuation of what you feel on the ferry ... in a sense you are suspended over the water." Described as "an elegant addition to the city's architecture," a 2005 Newsday writer called it a transit hub that is so beautiful that it has become a "destination": with "the panorama of lower Manhattan from the top of the escalators, the vast windows framing the Statue of Liberty, the upstairs deck with views of the harbor -- these are reasons to take shelter here for a little longer than the ferry schedule makes strictly necessary." We sat and people watched for about twenty minutes.
History: In the 18th century, ferry service between Staten Island and the city of New York (then occupying only the southern tip of Manhattan) was conducted by private individuals with "periaugers", shallow-draft, two-masted sailboats used for local traffic in New York harbour. In the early 19th century, Vice President (and former New York governor) Daniel D. Tompkins secured a charter for the Richmond Turnpike Company, as part of his efforts to develop the village of Tomkinsville; though intended to build a highway across Staten Island, the company also received the right to run a ferry to New York. The Richmond Turnpike Company is the direct ancestor of the current municipal ferry.
In 1817 the Richmond Turnpike Company began to run the first motorised ferry between New York and Staten Island, the steam-powered Nautilus. It was commanded by Captain John De Forest, the brother-in-law of a young man named Cornelius Vanderbilt. In 1838 Vanderbilt, who had grown wealthy in the steamboat business in New York waters, bought control of the company. Except for a brief period in the 1850’s, he would remain the dominant figure in the ferry until the Civil War, when he sold it to the Staten Island Railway, led by his brother Jacob Vanderbilt. (Three of the Staten Island ferries were requisitioned by the U.S. Army for service in the war, but none ever returned to New York harbour.)
Westfield disaster, an 1871 wood engraving
Westfield disaster: During the 1850’s, Staten Island developed rapidly, and the ferry accordingly grew in importance, but the poor condition of the boats became a source of chronic complaint, as did the limited schedule. The opening of the Staten Island Railway in 1860 increased traffic further and newer boats were acquired, named after the towns of Richmond County which covered the whole of Staten Island. One of these ferries, the Westfield, came to grief when its boiler exploded while sitting in its slip at South Ferry at about 1:30 in the afternoon of the 30th of July 1871, The New York Times described the disaster. Within days of the disaster, some eighty five were identified as dead and hundreds injured and several more were added to the death toll in the weeks following. Jacob Vanderbilt, president of the Staten Island Railway, was arrested for murder, though he escaped conviction. The engineer of Westfield was a black man, which aroused openly racist commentary in New York's newspapers, though Vanderbilt stoutly defended his employee. Victims were never compensated for damages.
B&O Railroad acquires SIRT and ferry operations: The competing ferry services that were all finally controlled by Vanderbilt were sold to the Balitimore and Ohio Railroad and operated by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad (SIRT, predecessor to Staten Island Railway) in 1884.
Northfield accident and city ownership: On the 14th of June 1901 the SIRT ferry Northfield was leaving the ferry port at Whitehall when it was struck by a Jersey Central Ferry and sank immediately. There were two full deck crews aboard Northfield and their swift actions ensured that out of 995 passengers aboard, only five ended up missing, presumed drowned. This accident, though minor in comparison to the Westfield Disaster, was seized upon by the City of New York as a justification to seize control of the SIRT ferries, Staten Island now being officially part of New York City, as the Borough of Richmond. Ferry service was assumed by the city's Department of Docks and Ferries in 1905. Five new ferries, one named for each of the new boroughs, were commissioned.
Current operations: During rush hours, ferries usually run every fifteen to twenty minute intervals, decreasing to thirty minutes during the mid-days and evenings. During very late or early morning hours (the midnight hours) a ferry is provided once every hour. During the weekends ferries run every thirty and sixty minutes. In November 2006, additional ferries running every thirty minutes were provided during the weekend morning hours - the most significant change in the ferry schedule for about three decades.
ALL IN ALL A NEW YORK STAR
A DREAM EXPERIENCE AND FREE