The Dorothy Day, the newest member of the Staten Island Ferry fleet, set sail on her inaugural ride with great fanfare on Friday morning.
Departing from the St. George Terminal on Staten Island, the Dorothy Day — the Ollis-class vessel named for the legendary, 20th century Catholic peace activist — transported a class of dignitaries for her maiden run, including City Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi and a number of Day’s family, friends and colleagues.
The addition of the Dorothy Day marks the third and final Ollis-class vessel to join the fleet. It was commissioned back in November, and brought into service on April 28 after passing all safety and quality control inspections and tests.
The $85 million ferry includes state-of-the-art technology — including cellphone chargers — and enough capacity to hold up to 4,500 passengers safely and comfortably. Following Friday’s pomp and circumstance, she’ll officially go into regular passenger service next week, according to the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), which operates the free Staten Island Ferry.
For Rodriguez, the name of the new vessel is fitting, considering that Day enjoyed taking the ferry while living on Staten Island.
“We know that during her life, Day loved riding this ferry — and she was like Staten Islanders who know that a short ferry ride can serve as a peaceful, even meaningful, escape from the hustle and bustle of life in our city,” Rodriguez said. “We thank all the activists — from the Catholic Worker, the Dorothy Day Guild and so many other places — who are joining us today, as they keep Dorothy’s vital memory and incredible legacy alive.”
Cardinal Dolan, who heads the Archdiocese of New York, offered a statement praying for the vessel and the service it will provide.
“As we celebrate the inaugural trip of the Dorothy Day ferry, we recall her love for Staten Island and the City of New York,” said Cardinal Dolan. “May this newest addition to the ferry fleet serve as a reminder of her deep love of God and neighbor, and inspire new generations to emulate her commitment to peace and justice for all.”
Also participating in the inaugural ride was Martha Hennessy, Day’s granddaughter and a social justice activist in her own right.
“It is with joy and gratitude that we can remember Dorothy Day as her namesake ferry plies the beautiful waters of her beloved New York Harbor, carrying visitors and workers to their destinations on a daily basis,” Hennessy said.
Day, who died in 1980 at the age of 83, led the Catholic Worker movement during the Great Depression, and served as editor of The Catholic Worker newspaper, which was first published on May 1, 1933. She committed herself to charity, helping to operate soup kitchens around Manhattan, and was a devout pacifist who objected to war, and wasn’t afraid to demonstrate publicly against it.
During the post-World War II era, Day wound up being arrested for holding anti-war protests during air raid drills held in New York City. She was also active in the organized labor movement, from bucking Cardinal Francis Spellman as she supported striking cemetery workers in 1949; to later boosting the strikes led by Cesar Chavez among California farm laborers in the 1960s and 1970s.
A native of Brooklyn Heights, Day lived out her later years at a cottage on the South Shore of Staten Island, and frequently rode the ferry to and from Manhattan. Following her death, she was interred at the Cemetery of the Resurrection, blocks away from her cottage.
There may yet be one more, higher honor for Day in the works. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has submitted Day’s name to the Vatican for consideration of sainthood.
The launch of the Dorothy Day ferry, meanwhile, is the latest good ferry news for New York City. The Economic Development Corporation also announced on Friday record ridership on its NYC Ferry routes during the first quarter of 2023.