Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal

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"Whitehall Terminal" redirects here. For other ferries in the area, see South Ferry (Manhattan). For the subway station complex that contains a terminal station, see South Ferry – Whitehall Street (New York City Subway).

Coordinates: 40°42′09″N 74°00′46″W / 40.702472°N 74.012833°W / 40.702472; -74.012833

Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal
Route of ferry from Whitehall Terminal to Staten Island

The Staten Island Ferry's Whitehall Terminal, located at 4 South Street, at the corner of Whitehall Street, is the terminal in the South Ferry area of Lower Manhattan used by the Staten Island Ferry, which connects the two island boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island in New York City. It was completely renovated and rededicated in February 2005 as a major integrated transportation hub for the ferry, buses, subways, taxis, and bicycle lanes. The ferry travels between the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan and the St. George Terminal in Staten Island.


The original Whitehall Terminal, called the "Whitehall Street Ferry Terminal,"[1] served Brooklyn, Governors Island, Staten Island, and Weehawken, for passengers who traveled mainly by a system of elevated trains (the "els").[2] However, as subways replaced the els, and cars began to travel through an increasing number of bridges and tunnels such as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, new terminal facilities were built at Whitehall with a primary purpose of serving the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry began operating under municipal authority of the Department of Docks and Ferries on October 25, 1905, approximately seven years after Staten Island officially became part of New York City.[2] The "Municipal Ferry Terminal" was erected 1908-1909, during the administration of Mayor George McClellan, and designed by the architectural firm of Walker and Morris.[3]

Before that, ferry service was provided as early as the 1700s by individuals (and later private companies) with their own boats, but a ferry accident June 14, 1901, involving two ferries from different companies, was a major factor in the decision for the city to take control of ferries as part of the public transportation system.[4]

The older 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.[1] When that terminal was gutted in 1991 as a result of a major fire, the city saw the chance to replace it with a building in which it could take pride—but a fourteen-year period of design plan submissions, rejections, and changes, delayed construction again and again—in addition to the basic construction challenges inherent in the rebuilding of the terminal in a way which would cause little or no disruption to ferry service on the water or subway service underneath the construction site.[5]

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 Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Other entrants included Rafael Vinoly, Aldo Rossi, Polshek Partners and SOM, but the winning design, featuring a barrel vaulted waiting room (that was higher than that at Grand Central Station), and what would have been the largest clock in the world, with a large, electronic facade facing the harbor' it was deemed by Staten Island civic authorities as architecturally unacceptable.[citation needed]

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 existing building, with a 90-foot (27 m) high entry hall, and a waiting room that was 50-percent larger, with views of New York Harbor.[1] Ultimately, a rooftop waterfront viewing deck was added, with a photovoltaic array on its canopy, a Percent for Art installation called "Slips" by Dennis Adams, and connections on either end to the waterfront esplanade on the east and west sides of Manhattan.

The terminal as seen from New York Harbor in 2008
A century earlier, the terminal from the East River c.1905


The renovated terminal was designed by New York architect Frederic Schwartz. In Battery Park, Lower Manhattan, it included a new 2-acre (8,100 m2) plaza, named after Peter Minuit.[5] The terminal, which is open 24 hours a day, accommodates over 100,000 tourists and commuters daily. It includes access to taxis, subways (through the new South Ferry – Whitehall Street station complex on the 1 N R trains), and buses;[5] through the Terminal and Minuit Plaza, access to bicycle lanes and other water transport are also available.[6]

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."[7]

New uses[edit]

Designed to employ a state-of-the-art heating and air conditioning system, partially powered by solar panels, the terminal includes a total floor area of 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2), including—in addition to the 19,000-square-foot (1,800 m2) waiting room—6,000 square feet for retailer use, and 10,000 square feet (930 m2) of office space. There is an additional 10,000 square feet (930 m2) of space to support needs linked to ferry operations and ancillary support.[8] In addition to the many retail shops that now can be found at the terminal, GrowNYC, a New York non-profit organization, operates its only indoor farmers market ("Greenmarket") within the terminal.[9]

Whitehall Crossing[edit]

As part of the "Percent for Art" initiative, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs[10] 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,[8] 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."[11] "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."[11]

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.[11]

—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 taxes. 42 new trees were included in the redesign plan, 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.[8]

In addition to the part the plaza will play in terms of transportation, it will include the "New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion" (a gift from the Kingdom of the Netherlands), an area to showcase art, design, and horticulture.[12] This area is 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.[13] The Plein and Pavilion were designed by Dutch architect Ben van Berkel, and the major grant from the Netherlands which made it possible was given in honor of the celebration of New York's 400th anniversary, and in honor of "the enduring relationship between New York and Holland."[13]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Chen, David, "Sleeker Design for Staten Island Ferry Terminal is Unveiled", New York Times (March 20, 1997), retrieved February 22, 2011
  2. ^ a b Staten Island Museum website, retrieved February 22, 2011.
  3. ^ Photo of 1909 dedication plaque.
  4. ^ Staten Island Ferry information website, retrieved February 22, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c, Ferry Terminal description, retrieved February 21, 2011.
  6. ^, retrieved February 21, 2011.
  7. ^ Davidson, Justin, "At last, welcome to Manhattan!", Newsday (April 14, 2005) retrieved February 21, 2011
  8. ^ a b c website, retrieved February 22, 2011.
  9. ^ "GreenMarket" website, retrieved February 22, 2011.
  10. ^, retrieved February 22, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Whitehall Crossing on, retrieved February 25, 2011.
  12. ^ Minuit Plaza, retrieved February 22, 2011.
  13. ^ a b The Battery Conservancy, retrieved February 22, 2011.

External links[edit]