“Saturday Night Live” Comics Buy Iconic Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island ferry
Staten Island Ferry John H. Kennedy (Wikimdia Balou46 photo - CC BY-SA 4.0 license)

Published Jan 21, 2022 7:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

It might sound like the opening line to a joke: two celebrity comics buy a 2,100 gross ton ferry, but according to media reports today it is entirely true. New York City was auctioning a well-known ferry that provided service for 55 years between Manhattan and Staten Island. 

Associated Press is confirming reports that comedians Colin Jost and Pete Davidson, who appear on the network television show “Saturday Night Live,” along with a New York real estate executive and comedy club owner Paul Italia, placed the winning of bid $280,100 for the John F. Kennedy. Reports say they plan to turn the decommissioned ferry into an entertainment venue and nightclub.

New York City has operated the Staten Island Ferry since 1905. The ferry carries approximately 25 million passengers annually on a 5.2-mile run which since the mid-1960s was maintained by the Kennedy and two sister ships, American Legion and Governor Herbert H. Lehman. Each of the vessels measured 297 feet long, with a 70-foot beam and a draft of more than 13 feet. Fully loaded, they were rated for 3,055 passengers along with a crew of 13. The diesel-electric drive provided 6,500 horsepower with a service speed of 16 knots.

Two of the ships in the class had previously been retired but the Kennedy remained in service till August 2021 when she was laid up with mechanical troubles and New York City’s modern replacements were being delivered. 

Listing her as surplus property, New York City launched an auction with an opening bid of $125,000. The auction says “This double-ended, passenger and vehicle ferry up for auction is in poor condition and had to be decommissioned due to mechanical issues, the mechanical issues are on the propulsion end. On this vessel are numerous spare parts which are obsolete and not needed by our agency.” The hull is reported to be in good condition.

The ferry had developed a loyal following in New York City and among ferry aficionados, who took to social media to lament the possible scrapping of the vessel. A spokesperson for the winning bidders said they had decided it was too iconic to let it go so they stepped in to save the vessel. The auction lists a total of 36 bids received before it closed on January 19. New York City reports they now have 10 days to move the ferry away from the city’s pier on Staten Island. 

Italia told the New York Post newspaper that they are looking for a shipyard or a suitable pier for the vessel until they determine its permanent location. New York City’s newly inaugurated mayor Eric Adams tweeted his support for the project.


(Photo by Balou46 - CC by SA 4.0 License)