A “significant” number of Staten Island Ferry workers didn’t show up to work Wednesday, Mayor Adams said, hinting that the cross-harbor chaos was the result of a job action amid fraught union negotiations.
Boats would run every hour in each direction from 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday until at least 5 a.m. on Thursday, Adams said. The deadline would depend on enough crews and captains being available for the morning rides. Service could be worse if ferry crews and captains continue to call out. The ferry service is normally scheduled to run every 15 to 20 minutes during peak periods and every half hour at all other times.
“I’ve never seen this many people,” said Staten Island resident Danielle Madeena, who was stuck in lower Manhattan after work and opted to pay $100 for an Uber ride. “I’d like to go home.”
The city Department of Transportation has over the summer cut some overnight service on the ferry due to crew shortages — but Wednesday was different. Rush-hour commuters were stranded at the Whitehall and St. George terminals on either side of New York Harbor.
City officials offered free rides between Manhattan and Staten Island on smaller NYC Ferry boats and directed commuters to take the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s express buses to get home.
“A significant share of our Staten Island Ferry workforce did not report to work today,” Adams said.
“Helping New Yorkers travel between Staten Island and Manhattan safely and efficiently is priority No. 1. We strongly encourage New Yorkers and visitors to seek alternatives to the ferry, and we are exploring every option to help people make that trip. We are particularly discouraging any nonessential trips at this time.
Among the stuck were Perpetual Annan, a city Buildings Department supervisor who was also unable to get home to Staten Island. She said her morning commute on the ferry was delayed as well.
“They need to do better. They need to help us out,” said Annan. “I know there’s the fast ferry, but I don’t want to pay. I pay enough.”
The ferry service woes come as contract negotiations have stalled between the city and the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, which represents Staten Island Ferry workers. The union’s most recent contract expired in 2010, and its members who work the ferry have not received a raise in 12 years.
“We are saying to the workers who did not come in today: If you are not sick, New Yorkers need you to come to work,“ said Adams. “We will continue to engage with [the] ferry workers union to reach a voluntary, pattern-conforming agreement in the same way that we have done with virtually all other city unions for these rounds of bargaining.”
Union officials said there was no organized effort to not show up to work. But Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association spokeswoman Carolyn Daly alleged the city hired replacement workers — including ones who work for the NYC Ferry service — to fill the crew shortages.
“They’re not certified to be on a coastal vessel like ours,” said Daly. “It’s dangerous. I would not go onboard a Staten Island Ferry that is being staffed by fast-ferry workers. Neither should anybody in New York.”
City officials denied the union’s claim that uncertified workers staffed the Staten Island Ferry boats on Wednesday.
Roland Rexha, the union’s treasurer, said the labor shortage was a result of overworked and understaffed crews.
“The union has no knowledge of any deliberate disruptions of service nor would we endorse any action to slow down this essential service for our beloved Staten Islanders,” said Rexha. “The only thing ‘sick’ is [the city Office of Labor Relations’] refusal to offer a contract that reflects the highly skilled and essential work of the ferry officers and mariners.”