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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.