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NEW YORK CITY-The city has finally begun its long-planned renovation of the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island. The $84-million project, announced Thursday at a ceremony in the facility’s south parking lot, will feature additional retail space, a waterfront eatery and 100,000 sf of outdoor viewing on two levels.

Under the auspices of the New York City Department of Transportation, which runs the facility and the ferry system, and overseen by the city’s real estate arm, the Economic Development Corporation, the project was announced in June 1999 after two years of planning. Groundbreaking was scheduled for late 1999 and completion targeted for early 2002. Delivery on the St. George is now synchronized to be simultaneous with that of its counterpart across the harbor, the Whitehall Ferry Terminal, currently under construction in Lower Manhattan and slated to be ready some time in 2004. Price tag on the two terminals as well as three new ferryboats on order is roughly $300 million. “It’s going to be a spectacular terminal, along with Whitehall across the water,” says DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall. “They will be destinations among themselves.”

Destroyed by fire in 1949 and perfunctorily rebuilt the following year, the eye-pleasing new facility will comprise 190,000 sf, 20,000 sf of which will be retail space, 5,000 sf more than under the current configuration. The waiting room, now dank and dingy, will feature a 40-foot glass wall facing the harbor with views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Clerestory windows will rim the ceiling on all four walls to maximize ambient light. The asphalt and sidewalks leading to the street will be replaced by a promenade that will provide a direct path for commuters from the street into the terminal through a glass-enclosed entryway.

Electrical, mechanical and ventilation systems will be upgraded, as will restrooms, seating areas and signage. In addition, photovoltaic louvers, which turn sunlight into electric energy, have been integrated into the design along with other green technologies that last year netted two major awards for architects Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum. The Art Commission of the City of New York presented HOK with the Commission’s 19th annual award for Excellence in Design. The firm also earned the prestigious Designing a Sustainable and Secure World Award from Global Green USA, the U.S. affiliate of Mikhail Gorbachev’s worldwide environment organization Green Cross International, which recognized the firm’s commitment to advancing sustainable design and building by developing environmental solutions.

“The cumulative impact of the revitalization of the station will have a profound impact on the local economy and on the local and regional perceptions of St. George and Staten Island,” Kenneth Drucker, Director of Design at the New York office of HOK stated last year. “The building as it exists today lacks memorable spaces while either waiting for a ferry or as a destination for tourists. The design celebrates the arrival to Staten Island by providing improvements that will both enhance tourism and benefit citizens of Staten Island. The character of the building will be light and airy, improving the experience of waiting and riding the Ferry while simultaneously creating a new gateway for Staten Island and its residents.”

For the fastest-growing borough in the city–Staten Island’s population has spiked up more than 17%, roughly 65,000 people, since 1990–the terminal provides a crucial gateway. Last year, the Staten Island Ferry shuttled more than 18 million commuters and tourists, making the terminal one of the busiest transportation hubs in the city.

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