Staten Island Ferry Riders Clamor for Retail Shops

Diane J. Savino

Staten Island Advance

Staten Island Ferry riders are still clamoring for more retail options in the St. George and Whitehall ferry terminals, though they are otherwise generally content with ferry service, according to Sen. Diane Savino's Staten Island Ferry Report Card.

"We have this beautiful terminal where a lot of money was spent, and the one thing they all seem to want is more retail," Sen. Savino said.

"You look at Grand Central Terminal, you see the effort that's going into 34th Street at Penn Station, and there's no reason why the ferry terminal cannot become a destination in itself, and not just a link on the way home," Sen. Savino said.

While the desire for more restaurants, a drug store, and other shops isn't at all surprising, the rest of the report cards yielded interesting results.

Instead of complaints about service -- aside from a request for more frequent boats -- every day quality of life bugaboos took center stage in the survey of nearly 550 passengers.

Riders graded the ferry on cleanliness, service, frequency, and security, as well as their overall opinion, and the grades were overwhelmingly positive.

Survey respondents said they want cleaner bathrooms, a quiet area free of loud cell phone conversations and ferry preachers, and bus passengers complained about getting smacked in the face with clouds of cigarette smoke on the bus ramps.

Write-in comments included commuter frustrations over subway schedules that don't synch with the ferry, leaving riders to miss boats when the train pulls in a minute too late.

"The 1 train and the W train sit on the tracks until it is certain we have missed the ferry! Coordinate this!" on respondent wrote.

Despite a recent push to bring car service back to the ferry, only 11 people said it should be a priority, Sen. Savino said.

Sen. Savino said the survey is a useful tool for the DOT, as well as the city's Economic Development Corp., which is responsible for filling the retail spaces, because the agencies can hear directly from the people who use the ferry daily.

The results help answer, "What is it that Staten Islanders who rely so heavily on the ferry would want, and also, how do we take that information to improve the service so we can encourage more Staten Islanders to use the ferry?"

With calls for increased frequency of nighttime service, Sen. Savino called on City Council members, with support from legislators on the state level, "to begin to make the case that Staten Islanders need more service at night and show that there is a demand there."

There are more and more people who work overnight, that work late shifts, that would utilize the ferry if it was there," she said. "It becomes a challenge for us to convince the city during the budget process that that has to be done."

"We are pleased with the results of Senator Savino's report, but we are always looking for ways to improve service," a DOT spokesman said.

The ferry report card is available online at

Contributed by Maura Yates