Quiet on the Bridge Deck, Please
Ferry adopting Sen. Savino's idea for a designated refuge from the din
By MAURA YATES
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- While they are enduring one of the most arduous daily commutes in the nation, Staten Islanders sometimes just want a little peace and quiet.
To make at least one leg of a long journey a little more serene for commuters, State Sen. Diane Savino has been pushing for the creation of a "Quiet Deck" aboard the Staten Island Ferry, where riders can be free from loud cell phone conversations, chatter and, of course, those ubiquitous ferryboat preachers who have long rankled a captive audience.
In short, a "place for people who just want to sit and decompress" before or after a long day at work, the senator said. Their commuting cousins aboard Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak trains already enjoy such an accommodation.
Now, after reviewing legal issues surrounding free speech and how it applies on public transportation, the city's Department of Transportation, which runs the ferries, has agreed to adopt the Quiet Deck, with signage posted on the bridge deck of the three Molinari-class ferryboats, the fleet's newest.
The older ferryboats, with their more open floor plans, would be more difficult to segregate, Sen. Savino noted; she said the DOT is brainstorming in that regard.
City Councilman Kenneth Mitchell (D-North Shore) has pledged to introduce legislation to give DOT and police more enforcement power to maintain quiet in the area where the signs will be posted. But until then, riders will be asked to police themselves, and keep their voices down voluntarily.
Sen. Savino and Mitchell held a press conference yesterday at the St. George Ferry Terminal to tout the Quiet Deck initiatives.
"Providing for a more safe and secure environment for ferry riders is a top priority of mine," said Mitchell. "Staten Island Ferry riders have the right to commute without being disturbed. Through this legislation, I hope to improve the quality of their commuting experience."
Sen. Savino, who noted that ferry riders showed support for the plan in Ferry Report Cards recently distributed by her office to gauge commuters' concerns, said, "Staten Islanders have the longest average commute in the nation and deserve the opportunity to have that commute be as peaceful and safe as possible.
"Establishing a Quiet Deck will go a long way toward improving the quality of life for thousands of ferry riders every day. I want to thank Councilman Mitchell and the Department of Transportation, especially [ferry chief] Capt. James DeSimone, for their cooperation in making our proposal for a quiet zone a reality."
Maura Yates covers transportation news for the Advance.