Exclusive: NY State gives update on NY Waterway ferry boat engines

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Update February 7, 2013

NYSERDA provided us with this update, “Two of the remaining 7 vessels are at the shipyard now having the engines and emission controls installed. When they are completed they should be replaced with other vessels. Progress is being made.”

January 24, 2012 By Steven E. Greer

Since 2011, BatteryPark.TV has been reporting on the pollution and noise problems emanating from the NY Waterway ferry boats that dock on the Vesey Street slip by the Irish Memorial. We have given presentations before the CB1, worked with the federal EPA, and most recently, initiated audits by the state and city comptroller’s offices to determine why the ferry company is not renovating the old diesel engines.

Recall, the state agency NYSERDA, through a federal grant, made available more than $7 million to the ferry boat company to retrofit the Tier 0 (most polluting) diesel engines. However, despite the CEO of Billybey Ferry Boat company, Paul Goodman, stating in 2011 that the engines were ordered, only 2 of the 9 boats had received the retrofit. In his most recent appearance before the CB1 in January, 2013, Mr. Goodman reported no progress, and blamed Hurricane Sandy.

After being stonewalled by the ferry boat company, Port Authority, and some members of CB1, BP.TV contacted City Comptroller John Liu and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli requesting audits of the NYSERDA funds. We have now been given an exclusive update by NYSERDA.

According to the NYSERDA program director, Patrick Bolton, the diesel engines were indeed purchased and are physically sitting in the New Jersey shipyard that will do the retrofitting work (not the NY waterway company). The reason the engines were not installed earlier in 2012 is that the ferry company wanted to maximize revenue and not take out any boats from service during peak season, instead planning to wait for the Fall and Winter season to do the retrofitting. Then came Hurricane Sandy.

As of now, the same level of progress as announced in early 2012 remains the status quo. 24 boats are in need of some form or retrofitting, either by having new diesel particulate filters added, or by having the engines completely replaced. Two boats have received new engines, 22 others have received particulate filters. Therefore, 24 out of 31 boats in the fleet have received work, and 9 boats are awaiting engine replacements.

The replacement of the engines is a complex undertaking requiring the decks to be cut and cleared. The new engines are 300 horsepower Caterpillar diesel engines of Tier 2 category, which is less polluting. According to Mr. Bolton who has been on the 2 boats with the new Tier 2 engines, at full throttle, no black diesel fumes can be seen. A new mechanical device to latch the boats to the slip, and obviate the need for engine revving, is also close to being implemented.

NYSERDA will be having more meetings with the ferry boat company soon to determine the next steps. The state and city comptroller offices are assessing the situation.

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6 Responses to Exclusive: NY State gives update on NY Waterway ferry boat engines

  1. fran says:

    thanks steve for always following up on this……………….fran

  2. Steve, thank you for this NYSERDA review. The need to rev engines at the slip is a particularly annoying operational detail. Has anyone calculated how much fuel is wasted in this operation? I bet the cost is significant.

    In the good old days, the crew used a couple of stout lines. Maybe they can adopt 16th century technology to help solve this. I know, it will take a few extra seconds to tie up, and then release. Heaven help us, maybe they could add one more crew member to make this go quicker, if the added few seconds are an economic issue.

    How much money could be saved by idling the engines, instead of revving them? Then, add in the benefit to all of from reduced pollutants. Carl

  3. admin says:

    To Carl

    Good point about the added crew. It is actually very unsafe to have just one point or captain. If they are distracted or pass out the whole ferry boat goes down. This company runs a cheap operation. Look at the peeling paint.


  4. Claudio Vernight says:

    Great follow up on this particularly obnoxious quality of life issue. It was bad enough for all of those years when then they were busy polluting the lawn, now the same practice continues a tiny bit further south. Funny that the impression BPC tries to give is that it is green – then you have these boats and those Academy buses invading our community in the service of a few thousand NJ commuters.

  5. fran says:

    dear steve….could never thank you enough for your coverage….i believe you were instrumental in getting most things fixed…..thanks so much this has been a ongoing problem and people that are not near the water do not realize how it compromises your quality of life…..your the man….thx fran

  6. Wolfgang says:

    Have you also noticed the honking ferries since the beginning of June?
    They are starting at 5:30am in the morning disrupting our sleep!

    Please help to stop this noise pollution:


    Would be nice if you could help!

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