In January 2014 I was looking for cemeteries in Staten Island (like Queens, the borough has several small and unfamiliar ones) and boarded the John J. Marchi ferryboat for the ride home at dusk, and it was at that time of day just before the sun sets when the sky sometimes turns an odd shade of peach. Upper New York Bay was unusually busy with boat traffic of all types: container vessels, tugboats, other ferries, cruise ships. In season you can also see sailboats and skiffs of various sizes, along with “water taxis” of various proprietors; probably the most noticeable one, New York Water Taxi, is black and yellow with a Checker Cab motif.

There has been a bigger push for utilizing NYC’s waterways as mass transit across the Hudson and East Rivers. Yet the idea has never really caught on. The city will have to adjust its transit infrastructure to include such water taxis and build dedicated bus lanes, with true separation by median, up to the water’s edge, and supply heated/air conditioned, roofed shelters, in order to make water commutation as patronized as that by subway. The city has begin to do this at Pier 11, the east end of Wall Street near the Seaport, which is served by both Water Taxi and NY Waterway. Many shelters are open to the elements, at the end of dead-end streets — no way to get people to ride your ferryboat.

The famed Staten Island Ferry is the modern descendant of a ferry begun by Cornelius Vanderbilt — one of his first ventures — in the 1810s. It is a division of the NYC Department of Transportation but is subsidized by bus and transit fares, and thus is ‘free’ of charge, and has been for a few decades now; before that, a ride cost a quarter. Its large orange and blue boats carry millions of passengers annually. The passengers fall mainly into two classes: workaday commuters from Staten Island, who go back and forth to Manhattan to board subways uptown, or work in the Financial District; and tourists from all over the planet, who use it for joyrides to and from Staten Island to view the greatest harbor in the world. They make a U-turn through the terminal on the Staten Island side, and then take the trip back. I fall into neither of these two classes: I take the ferry to Staten Island, and then actually poke around with my camera for a few hours, which apparently makes me one of the very few New Yorkers not born in Staten Island who is interested in Staten Island. There is talk about building the world’s largest Ferris wheel in Staten Island to induce tourists to actually leave the terminal.

The John J. Marchi was named for a Republican NY State Senator who served for fifty years (1957-2006) and ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 1969 and 1973. The ferryboat entered service on May 31, 2005, and thus Marchi, who lived until 2009, saw the ferry bearing his name enter into service. It was constructed by the Marinette Marine shipyards of Wisconsin.


The Marchi was forced to remain in the terminal for a few minutes to allow a container vessel and an oil tanker to pass. This one belongs to the Hapag-Lloyd firm, a global liner shipping company formed in 1970 by the merger of Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (Hapag/Hamburg-American Line) and North German Lloyd (NDL). The older of the two, Hapag, was founded in 1847, and NDL in 1857.


The Genmar Compatriot is an oil tanker based in Bermuda, operated by General Maritime. It entered service in 2004. [More photos here]


Accompanying another container vessel was the Laura K. Moran tug. It has been in service for the Moran Towing Corporation since 2008 and was built by by Washburn and Doughty Associates of East Boothbay, Maine. [More photos at Tugster]


Automobiles haven’t been allowed on the various Staten Island ferries for over a decade, but when they were, motorists would drive onto the lower deck, as shown here. The ferry terminal in Staten Island has an intricate ramp system that used to handle thousands of cars, but now serves only the bus lines that radiate from the terminal, as well as pickups and dropoffs.


The Robbins Reef lighthouse is backdropped by New Jersey’s tallest building, 30 Hudson Street (the Goldman Sachs Tower), in Jersey City. For many years, the lighthouse was “minded” or overseen by German immigrant Kate Gortler, who was credited with saving 50 lives during her career.

[Southern New York Harbor lighthouses]


Here’s an even closer view of the Robbins Reef lighthouse, but I can’t ID the structure adjoining it. Anybody know what it is?


