Calls grow to reopen the old South Ferry loopBy
With around 15,000 Staten Islanders a day faced with a longer walk and inconvenient journeys, Staten Island officials and MTA Board representatives have called upon the agency to reopen the old five-car loop station at least on a temporary basis. The station has not been open for four years, though, and the MTA has resisted calls to reopen it.
“Old South Ferry is completely decommissioned and no longer an entrance,” Deirdre Parker, an agency spokesperson, said to the Staten Island Advance. “We don’t want to divert funds from rebuilding the new station in trying to recommission the old one.”
The story, from Ken Paulsen, goes a bit like this:
Staten Island’s representative to the MTA board, Allen P. Cappelli, says the agency needs to take a closer look, especially in light of the long-term timeline for rebuilding the “new” station. “I think it’s an idea that needs to be considered in the short run, and I will certainly raise it” with MTA officials, including Interim President Thomas Prendergast…
But for now, his agency is not even considering re-opening the old station to commuters. Thanks to the installation of a temporary signal system, the old station is now being used as the train turn around point — just as it did for more than a century. But when the 1 train now rumbles through the old station on its way back to Rector Street — the current terminus — there are no commuters waiting to board. The MTA says the old entrance to the South Ferry is now property of the city Department of Transportation, which runs the adjacent Staten Island Ferry. Additionally, the only stairway to the station “was halved to allow for an employee facility,” and the station is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“None of these things is insurmountable,” Cappelli countered. He added that House and Senate approval of the Hurricane Sandy relief package means that the MTA knows it will get the cash to make repairs that are needed to its system — allowing it to seriously explore the feasibility of re-opening the old South Ferry station. “This is not a ‘Where are we going to get the money’ issue,” he said.
The issue for Cappelli, and Staten Island politicians who issued a similar call last month, is about timing at money. It’s going to take around three years to get the new South Ferry in working order, and Cappelli says that’s not fair or acceptable to Staten Island residents. “Three years is an unrealistic period of time to wait and I am going to be pressing agency officials to come up with a plan to get this done in shorter period of time,” he said.
Finding a way to cut the work time is a better solution, but what this article misses about the old South Ferry station is extensive. The gap fillers are gone; the station would need to secure an ADA waiver; and it too suffered extensive damage during Sandy. That, I believe, is key. Despite a temporary signal system for turning trains, the main South Ferry loop signals were controlled by the equipment in the damaged station, and a good chunk of the cost of repairs will go toward repairing that signal system whether old South Ferry is reactivated or not.
Additionally, there are questions of money and manpower. Although the feds are footing the bill for the South Ferry repairs, this isn’t an endless piggy bank, and the MTA would have to request even more for a reactivation of the old station. Furthermore, getting it ready for use would involve a shuffling work schedules and using man-hours that could be better spent on the current South Ferry station.
Of course, as Cappelli noted, none of these issues are insurmountable. If the MTA wants to reopen South Ferry, it could find a way to pay for the project while working on South Ferry. Whether they should, well, I’ll leave that up to you to debate.