Staten Island Ferry in New York Harbor.
Wow, you're right. I didn't know you could go up there.
Are there plans to do anything with it Zip, or just leave as it is?
I'm not aware of any plans, but I can't believe the city would let this space go to waste with just a few benches. The views are nice, and will get better once the subway is completed and the plaza restored. The Coast Guard is vacating the building in the last photo, and Battery Park will be extended up to the ferry terminal.
Retail is starting to open inside the terminal (there's a news stand). All that is needed outside is a food kiosk, with tables and chairs - something like the setup at the Municipal Building plaza.
I wonder if the city has ever thought of building an underwater subway, like the one in San Francisco.
Although none are as long (3-4miles) as BART, New York has 14 underwater subway tunnels. The total does not include commuter rail tunnels.
BTW, has anyone been by the new Staten Island Ferry (Whitehall) Terminal lately? I drove by it late last night, and it looks fantastic, particularly the giant neon sign, which lights up the night sky. I really love it. Sorry I don't have any pictures.
It looks fantastic ... and once they finish up work on the extension of the subway station and are able to re-build Peter Minuit Plaza in front of the Ferry Station and reclaim / renovate the area being vacated by the Coast Guard then the whole area will be vastly improved.
More info here: http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us/capconstr/s...al%205_04_.pdf
Better than a fare
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Councilman James Oddo is nothing if not persistent. When there's something he thinks needs fixing and he sees a way to do that through city government, he'll go after the issue hammer and tong and won't quit until it's resolved.
His persistence on the issue of overdevelopment paid off big time. It was his impassioned letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after years of banging his head against the wall of city bureaucracy, that served as the catalyst for the creation of the mayor's Staten Island Growth Management Task Force. The task force's recommendations, with the full backing of the mayor, were quickly enacted into law, resulting in significant zoning reforms regulating new housing.
Similarly, his relentless assaults on the Department of Buildings have helped force that once-unresponsive city agency to budge and finally pay attention to a lot of the regulatory issues here that, for decades, went unnoticed.
Mr. Oddo's sensible campaign against the use of metal bats in youth baseball programs, once perceived as a kind of loopy one-man crusade, has finally gotten traction in the City Council, which may soon pass a limited ban. It's also made him a spokesman on the issue nationwide. Mr. Oddo's refusal to let the issue go is one big reason for that breakthrough.
Earlier this month, the Mid-Island Republican began tilting again at another of his favorite windmills -- a fare on the Staten Island Ferry targeted to tourists.
Mr. Oddo has proposed on a number of occasions that, while the ferry ride must remain free for commuters, a $2 round-trip fare should be imposed on tourists who use the world-famous ferry with its world-class views.
Under his plan, regular ferry riders would be issued "smart cards" -- similar to Metro-Cards -- that would enable them to continue to ride free. Others who wanted to ride this fabled tourist attraction would be required to purchase their fare cards good for a single round trip from vending machines at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal.
The Councilman reasons that such limited fare collection could generate up to $10 million a year for the city. While that's not going to put the city permanently in the black, it could help stave off some of the most severe service cuts in periodic economic downturns.
Tourists spent $21 billion in the city in 2004, in large part by paying steeply for everything from hotel rooms to theater tickets. So they make up a "willing universe" of fare-payers, he says, because they arrive their big trip to New York with their pockets full of spending money.
"I'd rather raise money from people [who] don't live in New York who are willing to spend it," Mr. Oddo said earlier this year.
He reasons that modern fare-collection technology would allow the city to easily make the distinction between regular riders and one-time passengers.
Everyone who boarded a ferry would have to have a smart card. The regulars, including off-Island residents who use the ferry often, would already have their smart cards provided to them for free by virtue of their residency. Tourists, meanwhile, would have to purchase their one-day smart cards to get on the ferry.
"There is a commodity out there on the boat and in that harbor, and I don't think it's a bad idea to market those views and that experience," Mr. Oddo said in reviving the issue earlier this month.
"It's money waiting to be recouped by the city," he has said. "At the very least, let's talk about it."
More recently, he said, "I think it's not asking a whole lot of tourists. They relish that ride to the point they would reach into their pockets."
At Mr. Oddo's urging, the city's Independent Budget Office studied the feasibility of his proposal. Recently, IBO issued its finding that a tourist-only fare would be cost-effective and that costs of purchasing and installing the vending machines and turnstile gates would soon be made up by revenues generated from the limited ferry fares.
Despite this finding, however, there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for his proposal in the rest of city government.
"It's clear the city doesn't want to pursue this," Mr. Oddo said. History shows that rejection won't move him to give up on the idea, however.
Even some of Mr. Oddo's constituents aren't overwhelmingly supportive. A poll conducted through his newsletter showed 201 out of 446 respondents opposed the concept. Surprisingly, a number of those who answer the poll question said they thought the two-tier fare system would be unfair.
"If one guy pays, everybody pays," said one.
We have no particular problem with making tourists pay a modest price for a ride on the famous Staten Island Ferry. After all, as Mr. Oddo notes, it's one of the best rides anywhere in the world and it's on the must-see itinerary of hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit our city -- like taking the cable cars on a visit to San Francisco.
And we're fairly confident that modern fare-collection technology would allow the city to implement a differentiated fare structure, inevitable malfunctions aside. As happened with E-ZPass, however, there would inevitably be a transition period during which some riders wouldn't get around to filling out the requisite paperwork -- another imposition on hard-pressed commuters. And what about lost and stolen cards?
The bottom line is that we wonder about the ultimate cost-benefit ratio. Aside from the costs of hardware to dispense and read the fare cards, there's the cost of maintaining that hardware. Then, there are the breakdowns and costs of maintaining all that equipment to keep it functioning. Remember the ferry terminal escalator escapades?
Then, there has to be a new layer of administration to handle the fare-collection. And even if each tourist who took the ferry paid the $2 fare, it wouldn't even cover the overtime paid to ferry workers in an average year.
It seems like a lot of effort for an estimated $4 million to $10 million a year. Is it worth it?
As we've said before, rather than socking it to tourists, why not find a way coax them to get off the ferry at St. George and spend a little of that vacation money on Staten Island. The newly reinvigorated Staten Island Yankees play at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George right next to the terminal. Not far away is the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Excellent restaurants abound within a reasonable radius of the ferry terminal. Someday, there may be a completed National Lighthouse Museum they could visit.
Yet the vast majority of tourists who take the ferry never leave the St. George terminal. They turn around and get another boat to Manhattan, the only "New York City" most of them will ever get to see. We've heard lots of people lament that phenomenon, but there's been precious little effort to prod those people off the boats and onto our shores. Why?
If Mr. Oddo would apply his creativity and tenacity to attacking that question, the city and Staten Island might be the beneficiaries of a lot more revenue than any tourist ferry fare would raise.
They'd have to issue that free-ride "smart card" to every resident of NYC.