At 1776 feet tall, #1 World Trade Center has officially been named the country’s tallest building, even though Chicago’s Willis Tower is 100 feet taller. It’s all about technicalities: 1WTC’s antenna is considered part of the building’s structure, while the Willis Tower’s antennas (antennae?) weren’t, by an entity known as the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. 1WTC’s developers call the antenna a mast and it’s considered part and parcel of the building’s design.

When 25 members of the council’s height committee met in Chicago on Friday, they heard the spire argument from the chief architect, David Childs of the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and representatives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which developed the trade center.

The New York contingent said the spire had always been part of the plan to achieve the symbolic height of 1,776 feet.

The committee members unanimously agreed that the spire should be counted, said Timothy Johnson, the council’s chairman and a partner in NBBJ, a design firm. New York Times

Your webmaster thinks the fix was always in.


The Peter F. Gellatly first saw service in 2008 when it was constructed by Thoma-Sea Boatbuilders of Houma, Louisiana for Gellatly Criscione Services of NYC. In 2012 she was acquired by Vane Line Bunkering of Baltimore, Maryland, hence the “V.” It’s not to be confused with the much older Peter F. Gellatly tug, built in 1968 and based in Virginia.


A view of the Gellatly and the Robbins Reef lighthouse.

Approaching to port was the cruise vessel Norwegian Breakaway. It is one of the newer ships of the Norwegian Cruise Line (launched in April 2013), and was named in a contest in USA Today along with a sister vessel, the Norwegian Getaway. If the hull paintings look somewhat familiar, that’s because they are the work of German-born, NYC-based pop artist Peter Max. It’s the world’s 5th-largest cruise ship.


The tug Matthew Tibbetts accompanies a barge vessel. It is one o the more venerable vessels seen on today’s ride–it was completed in 1969 at Main Iron Works of Houma, Louisiana as the Ocean Tower for Dann Ocean Towing of Tampa, Florida.

She was later chartered under Baleen Towing, of Boston, Massachusetts. This company was a joint venture between Reinauer Transportation and Jake Tibbetts (son of Boston Fuel and Towing’s President at the time.) The Franklin Reinauer featured a single “B” in the diamond on the stack, in the late 1970’s the single “B” was replaced with the “BFT” in the diamond. 

When Reinauer Transportation took delivery of the currentFranklin Reinauer (built in 1984) the original Franklin Reinauer was renamed as the Matthew Tibbetts. It is said that the renaming corresponded with the purchase of the Boston Fuel Transportation barges BFT 38 and BFT 39 in 1980/1981. 

Although, in the late 1990’s, environmental regulations called for vapor recovery systems be installed for the transfer of gasoline from shore side to barges. Since the oil terminals in the port of Boston opted not to install the systems. The Mathew Tibbetts and most of the barges were transferred to Reinauer Transportation’s operations in New York where vapor recovery systems were already in place.  Tugboat Information


The Guy V. Molinari ferryboat follows the Norwegian Breakaway. It is named for the former U.S. Representative and Staten Island borough president born in 1928. The ferry entered service on January 25, 2005.


The “Shining City” as the Newtown Pentacle guy calls it, begins to loom into view from the bow. In NYC you are never far from a body of water — in fact, several of them. Many of the world’s great cities are landlocked, except for their rivers, but NYC is ensconced in one of the world’s greatest natural harbors, which was instrumental in its becoming the world’s capital of commerce. New York Upper Bay, on which we are traveling, lies between Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Bayonne, NJ. It is fed by the Hudson and East Rivers, and the Gowanus Canal and the Kill Van Kull issue from it. Governors Island, Liberty Island and Ellis Island sit within its waters. Upper New York Bay is separated from its Lower counterpart by the Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island, which is bridged by the Verrazano-Narrows. Its distance between Lower Manhattan and St. George is approximately five miles, which takes the ferry 25 minutes to traverse.


The uptown King of All Buildings peeks through its taller, but inferior, downtown challengers. A very brief period of pink illumination is provided by the setting sun. At the bottom of the picture you can glimpse Pier A, completed in 1886, the same year as a certain lady named Liberty, to serve the New York City Department of Docks and Harbor Police. Its clock tower was added in 1919 as a World War I memorial. The city used it as a fireboat station in the 1990s, but it has been left idle for a couple of decades, as developer after developer fumbled the ball when attempting to revive it. Eventually it is supposed to house a number of restaurants, but the opening date has been repeatedly pushed back.


