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Staten Island Ferry to be Named After Underground Railroad Stop, Mayor Says

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 14, 2017 7:54am
 Staten Island Ferry.
Staten Island Ferry.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

WEST BRIGHTON — One of the three new Staten Island Ferry boats will be named after Rossville's Sandy Ground community, one of the country's first free, black-founded settlements, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

De Blasio revealed the naming of the second boat to commemorate the community, which was also an Underground Railroad stop, at his town hall at I.S. 27, 11 Clove Lake Place.

"The idea was to honor the rich heritage of Staten Island, of this city but also this country," de Blasio said at the meeting. "To help everyone know that Sandy Ground is the oldest continuously inhabited free, African-American settlement in the United States of America."

The push to name the ferry after Sandy Ground started in February with a petition by Councilwoman Debi Rose, which garnered 574 signatures.

It's the second of the three new ferries to be named. The first will be named after Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, the Staten Island soldier who died while shielding a Polish fighter he didn't know from a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, which is expected to set sail in 2019.

The 4,300-passenger Sandy Ground is expected to be ready in 2019 and the third, as yet unnamed boat, in early 2020. There are several dueling petitions vying to claim the name of the last boat.

Also at the town hall meeting Thursday night, de Blasio fielded questions related to increasing recreation centers and programs for children in the North Shore of the borough.

Kelly Vilar, founder of Let's Rebuild Cromwell Recreation Center, called on the mayor to fund the plan to replace the center on top of Lyon Pool's parking lot in the next budget, which the City Council called on him to do last month.

"The North Shore is terribly in need," said Vilar. "It's the one thing I think most Staten Islanders can agree on: rebuild Cromwell and [Michael J.] Petrides cannot be where the indoor pool is."

De Blasio, however, continued to say that the $90 million to $100 million addition to the pool would be tied to the rezoning of the Bay Street Corridor, and did not give a location for the $50 million pool he promised at the last town hall.

"We're not going to proactively do it in the budget," de Blasio said. "It has to be determined as part of the rezoning, because rezoning looks at all elements of the community."

De Blasio was also asked for updates on the plan to relocate the Department of Sanitation garage on Jersey Street to Freshkills Park. He said design work won't be finished until the end of the year with the site moving in 2024.

St. George resident Eileen Harrington asked the mayor about bicycle and pedestrian access at the Nicholas Street ramp to the New York Wheel parking garage. Harrington said developers promised it would have it, but it has only been available for cars since it opened in January.

"There has to be a walkway," de Blasio said. "We have made it clear to the developer our understanding the developer has said it will be built and we will hold the developer to that commitment."

At the more than three-hour town hall, the mayor fielded questions ranging from the redevelopment of the North Shore's waterfront, transgender rights at bathrooms in city schools, lack of transportation, issues with bike lanes, broken sidewalks and more.

Rose, who moderated the town hall, thanked de Blasio for his week-long sojourn to the borough and made him a honorary member of "Shaolin."

"We can no longer use the moniker that we are the 'forgotten borough,'" Rose said. "In light of as much effort that has been put into Staten Island this week, we can no longer say that we are forgotten."