Advocates looking to improve access for cyclists at the Staten Island Ferry terminals have run into a roadblock from DOT, and, facing an impasse, are pivoting to a different strategy that seeks to at least protect waiting cyclists from the elements. In the meantime, a bus shelter near the ferry terminal has been spruced up with a new mural, and livable streets advocates are working to bring play streets to St. George after an unsuccessful attempt this spring.
Cyclists board the Staten Island Ferry after being inspected by a bomb-sniffing dog and waiting in an area exposed to heat and cold, beneath the indoor ferry terminal. Photo: Stephen Miller
Currently, cyclists accessing the ferry in Staten Island must ride down the roadway ramp from Richmond Terrace, dismount, get screened one-by-one by a bomb-sniffing dog, and wait in a cordoned-off area on the lower level that is also used for disabled passengers. While other passengers can wait indoors, this area is covered but open to the outside, and people are always exposed to heat, cold and wind — a particular concern during long waits when a ferry is delayed.
Cyclists coming from the west along Bank Street, a bike route, must carry their bikes up a flight of stairs, walk across the terminal, then go down another flight of stairs on the east side to access the waiting area, or take a detour along Richmond Terrace.
In May, the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness (SIPCW), the St. George Civic Association’s Ferry Riders Committee, Transportation Alternatives, and the Harbor Ring Steering Committee sent a letter [PDF] to Captain James C. DeSimone, Chief Operating Officer of DOT’s Staten Island Ferry, asking for screening area for cyclists approaching from the west so they don’t have to go up and down the stairs.
DeSimone shot the idea down, saying that increasing the ferry’s already-high security costs would be “a very tough sell” to the Office of Management and Budget. “We certainly understand your motivation,” he wrote, suggesting that the planned Harbor Commons development could improve bike access with a proposed waterfront greenway.
Meredith Sladek of Transportation Alternatives wants to see the development incorporate suggestions from Community Board 1, including construction of the North Shore Greenway, but that’s not guaranteed. “I would like to think that if the community board requests something as common-sense as safe accommodations for all users,” she said, “hopefully that will be honored.”
Until then, advocates are looking to improve conditions at the existing waiting area, where cyclists are in the cold or heat while other passengers wait inside. “I would love to see climate control. I know it’s possible,” Sladek said. “What we want to say [to DOT] is, if you can’t do this right now, help us do this other thing that will make a huge difference.”
Update: “While the areas are not temperature controlled, at St. George DOT is in the process of designing a wind shelter with seating, similar to a bus shelter, to provide additional amenities for waiting cyclists,” DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail, adding that the improvements should be complete in six to eight months.