To paraphrase Felicia Hemans, the boy stood on the bounding deck, looking toward Brooklyn. There is nothing quite as bone chilling as standing on the bow of the Staten Island Ferry in the dead of winter, facing the howling north wind.


The NYC area’s largest lighthouse. Lady Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and was actually counted as a lighthouse until 1902. Liberty weighs 225 tons and wears size 879 sandals. The entire landmark is 305 feet in height.

Liberty is often imitated, but never duplicated. There are numerous replicas all over the globe, including the 35-foot tall Liberty that stood atop the Liberty Warehouse on West 64th Street near Lincoln Center from 1902-2002 and is currently in the parking lot of the Brooklyn Museum.


I got this shot by zooming toward the back end of the ferry. I was attracted by the last bit of sunlight and the odd pink sky. The gull happened by at a good time.


One of the oldest structures on Governors Island is Castle Williams,  a War of 1812-era battlement. A historic sign affixed next to it reads:

With walls forty feet high and eight feet thick, this red sandstone bastion bristled with over one hundred cannons when it was completed in 1811. Named after its designer, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Williams, it has also been nicknamed the ìCheeseboxî because of its circular shape. Castle Williams, with its twin fort, Castle Clinton in the Battery, was built to guard the waterway between Governors Island and New York City. Together these forts provided such a formidable defense that the British fleet never attempted to attack New York City during the War of 1812. Today, it is under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard. Plaque provided by the New York Community Trust, 1976.

There was never a shot fired in anger from Castle Williams, but in 1966 when command was changed from the army to the coast guard, the cannons atop the fort were fired ceremoniously. The vibrations from the noise unexpectedly shattered all the windows. The Castle was used as a jail from the Civil War through 1966. Castle Williams held as many as 1,000 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War; several died here and are buried at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn. Walt Disney and Rocky Graziano were both imprisoned here at one point for being AWOL from the army. Several prisoners are said to have escaped from here and successfully swam to Brooklyn. Castle Williams is called a “castle” not because of its shape or because it housed royalty, but because it was built entirely of stone. Structures built of stone along with wood and other materials bear the name of “fort.” [from FNY’s Governors Island page]


The setting sun illuminated the westward-facing windows of One Hanson Place. The 45-story tower was completed in 1929 and originally housed the offices of the Williamsburg Savings Bank, and the bank’s public areas and teller windows have been retained on the ground floor. After many years as host to a number of oral surgeons and dentists (hence its nickname “The House of Pain,”) the tower was converted to luxury residential about a decade ago and given its new name.


A look from the bow of the Marchi toward lower Manhattan.  The curved columnar building in front is 17 State Street, which occupies the old Seaman’s Institute and, going further back, the house where Herman Melville was born.


As darkness descends the Marchi is about to arrive at the new Manhattan ferry terminal, opened in early 2005. After a devastating fire in the old terminal (that had stood from 1908) in 1991, nearly 14 years passed before the city was able to settle on an architectural plan for a new terminal.


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29 Responses to STATEN ISLAND FERRY at dusk

  1. Renee Neumann says:

    Thanks, Kevin, for capturing what most Staten Islanders take for granted on a Monday thru Friday slog to work in Manhattan, or an occasional weekend jaunt. My mother and I both commuted on the Staten Island Ferry for years after moving from Brooklyn, and commuters used to refer to it as the cattle boat due to the huge numbers of crowded commuters it moved during rush hours. Taking it to “the city” on the weekend for shopping, great dining, a show or museum visit, was completely different, and we could relax and appreciate the amazing views as did the tourists alongside us. On earlier visits as a child, my grandmother would tell me about the excitement among coming-to-America immigrants as they saw “The Lady” (Liberty) for the first time, and how very proud and happy they were to become Americans and all that the statue symbolized for them. Lots of history but always changing; the NY skyline from the south is barely recognizable now by those of us who grew up in the ’50s through ’70s. (If you’d like to see more of those peach colored sunsets, come visit us in southern California or Arizona.) Thanks for preserving history, from a former Staten Islander.

