STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On Wednesday, September 9, New York City Council candidate Debi Rose visited the Staten Island Ferry Terminal but was unable to sit down for a meal or use her laptop. Citing a “failure of leadership”, Rose referred to the ferry terminal as a “blight” — the terminal remains devoid of retail shops despite promises of elected officials to convert it into a space that would offer commuters amenities — and tourists a reason to visit the island.
In recent years the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) administered a $130 million renovation project of the St. George ferry terminal on behalf of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The project produced two salt water fish tanks, a panoramic view of the harbor — and nowhere to sit down and eat, shop for books or utilize a wifi connection to the internet according to Debi Rose. The result: tourists take the ferry for a free ride past the Statue of Liberty but do not linger on Staten Island — and the terminal remains largely vacant in terms of shops that could provide residents with employment.
“This space could be wonderful and full of amenities for the commuters, for tourists, and it could be a boon to the economic development on Staten Island,” said Rose.
“But as you see, because of a lack of planning and a failure of leadership, this space is blank, this space is empty, under-utilized and the communters don’t have access to the amenities that would make the commute more palatable,” she added.
Rose pointed out that basic amenities, including a restaurant, existed prior to the renovation. But $130 million worth of improvements later, the terminal lacks even the restaurant it once boasted — let alone a book store or a wifi ready waiting room. And construction in the hallway that once housed shops continues — at a snail’s pace.
Rose argued that elected officials must be prodded to make it a priority to get businesses to return to the terminal — providing jobs for residents as well making the terminal more welcoming.
“It takes someone who will stay on the elected officials, that will stay on EDC to make sure that we have a neighborhood and a community that is thriving, that we have jobs and businesses. And that we also have the amenities that every other community has,” Rose said.
When asked what she would like to see in the terminal, Rose said that “There should be a Barnes and Noble, or a book shop, a Starbucks, somewhere where the commuter could sit down and read. You could use your wireless — this whole area should be wireless, so that while you’re waiting to get on the ferry you could utilize your PC. This could be, you know, more than just a transportation hub, it could really be an economic boon to Staten Island.”
Noting that a lot of tourists ride the ferry and are obliged to walk through the terminal, Rose said that “It should be something that makes tourists get off the ferry. Right now they get off, they walk around the corner and they get back on.”
Rose argued that the elected officials have little interest in correcting the situation, or other similar infrastructure problems — until just before an election.
“I’ve seen where, all of a sudden, projects are being completed, or the ground is being broken for a lot of projects and it’s just in time for the election. We need somebody who is going to be on the case, all the time, twenty-four seven, not just in an election,” said Rose.
Rose is challenging incumbent Ken Mitchell for the District 49 city council seat. The candidates will square off in a Democratic Party primary on September 15, 2009.