Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal

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Whitehall Terminal
Intermodal transit center
Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal (48126534661).jpg
Main entrance
Location4 South Street
New York, NY 10004[1]
United States
Coordinates40°42′05″N 74°00′47″W / 40.701409°N 74.013131°W / 40.701409; -74.013131Coordinates: 40°42′05″N 74°00′47″W / 40.701409°N 74.013131°W / 40.701409; -74.013131
Operated byNew York City Department of Transportation
Line(s)Staten Island Ferry
ConnectionsNYC Subway:
"1" train"N" train"R" train"W" train at
South Ferry/Whitehall Street
"4" train"5" train at Bowling Green
"J" train"Z" train at Broad Street
NYCT Bus: M55, M15, M15 SBS, M20
Disabled accessYes
Preceding station   Staten Island Ferry   Following station
Staten Island FerryTerminus
Three docks can be seen from the air, and next to them is a covered ferry terminal. This is an aerial view over a river.
Aerial view of Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal building and slips (left) and the Battery Maritime Building (right)

The Whitehall Terminal is a ferry terminal in the South Ferry section of Lower Manhattan, New York City, at the corner of South Street and Whitehall Street. It is used by the Staten Island Ferry, which connects the island boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island. The Whitehall Terminal is one of the ferry's terminals, the other being St. George Terminal on Staten Island.

The Whitehall Terminal originally opened in 1903 as a new transportation hub for the Staten Island Ferry, which was in the process of being acquired by the city government. It was renovated from 1953 to 1956 at the cost of $3 million, but by the 1980s, was in a state of deterioration. The Whitehall Terminal burned down in a fire in 1991, and was completely rebuilt and rededicated in February 2005 as a major integrated transportation hub.


First terminal[edit]

Before the terminal was built, ferry service was provided as early as the 1700s by individuals (and later private companies) with their own boats. A major ferry accident on June 14, 1901, which sunk one ferry and killed four passengers[2]: 172 [3][4] was used by the city as a justification for their acquisition of the ferry lines to Staten Island.[5] The City subsequently banned other operators from using the Terminal, so ferries from Communipaw Terminal in Jersey City were re-routed to Liberty Street Ferry Terminal in lower Manhattan.[6][7]

The original Whitehall Terminal, called the "Whitehall Street Ferry Terminal,"[8] served Brooklyn, Governors Island, Staten Island, and Jersey City, for passengers who traveled mainly by a system of elevated trains (nicknamed "els").[9] The Staten Island ferry lines began operating under the municipal authority of the Department of Docks and Ferries on October 25, 1905,[10] seven years after the five boroughs were consolidated into New York City.[9]

The Whitehall Street Ferry Terminal was erected in 1906–1909, during the administration of Mayor George McClellan, and designed by the architectural firm of Walker and Morris. The Whitehall Street Ferry Terminal was proposed to contain seven slips when it was constructed.[11][12]: 396 [13] The Staten Island Ferry terminal comprised the two westernmost slips, numbered 1 and 2, which served ferries to St. George Terminal in St. George, Staten Island. The still-extant Battery Maritime Building was served by ferries traveling to 39th Street in South Brooklyn (now the neighborhood of Sunset Park in Brooklyn). The unbuilt slips 3 and 4 were to serve ferries from both Staten Island and South Brooklyn.[12]: 396 [13] The three sections were designed to be independent of each other but visually identical in style.[13]

Plans for the terminal were approved by the city's Municipal Art Commission in July 1906.[14] Work started on the Brooklyn ferry slips first, followed by the Staten Island ferry slips in 1908.[13] Ferry service from the Whitehall Terminal to Stapleton, Staten Island, commenced on May 27, 1909.[15] A fire on the South Ferry elevated station in 1919 damaged slips 1 and 2.[16][17]: 55 

Second terminal[edit]

