Ferry awaits final voyage

A Merrell Class vessel Verrazzano that connected the borough of Staten Island to Manhattan sits in a scrap metal yard on the western shore of Staten Island. Retired several years ago, this boat has been stripped down to its metal frame. Cold and eerie, the boat’s decks are badly deteriorated from neglect and by the elements.

The Staten Island Ferry operated sidewheel and propeller-driven steamboats from the beginning of steam navigation until 1982 when the diesel ferryboats Andrew J. Baraberi and Samuel I Newhouse replaced the last trio of steamboats.

The three steamboats, completed in 1950 and 1951 at Bethlehem Steel Company’s Staten Island yard, were named Pvt. Joseph F. Merrell, Cornelius G. Kolff and Verrazzano, the last-named an unusual spelling, with a double ‘z’ for the Florentine navigator explorer Giovanni de Verrazano.

The trio shared a length of 269 feet, gross tonnage of 2,285, capacity for 106 passengers and a vehicle deck for cars, vans and small trucks.


Years of painted-over stenciling was exposed after the ferry was decommissioned. (Gordon Donovan) The gutted middle deck, in a lovely shade of New York City orange. (Gordon Donovan) A retired Staten Island Ferry waiting to be scrapped sits docked next to a scrap metal yard. (Gordon Donovan)
One of the sets of scissor gates on the lower level of the Staten Island Ferry. (Gordon Donovan) The stairs leading to the engine room on the lower level in the car park area. (Gordon Donovan) This door was the one crew members used to get to the upper decks. (Gordon Donovan)
A retired Staten Island Ferry waiting to be scrapped sits docked next to a scrap metal yard. (Gordon Donovan) The creepy darkness of the lower level of the boat is now covered with chipping paint and corrosion. (Gordon Donovan) The stairs leading to the engine room on the lower level in the car park area. (Gordon Donovan)
The life preservers on board this class of ferry were jackets with solid orange around the neck. As a kid, I always looked under the seats to see that they were there. (Gordon Donovan) During rush hour aboard the Staten Island Ferry, it was hard to get a seat. Today, the boat is stripped of its wooden seats and the food concession stand is gone. (Gordon Donovan) Now stripped down just to the metal frame, the wooden benches on the outer level must have carried hundreds of thousands of tourists coming to see the Statue of Liberty. (Gordon Donovan)
Here is a seat no passenger ever had crossing New York Harbor. The open deck in between the two bridges. (Gordon Donovan) A view from the bridge. Not as pretty as Manhattan at night. (Gordon Donovan) The bridge's electric panels are now covered in corrosion, after being exposed to the elements. (Gordon Donovan)

Boarding these vessels is extremely dangerous and unlawful. It is recommended that you permission first due the high risk of injury and possible arrest.

2 Comments

  1. Reply
    John Whyte September 23, 2015

    The pictures above are not of a Kennedy Class vessel. They are in fact of the Merrell Class vessel Verrazzano. After she was sold in the mid 80’s she was tied up at the old ferry maintenance facility (Pier 7 Stapelton) until it was destroyed by fire and then moved to the old Coast Guard base closer to the ferry terminal. It then moved from place to place from Red Hook to Bayonne until she was broken.

  2. Reply
    Chip Dunham October 22, 2015

    This is actually the VERRAZZANO of the MERRELL class, built 1951. She was the last Staten Island Ferry to be built on Staten Island. She was also the last steam boat for the Staten Island Ferry.

    You can tell the difference quickly in two ways. First, the front of the pilot houses on the MERRELL class boats is square while the KENNEDY class is round. Second, on the saloon deck, the outside area on the MERRELL class cuts back in a manner similar to the former two-deck boats (i.e. it starts to go around the sides of the boat) but on the KENNEDY class, the outside area is straight across the boat.

    Chip

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