New $100M Staten Island ferry unused with no trained pilot

0
19

[ad_1]

The dazzling new $100 million Staten Island Ferry boat named after a local war hero and christened by Mayor Bill de Blasio with much fanfare two weeks ago has been grounded — because the city hasn’t trained ferry workers how to operate it.

The ferry is named after Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a 24-year-old Staten Island native who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2013. He was on his third tour of duty during Operation Enduring Freedom and due to return home just two months later.

Ollis saved the life of a wounded Polish officer during the attack.

The Ollis boat — the first new vessel in the fleet in 16 years — was christened with much fanfare by the mayor, Staten Island elected officials and the soldier’s family on Oct. 4.

But the Post Wednesday morning found the SSG Michael H. Ollis — part of a $309 million fleet of three new boats — docked and dormant.

“I can’t imagine that the Ollis ferry will be put into service until next year. We have not seen a training plan,” Roland Roxha, secretary treasurer of the Marine Engineers and Beneficial Association, the union representing the captains and engineers who navigate the ferry.

The newly commissioned Staten Island Ferry SSG Michael Ollis is seen at the St. George Terminal in Staten Island Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.
The SSG Michael H. Ollis is docked at the St. George Terminal in Staten Island on October 20, 2021.
Chad Rachman
Linda and Robert Ollis, parents of fallen soldier Staff Sgt Michael Ollis
Linda and Robert Ollis, parents of Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal on January 28, 2016
Chad Rachman

The 160-member union has been without a new contract since 2010 amid an impasse with the de Blasio administration.

As things currently stand, there’s not enough ferry staffers to do both the training and keep the current boats running at the same time, Roxha claimed.

Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis
The $100 million Staten Island ferry is named after Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghainstan in 2013.
Linda Ollis

Roxha said the labor dispute has contributed to the staffing woes because the city Department of Transportation, which operates the ferry service, is not paying enough to attract mariners who can make more working in the private sector. Starting pay for captains is about $70,000.

“The city is disrespecting the ferry workers,” he said.

The mariners’ union also sent a letter to DOT Commissioner Hank Guttman noting that “the SSG Michael H. Ollis remains at Caddell Dry Dock as our members are not yet trained to operate this vessel which will require more training and responsibilities.”

State Sen. Diane Savino (D-SI/Brooklyn), who participated in the Oct. 4 press conference for the unveiling of the Ollis boat said, “I’m surprised the new boat has not been put into service. The christening was a recognition of a selfless individual. We made a big deal that the Ollis boat was being launched — and now it’s just sitting there.”

Savino also said she’s upset after hearing that de Blasio has not settled a contract with the mariners union.

“He’s supposed to be the labor friendly mayor. The lack of a contract for 11 years is a mockery of the labor law. It’s not like giving raises to the ferry workers in this small union is going to break the bank,” the senator said.

Tugboats assist the Staten Island Ferry Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis as they arrive in New York Bay Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.
Union member Roland Roxha says there are not enough ferry operators to pilot the boats and train new staffers for the SSG Michael H. Ollis.
Chad Rachman

City DOT runs the 5.2 mile, 24/7 ferry service between the St. George ferry terminal on Staten Island’s North Shore and the Whitehall terminal in lower Manhattan.

The free service is a lifeline of transportation for island commuters but also a premier tourist attraction because the ferry boat traverses New York Harbor and passes the Statue of Liberty.

The newly commissioned Staten Island Ferry SSG Michael Ollis is seen at the St. George Terminal in Staten Island Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.
Union member Roland Roxha blasted the city Department of Transportation for not forking more money to attract ferry operators.
Chad Rachman

The Post inspected the 320-foot Ollis ferry boat in August, which features a 575-foot walking track on the top deck, more comfortable seating and more charging stations. It will seat a maximum of 4,500 passengers.

The boat, which operates with lighter material, is more storm resilient and also has a new anchor system.

The newly commissioned Staten Island Ferry SSG Michael Ollis is seen at the St. George Terminal in Staten Island Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.
State Sen. Diane Savino is disappointed that the SSG Michael H. Ollis is “just sitting there,” after a ceremony.
Chad Rachman
The newly commissioned Staten Island Ferry SSG Michael Ollis is seen at the St. George Terminal in Staten Island Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.
State Sen. Diane Savino ripped Mayor Bill de Blasio for leaving the Marine Engineers and Beneficial Association without a contract for 11 years.
Chad Rachman

Reached for comment, DOT spokesman Scott Gastel accused the union of exaggerating the time before the boat will be in passenger service.

“The SSG Michael H. Ollis was christened because we took ownership, which is standard,” Gastel said in a statement. “As stated before it will not go into service until the end of the year and training is well underway as staff (including captains, engineers and mates) learn the systems and related equipment. Broader training will follow shortly. We look forward to the Ollis serving passengers in the coming months.”

[ad_2]

Source link