    • NY2AZ says:

      To amplify on Renee’s comments:

      Dusk in the AZ desert is a spectacular event with superb mountain views & the occaisonal saguaro cactus. And the weather is just as good (low to mid ’70’s since Deember). To those of yoiu who are feeling agitated by your governor’s recent outburst: come see us soon.

  2. Allen says:

    Before 2001, 7 World Trade Center used to block the view up West Broadway to the Empire State Building.

  3. Nirmal says:

    You really got in some stunning shots here, keven. i love the ferries.

  4. fdr says:

    Beautiful photos. The Staten Island Ferry is not subsidized by bus and transit fares, which go to the MTA not to the NYC Dept of Transportation. The cost of operating the ferry is just one more cost of city government that is paid out of the city’s operating budget, which comes from taxes, fees, fines, etc.

  5. Fred Mayer says:

    Didn’t know the ferry was ‘free’. Last time I rode it was a 5 cents. It’s a long time since I’ve been back. Now I’m not welcome according to Comrade Cuomo, even though I was born and grew up in Queens.

  6. Friends–

    According to the USCG is is a The octagonal structure near the Robbins Reef Lighthouse is a sewer outfall that was constructed around 1915, not the base of a 1839 tower.

    I expect this answers the question proposed by Forgotten NY.

    • John says:

      That is correct. I believe it is a vent structure. I don’t think that the sewer line is now in use. When I worked for the Army Corps of Engineers I saw it on the old sounding surveys.

  7. BTW the previous did not post the website to support my answer:


  8. James says:

    I’ve read this website for 10 years + and I’ve gotta say, these photos are the most strikingly beautiful ones I’ve seen. Fantastic stuff

  9. Frank says:

    Thanks for always making sure that Staten Island gets some coverage. Growing up on SI, the ferry was the only way to get to “the city”. Commuting from Tottenville to the city took forever!!
    It was a nickel way back then, but I love the price now. I had the chance to take a “night cruise” a few years ago and the view is just breathtaking.
    Many thanks and I hope your cemetery research went well.

  10. Old Skool says:

    Nice light Kevin. Isn’t that what we photographers work with? Light and form and composition are our tools. The Manhattan shots show me how much the city has changed. I have a relatives pix of the approach up the Hudson to the Cunard piers from the Queen Mary in the ’50’s and my own from shipping out in the Navy in the ’80’s and a port visit in ’11 just months before 9/11. I am looking forward to steaming out of this harbor on the Queen Mary 2 in the spring.
    Nice shot of the KOB too although my personal fave is the Chrysler. And by the way I agree on your assessment about 1WTC. Same guy who fixed that convinced the NFL that a football game in Jersey in February was a good idea. His cousin is the same shmoe who slipped some coin to the Olympic Organizing Committee and convinced them that it was a good idea to host the Olympics in an active terrorist zone.

  11. Tal Barzilai says:

    No matter how much you try to glorify that so-called One WTC, it’s no replacement to what stood there before with two simply majestic buildings known as the Twin Towers, which should have been rebuilt instead of this.

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      Who’s glorifying?

    • Tal Barzilai says:

      Much of that comes from the architectural snobs on message boards where they like the latest everything, and will support them even if they were done by elitism such as back room deals or even ignoring the public altogether.

      • april says:

        Ever since the twin towers were erected, I saw – and dubbed – them (as) ‘two coffins in the sky.” How prophetic. But they were plain-faced rectangles with no character whatsoever, IMO, despite my great love for minimalistic architecture and furnishings. My mother worked on the 102nd floor of #2 decades ago and I never visited her there, even though she got a free lunch at Windows On The World for several years. Leona Helmsley herself – truly the Queen of Mean – fired her personally. We all know where Leona is now!
        BTW, I found this post so beautifully photographed (as many others have readily remarked) that I shared it with those who would truly appreciate all it contains. I think I’ve read every single page you’ve posted since FNY began. Please don’t change a thing; it’s perfect.

