Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Floating for Free: COVID and the Staten Island Ferry

Two ferries in the fleet pass each other, March 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney.

The Staten Island Ferry sometimes feels like the last free thing to do in New York City. Operating since 1905, it’s the best view of the Statue of Liberty for tourists, a commuting tool for the rich and poor alike, a pregame spot for Staten Island teenagers, and one of the top places in the city for people watching. In 2019, over 70,000 people took the ferry daily on weekdays, and 25 million took the ferry annually. After the pandemic swept through New York in March of 2020, ridership dropped 66% annually. Throughout the pandemic, the ferry never stopped running, operating on a reduced schedule while ridership was down 90% percent. Mask mandates and other social distancing protocols may have changed the ride, but this New York institution is slowly returning to pre-pandemic numbers.

Passengers at Whitehall station wait for the next ferry, April 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

Passengers embark in Manhattan, April 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

Rules require passengers to remain masked at all times on the ferry, but riders don’t always follow suit, March 13 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

Commuters depart from Staten Island in the early morning, March 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

NYPD officers talk during the journey, March 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

Tourists take photos of the Statue of Liberty from the ferry, April 24 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

The Manhattan skyline from the Hurricane Deck, April 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

Passengers look out at the Statue of Liberty from the Hurricane Deck, April 24 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

A man looks out at the Statue of Liberty, March 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

There are 16 crew members aboard the ferry at all times, April 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

The Manhattan skyline disappears into fog, April 15 2021. Photo by Trish Rooney

 


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