Staten Island Ferry service stopped for five days after Hurricane Sandy, the longest suspension in the ferry's more than 100-year existence, and New York's senior senator wants the federal government to step in so that never happens again. NY1's Bree Driscoll filed the following report.
Tottenville resident Michael Deligle lost his home during Hurricane Sandy. In the days that followed, he faced another challenge as he tried to visit loved ones in Manhattan.
"Everything was shut down," he said. "There was nothing moving. It was flooding."
Flooding at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island and the Whitehall terminal in Lower Manhattan knocked out service for the better part of a week and resulted in more than $15 million in damage to the ferry system as a whole, leaving people like Deligle without any options.
"I was lost. I was really lost. I didn't know where to travel," Deligle said. "There was nowhere to travel over the bridge, because the bridges were closed. I was stuck."
Now, Sen. Charles Schumer is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $2.7 million in funding to stop suspensions like that from happening again.
The money would be used to storm-proof both terminals and the ferry maintenance facility with watertight doors, mechanical seals and flood barriers.
"With these watertight enclosures in place, we can rest assured the next time a storm hits, water [won't] come racing through," Schumer said. "If there was ever something that a stitch in time saves nine, this would be it."
There are about 130 openings, and Schumer said it should take about a year and a half to complete.
He is optimistic the money will come through.
"How confident am I can I get it? Pretty confident," he said. "I wrote the Sandy bill. It's $60 billion for New York, and almost all the things I have requested have been approved."
Commuters say it would be money well spent.
"We don't have a subway from Staten Island, so it's pretty much one of the only ways," said Morgan Ratner, a Castleton Corners resident. "If you don't drive or you can't afford an express bus, you need the ferry, and it has to be reliable."
"So many people take it to get to school and work every day," said Christina Khanna, a Westerleigh resident. "If you have canceled ferries, people are going to be missing everything."
Once FEMA approves the project, money will become available within the next 30 days. Schumer said he hopes to see work beginning in the next few months.