Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
Bah Humbug! City Halts Staten Island Ferry Decorations
Friday, December 16, 2011
Ferry riders are getting "scrooged" out of holiday decorations this year at the Staten Island Ferry terminals. That's because the Department of Transportation has nixed the tinsel, tree, lights and bows this holiday season.
In years past, commuters on both sides of the New York Harbor have enjoyed festive signs of the season. But this year, the terminals will remain bare, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he supports the Department of Transportation's decision.
"Reason is you start getting into the whole issue of religion on public spaces and there's plenty of places where you can have Christmas, plenty of stores and homes that can have Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show on WOR.
Last year, an issue arose after a Nativity scene was placed in one of the terminals without a permit. When the city removed it, a group called the Liberty Counsel, which describes itself as a public interest law firm that specializes in free speech and religious freedoms, wrote the DOT to complain that the city was treating the Christmas display unconstitutionally.
DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the city implemented its current policy, which bans decorative displays in the ferry terminal area, after a review of its policy last year. He said it's similar to the MTA’s policy at Grand Central Station, which does not permit displays on the main floor of the terminal.
But anyone who has passed through Grand Central during the holidays knows there are wreaths hanging on each of the columns around the station with white lights spotlighting them.
"They are secular, seasonal decorations," MTA spokeswoman Margie Anders said. "We've had them for years." But she said it is correct that they do not permit anything on the floor of the terminal.