Almost Half Of Staten Island Ferry Fleet Crippled By Chronic Engine Trouble

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Staten Island Ferry looking iconic as it crosses New York harbor. (Photo by shiny red type)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The Staten Island Ferry is free to passengers, but engine problems with three of the fleet's seven boats are costing the city millions. And that's causing a showdown between the city Department of Transportation and NYC Comptroller John Liu.

DOT says the ferry's three largest boats, which cost $139 million, have had problems with their propulsion systems since they went into service in 2005 and 2006. The department says the original contractor, the Wisonsin-based Manitowoc Marine Corporation, has failed repeatedly to fix them. So the department has asked Liu to approve an emergency contract of $9.5 million to hire Siemens to do the job.

DOT Spokesman Scott Gastel said in a statement to TN that, “This vendor will be a one stop shop for an integrated propulsion system on all three boats, an upgrade that will benefit over 65,000 passengers who rely on the Ferry each day. We clearly explained to the Comptroller why the new Siemens products are needed.”

Liu is not pleased. He said, "It's appalling that the highly-touted new ferry boats are still saddled with defects and more troubling that the DOT has no clear solution for resolving these longstanding problems.”

The comptroller is only approving $3.2 million for repair work on one of the ferries, which is in dry dock in Virginia. He says if that goes well, he might approve more. In the meantime, ferry riders must make do with boats have trouble getting up to speed.