As subways replaced the els, and cars began to travel through an increasing number of bridges and tunnels such as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, a new expanded Whitehall Street terminal facility was designed by the firm of Roberts & Schaefer for what were now three Staten Island Ferry slips.[18]: 24  The $3 million renovation to the terminal was announced in 1953,[19] and it opened on July 24, 1956,[20][17]: 55  using some of the steel framework of the original 1906 building.[17]: 55 [21] The 1956 Whitehall Terminal was purely functional, described as a "squat, washed-out green hulk in which function vanquished form," and was once referred to by the American Institute of Architects as "the world's most banal portal of joy."[22][8]

By the mid-1980s, the city government was planning to redevelop the Whitehall Terminal and the adjacent Battery Maritime Building. The project was to include a replacement of the Staten Island Ferry terminal as well as the restoration of the Maritime Building, a designated landmark that could not be demolished. The city solicited plans for the redevelopment and received proposals from seven developers in 1985.[23] The following year, the Zeckendorf Company was named the developer of the $400 million South Ferry Plaza, which included a 60-story tower above Whitehall Terminal.[24] The South Ferry Plaza project was canceled in January 1991 due to a decline in the real estate market.[25]

New terminal[edit]

The Whitehall Terminal's ceiling and roof were gutted by a major fire on September 8, 1991, rendering it unusable.[26] The city saw the opportunity to rebuild the terminal.[22] In 1992, the New York City Economic Development Corporation held an international competition for a replacement facility, and selected a design for the terminal from Robert Venturi in the following year.[27] Other entrants included Rafael Vinoly, Aldo Rossi, Polshek Partners and SOM. The winning design featured a barrel vaulted waiting room whose ceiling was higher than Grand Central Terminal's. This design also incorporated a large electronic facade facing the harbor, which would have been the largest clock in the world; however, it was deemed by civic authorities as architecturally unacceptable.[citation needed] The clock was removed in a redesign by Venturi and the redesign also included windows facing Lower Manhattan and a large indoor LED display. Eventually, Venturi left the project due to budget cuts and Frederic Schwartz became the new architect.[27]

A design for the new terminal was chosen in 1997.[8] The design ultimately accepted, produced by former Whitehall Architectural Design director Ronald Evitts and Fred Schwartz, called for a 19,000-square-foot (1,800 m2) structure to replace the destroyed building, with a 90-foot-high (27 m) entry hall, and a waiting room that was 50% larger, with views of the New York Harbor.[8][28] Schwartz's design included the same 75-foot (23 m) high glass wall on the Lower Manhattan side as the design of Venturi did. The size of the LED display in Venturi's design was heavily reduced.[27] Also added were a rooftop waterfront viewing deck with a photovoltaic array on its canopy,[29] a long sinuous canopy on the street side with the words "Staten Island Ferry" on it,[27][29] and a Percent for Art installation called Slips by Dennis Adams.[30] Two factors complicated construction of the new terminal. First, the NYCDOT mandated that two of the terminal's three ferry slips remain open during construction. Second, the terminal was being built over the Battery Park Underpass and three New York City Subway tunnels, so a foundation for the terminal had to be built 60 feet (18 m) underground.[29] The reopening of the Whitehall Terminal took place on February 2005.[28][27]

The Staten Island Ferry takes a curved route between Manhattan and Staten Island, two islands in New York City.
Route of ferry from Whitehall Terminal to Staten Island


The renovated Whitehall Terminal was designed by New York architect Frederic Schwartz, with Robert Silman Associates as the structural engineers.[29][31] It includes a new 2-acre (8,100 m2) plaza, named after Peter Minuit.[31] The terminal, which is open 24 hours a day, handles around 70,000 ferry passengers daily.[27] It includes access to the New York City Subway's South Ferry/Whitehall Street station, served by the 1​, N, ​R, and ​W trains, as well as bus services at Peter Minuit Plaza.[32][33] Access to bicycle lanes and other water transport. including the Governors Island ferry at the neighboring Battery Maritime Building, is also available.[34] There is taxicab service outside the terminal as well.[35]

