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New Staten Island Ferry Boat to be Named for Dorothy Day, Renowned Social Activist Who Lived and Worked on Staten Island

March 25, 2021

De Blasio administration’s third new ferry boat will honor Day’s legacy of co-founding the Catholic Worker Movement, helping the needy and fighting for civil rights

Day, a “Servant of God” hailed by Pope Francis, is under official consideration for sainthood

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that a new Staten Island Ferry boat, which will hit the water for first time tomorrow and is expected to arrive in New York harbor in 2022, will be named to honor Dorothy Day, the revered social activist and journalist who spent decades on the Island’s South Shore.

“Dorothy Day lived a life of tremendous selflessness and service. I can think of no greater way to honor her beloved legacy than by having her name on this new ferry boat connecting Manhattan and Staten Island,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Day loved Staten Island, and this naming will allow others to learn of her inspiring work as a brave activist and journalist. I thank Day’s surviving family for doing keeping the memory of her work alive, and hope every New Yorker can draw inspiration from her legacy.’”

"We had so many deserving honorees to choose among in naming the third and final boat in the Ollis class,” said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman. "I hope those who petitioned for other names – and who thus may be feeling somewhat disappointed today – will take the time to learn more about Dorothy Day, whose history, example and influence are just so inspiring. And we so much look forward to joining Staten Islanders when we soon cross the harbor on two brand-new boats: the Staff Sgt Michael H. Ollis and the Sandy Ground.”

“How providential that the ferry from lower Manhattan to Staten Island should be named after a brave, loving woman who cherished both those areas of our city and the people who live there,” said Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. “How appropriate that a ferry transporting people would honor a believing apostle of peace, justice, and charity who devoted her life to moving people from war to peace, from emptiness to fullness, from isolation to belonging.”

“My grandmother loved Staten Island and treasured her trips on the Staten Island Ferry, the rare time when she could relax and be free of her many responsibilities,” said Kate Hennessy, who recently authored Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty. “While we in her family may find it difficult to line up her selfless work with honors such as this, we nevertheless thank Mayor de Blasio and Staten Islanders for this generous consideration.”

The Dorothy Day is part of a major $300 million investment announced by the Mayor in 2014 to bring larger and more state-of-the-art ferries into service connecting lower Manhattan to St. George, Staten Island. The three new 4,500-passenger ferry boats – the first new boats added to the fleet since 2006 – were funded with a combination of federal, city, and other grant funds.

The new ferries are all under construction by Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, FL. After delays caused by hurricanes on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the first new ferry boat to arrive will be the Staff Sergeant Michael H. Ollis. The Mayor had joined Borough President Jimmy Oddo and the Ollis family in 2016 to announce that the first boat would honor Ollis, the Army Staff Sergeant from New Dorp who was killed in 2013 at the age of 24 while protecting fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. The boat is expected to arrive in the harbor in June and following extensive preparation and staff training, is scheduled to begin regular passenger service in November 2021.

The second boat in the Ollis class, the Sandy Ground, honors one of the nation’s first Black settlements – located on Staten Island’s South Shore, which also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. With a name originally championed by Council Member Debi Rose, the Sandy Ground is expected to arrive in New York in December 2021 and begin regular passenger service in 2022.

The Dorothy Day will be the third Staten Island Ferry named for a woman. The first, which was decommissioned in the 1970s, was named for Revolutionary War hero Mary Murray. The second, which still operates overnight, is named for Staten Island photographer Alice Austen.  

The three ferries in the Ollis class will be larger, reflect modern technology, and will operate more safely in extreme weather conditions. They will feature popular design elements of past Staten Island Ferries, including other customer-service amenities — including more comfortable seating and phone-charging outlets, as well as an oval upper-deck promenade that will for the first time serve as an outdoor “walking track” for ferry riders.  

Day was born in Brooklyn in 1897 and spent years on the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village. She moved to Staten Island in the 1920s, where she raised her only daughter in the Spanish Camp shore section. 

Following her work co-founding the Catholic Worker Movement, which included offering food and shelter to those in need on the Lower East Side during the Great Depression and creating the Catholic Worker newspaper, she returned to Staten Island to operate a cooperative farm after 1950 in Pleasant Plains on Bloomingdale Road with French philosopher Peter Maurin. Day later became best known for her pacifism and work on behalf of the oppressed, including opposition to the Vietnam War and public support of striking farm workers.

Day, born into the Episcopal Church, was baptized at Our Lady Help of Christians R.C. Church in Tottenville in 1927. She spent most summers in her later life in the Huguenot neighborhood on Staten Island. Following her death in 1980, Day was buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Pleasant Plains. 

Dorothy Day’s legacy has advanced through the Roman Catholic Church’s canonization process. The Vatican accepted her name in 2000 from John Cardinal O’Connor as a preliminary step for consideration, and a Dorothy Day Guild was formed in 2004. The Church has bestowed Dorothy Day with the “Servant of God” title, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formally endorsing her candidacy for sainthood in 2012.

In 2015, Pope Francis cited Day’s inspired leadership alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln during an address he delivered to Congress. In that address, Francis said: "In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement…Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints."

“It is honorable to see the legacy of Dorothy Day being kept at the forefront as we move forward with a third ferry boat that will enhance service for Staten Islanders traveling from St. George, Staten Island to and from Manhattan.” said Assembly Member Charles D. Fall.

"The world knows Dorothy Day as an activist and fighter for justice, but to her South Shore neighbors she met while living on Staten Island, she was the tough-but-kind woman they saw strolling the wooded lanes and shoreline of our community. It will be an honor to ride on this boat dedicated to her memory, and even more so when she is declared a Roman Catholic Saint," said Council Member Joseph Borelli.

"As we celebrate Women in History this month, it is fitting that we honor Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement who spent much of her life in Staten Island and Manhattan reaching out to the poor and advocating for peace and social justice. Dorothy Day’s concern and compassion for others will be an inspiration to all who make their way between Staten Island and Manhattan on the new ferry boat named in her honor," said Council Member Debi Rose.

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