Contact: Mike Loughran, (212) 669-3747 April 20, 2012
OR LET’S RECOUP OUR MONEY
STATEN ISLAND, NY – City Comptroller John C. Liu today joined with State Senator Diane Savino, State Assemblyman Matthew Titone, City Council Member Debi Rose and the Staten Island Ferry Riders Committee to call for better management and oversight by the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) over the repair and maintenance of the new Staten Island Ferry boats. The “Molinari Class” vessels were put into service in 2005 and 2006 but have been chronically out of service and generated significant cost overruns.
The $139 million “Molinari Class” ferry boats have had a long history of problems. In fact, one of the three ferries is currently dry docked in Norfolk, Virginia and has been out of service since December. After months of unsuccessful repair work to the boat, the DOT recently demanded $9.5 million in “emergency contract” funding to attempt to fix persistent problems with the fleet.
Liu's office rejected the request, noting that the DOT could not provide assurance that the work and $9.5 million would finally fix the longstanding problems. Last week, Liu's office signed off on a $3.2 million emergency contract so that work can proceed quickly on the ferry that is currently dry docked. If in fact the work on that ferry boat is completed successfully, the DOT will follow normal procurement procedures for funding the repairs to the other two ferry boats. If the repairs fail once again, Liu will explore options to recoup funds associated with the boats’ failures.
“The ferry is an icon of New York as well as a daily necessity for the Island’s residents. It's appalling that the highly-touted new ferry boats are still saddled with defects and more troubling that the DOT has no clear solution for resolving these longstanding problems,” Comptroller Liu said. “We will greenlight contracts and funding but in a way that maximizes service for Staten Islanders without giving blank checks to the DOT. The DOT can and must do better with the ferry.”
State Senator Diane Savino noted, “As a Staten Islander, a ferry rider and as a member of the Taskforce on State Governmental Efficiency, I want to thank Comptroller Liu for bringing this issue to the forefront. Taxpayers put their trust in government and we should honor that trust by shining a light on obvious waste; these boats were supposed to be the best in cutting edge technology, we paid for the best so we shouldn't accept anything less.”
“Clearly the city was sold a bill of goods that does not live up to anyone’s expectations. Since the taxpayers are now stuck with footing the bill for these repairs, the City needs to take every step necessary to ensure full reimbursement from the manufacturer for this failed investment,” said State Assemblyman Matthew Titone. “It’s the only fair solution, not only for the residents of Staten Island but the City as a whole.”
In 2001, the City awarded a contract worth $119 million to Manitowoc Marine group, Inc. for the construction of three new ferry boats to replace the existing fleet of “Kennedy Class” ferries, which date back to 1965. The contract ultimately cost $139 million and the three newly purchased ferries (Sen. John J. Marchi, Spirit of America, and Guy V. Molinari) were placed into service between 2005 and 2006. Since being placed into service, all three boats have experienced problems with their propulsion systems (drives), causing DOT to classify the problem as “systemic.” Currently only two of the boats are in service, with the Sen. John J. Marchi resting in dry dock in Norfolk, Virginia after being taken out of service in December, when Ansaldo Sistemi Industriali, the drives’ original manufacturer, failed in its attempts to fix the problems.
The DOT then demanded that Liu’s office approve an “emergency contract” with Siemens Industry for $9.5 million for work on three ferry boats.
In its request, DOT stated:
“For over a month and a half, the ASI technical representatives surveyed and inspected equipment, collected and analyzed data and participated in numerous dock and sea trials. Thus far, they have been unable to identify the root cause of the problem or provide recommended solutions. The drives have failed before, as have replacement parts, and it is clear that ASI is unable to support its own equipment to a level required for reliable operation of this vital equipment.”
“Only Siemens Industry has the knowledge to quickly provide drives and related equipment that can be easily integrated with its software and plant management.”
When DOT failed to provide specifics for the contract funding, Liu’s office rejected the request, questioning why it was deemed an emergency when the agency had clearly known about these problems for quite some time. Subsequently, a series of meetings took place between the DOT and Comptroller’s office, where DOT failed to explain the reasoning for requesting $9.5 million all at once, nor could the agency provide guarantees that a solution would be reached.
Liu’s office approved last week the funding request for $3.2 million to address the problems on one of the boats – the ferry that sits in dry dock in Norfolk, Virginia.
If in fact Siemens can fix the boat, then DOT will have to go through standard procurement procedures in order to obtain additional funds.
Since the “Molinari Class” of vessels was placed into service in 2005 and 2006, they have regularly experienced problems. Before he was elected to the Office of City Comptroller, Liu chaired the City Council Transportation committee where he convened several public hearings about the Staten Island Ferry.
In one 2009 hearing, he questioned DOT on the boats’ performance. During that hearing it was discovered that the DOT knew of persistent problems since the boats were placed into service, had no plan to rectify those problems, and were not exploring options for holding the manufacturer liable.
Ferries undergo strict safety evaluations by a host of regulatory agencies before they are placed into service, ensuring their safety.