Described as "an elegant addition to [the] city's architecture," a Newsday writer called it a transit hub that is so beautiful that it has become a destination in its own right: with "the panorama of lower Manhattan from the top of the escalators, the vast windows framing the Statue of Liberty, the upstairs deck with views of the harbor -- these are reasons to take shelter here for a little longer than the ferry schedule makes strictly necessary."[36]

New uses[edit]

The terminal is designed to employ a state-of-the-art heating and air conditioning system, partially powered by solar panels on the roof of the terminal. It includes a total floor area of 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2). This includes the 19,000-square-foot (1,800 m2) waiting room, 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of retail space, 6,000 square feet (560 m2) of terraces, and 10,000 square feet (930 m2) of office space.[27][28][37] There is an additional 10,000 square feet of space to support needs linked to ferry operations and ancillary support.[28][37]

In addition to the many retail shops that can now be found at the terminal, GrowNYC, a New York non-profit organization, operates its only indoor farmers' market ("Greenmarket") within the terminal.[38]

The Whitehall Terminal, a ferry terminal, is in the foreground between skyscrapers behind it and a harbor in front of it.
The terminal from the East River circa 1905
Ships at the Whitehall Terminal in 1905
A century later, the terminal as seen from New York Harbor in 2008

Whitehall Crossing[edit]

As part of the "Percent for Art" initiative, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs[39] purchased and installed sculptured granite benches created by artist Ming Fay, entitled Whitehall Crossing, in the waiting room. They were crafted to symbolize Indian canoes crossing New York Bay,[37] and include a series of twenty-eight granite benches divided into three serpentine rows, suggesting the carved seats of a "floating, organic form over a water theme terrazzo floor."[40] "As a functional art piece, Whitehall Crossing is almost invisible because it invites viewers to engage in, and thereby become part of, the design while sitting in the benches."[40]

Ming Fay, a Shanghaiese Chinese artist, notes that this art he created was "inspired by the Native American's early crossings with dug out canoes." He described his goals for the art as follows:

In the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, I couldn't see putting an object in the space. I felt a functional statement would be appropriate. It is the imaginary journey before the real journey happens. In the lobby of this modern waiting room there are moments where the space is almost empty with people and then full again. The benches provide those moments of waiting with " invisible artwork" that is part of the space and act of public seating. I feel the experience of the space is about the thought of crossing over to the other side that goes back to the day when people had arrived at this point.[40]

— Ming, on his artwork

Peter Minuit Plaza[edit]

In parallel with the construction of the new terminal, Peter Minuit Plaza was completely reconfigured to provide easy accommodation for pedestrians, buses, and taxis. The redesign plan included 42 new trees, along with public space for community activities, covered walkways from the terminal to Whitehall Terminal, a dedicated cab drop-off area and a new bus loop.[37]

