Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 13, 2017

Tips for NY Tourists: The Staten Island Ferry


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By Ernest Barteldes

A couple of years ago I saw a report about how the NYPD had arrested scammers who were taking hundreds of dollars from tourists visiting New York by selling “tickets” to the Staten Island Ferry – the cheap traveler’s alternative to the Circle Line. Since then, the Department of Transportation has posted signs everywhere stating that yes, the ferry is operated free of charge to anyone at any time.

But since many visitors who do not do their homework (more about that in another post) are still a bit clueless about the ferry. Since the puppet site Glove and Boots will not do one of their “tips” videos about the ferry (they do have to redeem themselves for spreading the outdated rumor about the garbage still coming to the island), I will give my own tips about the transportation I have been taking every single day for over a decade.

There is no “last” ferry.

The Staten Island Ferry runs 24 hours, 7 days a week. Weekend boats used to be dicey, but in recent years they have been running every 30 minutes except for rush hours, when they run on a 15/20 minute schedule. The HBO TV show Sex and The City had an episode in which Carrie missed the last boat and somehow people drank the cool-aid, but the fact is that there is always a next boat, even on weekends.

You cannot sit on the ferry and just wait for it to go back to Manhattan

That used to be true – you could ride the ferry all night if you wanted to, unless the boat was going out of service. But since 9/11 security got tighter and everyone has to leave the boat and re-board, even if you are taking the exact same boat. So please get up and move on. Your sitting there wondering what to do just delays the next ride, and after a few times that can mean 15-20 minute delays. So please get up, there are New Yorkers trying to get home or to work here.

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The Cafe on the Ferry

Yes, you can drink alcohol on the ferry

There are several venues that sell wine, beer and spirits at both Whitehall and St. George Terminals, but I often see folks asking to ‘brown bag’ their brews prior to boarding the boat. I am not sure why there is a loophole about that, but the fact is that the concession stands inside the boat sell beer (at a premium) and no cops will give you a citation for enjoying a drink there – unless you become disorderly.

You don’t need to lock your bike while on the boat

What, someone is going to steal your bike and swim away? Relax, your bike is safe.

Cars are not coming back to the Staten Island Ferry anytime soon

After 9/11 cars have been banned from the ferry. Even if the newer Molinari-class boats were designed to carry cars, there has been no way to find a compromise between the DOT and the NYPD to allow cars back, even if other cities have found effective ways to scan vehicles before they board. It is a pity, because it was a fast way for North Shore residents to get to Lower Manhattan. Basically another reason for me not to get a car.

There is a lot to do on Staten Island

Sure, we are no Manhattan. But Staten Island has museums, parks, restaurants (the best pizza in the city – I can vouch for that), hiking trails, beaches and many other attractions. We are not a barren desert filled with Trump supporters (sure, plenty of those here, but no news since it’s the one Republican borough in the city – but they are all bark and not bite), so there a lot to do. Please get off the ferry and explore. No need to rush back to Manhattan.

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