  12. PwgLegGuy says:

    Regarding that structure:

    From devb of the LTV Squad:

    This is the outlet shaft of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s treatment plant.



  13. Ray says:

    The lighthouse is being restored by the John Noble Museum, which is also a place we’ll worth the trip (Snug Harbor).

  14. Larry says:

    What a beautiful set of photos..Thank You, yet again…..I used to joyride as a kid and took the ferry to Staten Island and sometimes would go back home in Brooklyn via the “Electric Ferry” that ran to 69th Street Brooklyn, before the bridge was built….

  15. Bill Tweeddale says:

    Great photos Kevin. The “Willy” has to be 3-4 miles away, but your shot makes it look like it’s in South Ferry! What kind of camera do you use, and how do you keep it steady on a rolling ship? I can’t imagine you carrying a tripod on your jaunts.

  16. all though I didn’t work in Manhattan I rode the ferry a 1000 times from my youth to when I left in 2001. shopping going to Yankee games, shows etc. I remember the great pizza in the little pizza place by the escalators on the Manhattan side the hot dogs and big pretzels. looking at these pictures I can almost smell the sea water thanks for the memories

  17. EW3 says:

    Stunning photography Kevin.
    Remember my father and I taking the ferry on a Saturday afternoon for entertainment in the late 50s/early 60’s. There used to be a mothball fleet tied up in Bayonne, with battleships galore there. My Dad worked in the shipyard that was there during WWII. Big impression for this future Navy man.
    And that view over the bow with the accordion like workings, brought back memories have stood in that exact spot!

    • Old Skool says:

      EW3 I remember the mothball fleet as well. Mostly old grey ships to this kid. What got me going was a visit to the Brooklyn Navy yard where I saw an aircraft carrier, a tin can and a submarine. Years later I shipped out of Coastal Dry Dock which had taken over BNSYD on a modern tin can. STG1 (SW)

      • EW3 says:

        Such a small world.
        My last duty station was BNSY where I was TAD after leaving the DE1038 as an Electronics Warfare Tech.

  18. Mark says:

    Few people outside New York, and only slightly more who live here, realize that New York is a “City of Water”. How many people outside New York know that there are public beaches in NYC? All the bridges and tunnels have disconnected us from this reality.

    As for, “the idea of ferries not catching on” I don’t think that’s quite true. Look at success of the NY Waterway ferry. I remember being one of the first riders on NY Waterway back in 1986 when they were operating with a couple of boats out of a gravel parking lot in Weehawken. Arthur Imperatore, the founder, was standing dockside shaking people’s hands as they boarded.

    The private ferries aren’t more popular because of the expense. NY Waterway from Weehawken to 39th St. costs $9 one way. The private ferries are not an option for a lot of people for that reason.

    • NY2AZ says:

      As a mater of fact, I describe NYC to my AZ neighbors as 2.5 islands & a piece of the mainland. Many were amazed to learn about NYC’s water wonderland when Capt. Sulklenberger had to ditch in the Hudson River. They thought that the only birds in NYC were pidgeons.

  19. dave c. says:

    Beautiful first photo. At first I thought it was a painting! Great light.

  20. John says:

    My computer desktop’s background is a July 4th weekend sunset shot of the Statue, shot from the bow of the John F. Kennedy, with the U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat in the foreground (and just enough clouds in front of the sun not to wash out Lady Liberty). So I appreciate seeing some more shots of the Upper Bay. Nice job.

    I’m old enough to remember riding the 1920s-early 30s era ferries (American Legion I, Knickerbocker, Dongan Hills and the Tompkinsville), and the extensive wood paneling inside those boats on the second level (and the really cigar-smelling men’s room on the ‘Smoking Deck’) — the city spent some time and money on enhancing the look of those ferries for the passengers (there are color and B&W exterior shots of those boats around, but not the interiors AFAIK). They started making the insides more utilitarian with the last of the two-deck (non-night) boat orders in 1938, but at least the Marchi, Molinari and the Spirit of America’s interiors are a step up from the Barberi and the Newhouse.

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