“It only takes one critical absence to down the crew. ALL positions must be filled for a vessel to go into passenger service. The modified schedule will allow DOT to better utilize available crew and give the passengers a set schedule,” according to a NYC DOT spokesperson.
The free ferries usually run every 15 minutes during morning and evening rush hours, but through July 26 they will now be running every 20 in order to spread out employees. From 9am-4pm ferries will run every 30 minutes.
According to the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, which represents the boat workers – six Covid-19 cases were reported out of 350 employees last week. A national mariner shortage is also to blame, says to Roland Rexha, Secretary Treasurer of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.
“They are short staffed 20 people without the six people from Covid. It seems like a small amount, but if you are missing three people from a position — its damning — you could shut down service completely.”
And wages aren’t helping attract new workers says Rexha. A captain on the Staten Island ferry makes about $40 an hour — while a captain on the Washington State ferry makes $70, said Rexha. Cost of living in New York is more than in Washington state.
“We did the math, there’s a 9% difference in cost of living,” he said.
Masks are required for riders and staff in both the ferry terminal and on the boats.