In addition to the part the plaza plays in terms of transportation, it includes the "New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion" (a gift from the Kingdom of the Netherlands), an area to showcase art, design, and horticulture.[41] This area was conceived as an "outdoor living room" where both scheduled and spontaneous activities can take place alongside public markets and a state of the art food and information pavilion.[42] The Plein and Pavilion were designed by Dutch architect Ben van Berkel, and the $3.2 million grant from the Netherlands that funded part of the project was given in honor of the celebration of New York's 400th anniversary, as well as in honor of "the enduring relationship between New York and Holland."[42] The rest of the plaza was funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority which paid $22.1 million, and the United States Department of Homeland Security which paid $1.4 million. The plaza reopened in 2011.[43][44]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Staten Island Ferry".
  2. ^ Adams, Arthur G. (1983). The Hudson through the years. Lind Publications. ISBN 9780910389006. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  3. ^ "FERRYBOAT NORTHFIELD SUNK BY COLLISION; MANY RESCUED; SOME MAY BE LOST". New York Tribune. June 14, 1901. Retrieved September 18, 2017 – via
  4. ^ "CROWDED FERRYBOAT SUNK IN COLLISION; Staten Island Boat Northfield Hit by the March Chunk. TERRIBLE PANIC ON BOARD Fleet of Tugs Follows and Aids the Doomed Vessel. NO LOSS OF LIFE REPORTED It Is Thought, However, that Several Persons Must Have Been Drowned -- Some Passengers Injured, but None Dangerously -- Charges of Cowardice Against Men" (PDF). The New York Times. June 15, 1901. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  5. ^ "STATEN ISLAND FERRY TO BE OWNED BY CITY; Sinking Fund Commission Adopts Mayor Low's Suggestion. Will Expend $2,000,000 for New Boats -- Alderman McCall's Plea for Municipal Ownership May Be Granted" (PDF). The New York Times. July 3, 1903. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  6. ^ John F. Stover, History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1987 (ISBN 0-911198-81-4), pp. 172–176.
  7. ^ Railroad Ferries of the Hudson: And Stories of a Deckhand, by, Raymond J. Baxter, Arthur G. Adams, pg. 55 ,1999, Fordham University Press, 978-0823219544
  8. ^ a b c d Chen, David, "Sleeker Design for Staten Island Ferry Terminal is Unveiled", New York Times (March 20, 1997), retrieved February 22, 2011
  9. ^ a b Staten Island Museum website, retrieved February 22, 2011.
  10. ^ "Twenty-minute Ferry to Staten Island Now; Mayor Said: "Go Ahead, Bunt," and the First Boat Was Off". The New York Times. October 26, 1905. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  11. ^ McKinley, Jesse (March 19, 1995). "F.Y.I." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  12. ^ a b "The Municipal Ferry Terminals". Architects' and Builders' Magazine. 39: 396–399. May 1907 – via HathiTrust.
  13. ^ a b c d "The City's New Ferry Terminal and Office Building". The Real Estate Record: Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. 81 (2099): 1062. June 6, 1908 – via
  14. ^ "New Ferry House". Wall Street Journal. July 9, 1906. p. 3. ISSN 0099-9660. ProQuest 129169134. Retrieved January 1, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  15. ^ "Ferry to Stapleton Now.; Municipal Boats Turned Over by the Mayor -- Staten Island Celebrates". The New York Times. May 28, 1909. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  16. ^ "BATTERY ELEVATED TERMINAL BURNS; Hundreds of Passengers and Employes Barely Escape as Swift Flamas Sweep Station. EMPLOYES DROP TO STREET Women Crawl Along Roof with Fire Roaring Through Frame Shell Under Them. STARTS UNDER WOODEN CAR An Downtown Firemen and Fleet of Fireboats Kept Busy--Ferry House Damaged". The New York Times. July 3, 1919. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  17. ^ a b c Staten Island Museum (2014). Staten Island Ferry. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9781439647066.
  18. ^ White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot & Leadon, Fran (2010). AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19538-386-7.
  19. ^ "FERRY HOUSE, 50, TO GET NEW FACE; Interior Rejuvenation Also Is Slated in $3,000,000 Job at Tip of the Battery". The New York Times. 1953. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  20. ^ "FERRY STATION TO OPEN; $2,800,000 Whitehall Terminal Starts Operating Today". The New York Times. July 24, 1956. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  21. ^ The Staten Island Ferry, by George W. Hilton, Howell-North Books, 1964, pg. 36, pg. 41
  22. ^ a b Myers, Steven Lee (September 9, 1991). "Ferry Terminal a 'Banal Portal to Joy'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  23. ^ Schmalz, Jeffrey (August 4, 1985). "7 Developers Offer Plans for South Ferry Site". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  24. ^ Carmody, Deirdre (July 18, 1986). "Manhattan's Southern Tip to Get 60-story Tower". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
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