NBC NY I-Team: Staten Island Ferry Workers Asked to ‘Sleep in Their Cars' Amid Overtime Crunch
Workers aboard the Staten Island Ferry are sounding alarms about a staffing crisis they say has made it difficult to keep the iconic passenger boats running on time. The manpower shortage is so severe, the NBC NY I-Team reports, that ferry workers are sometimes asked to spend the night in terminal parking lots or makeshift sleeping quarters because commuting home between shifts would not allow for the minimum rest needed to safely operate the 4,000 ton boats.
“Ferry management has paid people to sleep in their cars for 12 hours to cover a shift the next morning,” said Roland Rexha, Secretary-Treasurer of the Marine Engineers' Benevolent Association (MEBA), the union representing ferry captains, mates, and engineers. “It becomes a safety issue.”
An I-Team review of payroll records shows the New York City Department of Transportation, which operates the Staten Island Ferry, relies heavily on overtime scheduling to keep the boats running. In 2021, more than two-thirds of ferry workers logged at least 500 hours of overtime. One in five staff members worked more than 1,000 hours of overtime. One Chief Marine Engineer worked 3,187 total hours in 2021. That’s the equivalent of working 61 hours every week for 52 weeks straight. One ferry captain worked 2,857 total hours in 2021, the equivalent of working 357 out of 365 days in the year.
“The city should have seen this coming,” said Kevin Hennessey, a former Staten Island Ferry assistant captain who retired last year. Hennessey said he left the job, in part, because the grueling schedule became overwhelming. Watch the I-Team report here, and click here to sign a petition to support the ferry workers!