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Schumer: Staten Island Ferry System in Need of Post-Sandy Comprehensive Resiliency and Modernization Upgrades

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Current Staten Island Ferry Fleet is Outdated---Some Vessels are Over Thirty or Fifty Years Old.

Staten Island, NY - March 21, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide federal funding to the NYC Department of Transportation’s (NYC DOT) Comprehensive Ferry Transit Resiliency Plan for three new storm-resilient SI Ferry boats, Staten Island Ferry Facilities’ Flood-proofing Resilience Upgrade, and Ferry Landings Resilience Upgrades at strategic locations city-wide. NYCDOT, in cooperation with the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC), will apply for funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Sandy Resilience Program, as part of the third tranche of $3 billion in disaster funding from the Sandy Relief Bill.  NYCDOT is seeking $267 million for three modern vessels, which will be better capable of withstanding storm conditions as well as SI Ferry resiliency upgrades and movable landings that can be utilized at strategic locations in the event of a storm. Schumer is urging the DOT to fund the new vessels in order to safeguard the Staten Island ferry system and improve transit resiliency city-wide.
 
“Superstorm Sandy’s immense wrath and critical damage underscored the need for modern, updated and more resilient infrastructure in New York City.  Ferries are a key piece of resilient infrastructure because, with the right landing equipment, they can begin running immediately after a storm. It’s common sense and cost effective for the FTA to provide funding for three new vessels that will be able to withstand storm conditions,” said Schumer.
 
“On behalf of the de Blasio Administration, I thank Senator Schumer for championing New York City’s petition for critical funding that will strengthen our ferry network,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "Shoring up the Staten Island ferry benefits every New Yorker. 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.”  
 
Schumer today urged the FTA to support NYCDOT’s Comprehensive Ferry Transit Resiliency plan, including three new ferries for Staten Island. There are three main resiliency benefits of the project. 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 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. New vessels will allow NYC DOT to retire at least two of these aging vessels.
 
NYCDOT will submit an application next week to the FTA Sandy Resilience Program to fund three new 4,500 passenger vessels for the Staten Island ferry system. The modern ferries will offer critical protection and replace three 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, funding is needed to move forward with construction. Schumer explained that, in addition to the important resiliency features, new ferries will ultimately keep down growth in maintenance cost.  Schumer also said that the NYCDOT has suggested that the new vessels will yield reduced fuel consumption and emissions
 
The project will also allow 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.  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 three new vessels are estimated to cost $100 million each, totaling approximately $309 million. The Staten Island Ferry Facilities upgrades are estimated to cost $7.5 million and the adaptation of landings at strategic locations is estimated to cost $40 million. Overall the estimated project cost amounts to $356 million and NYCDOT is seeking 75 percent of the total cost or $267 million.
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