State sinks $500K into bad boat

February 21, 2009 at 5:51 pm Leave a comment

Ferry boat for Governors Island development project found to be junk  
A ferry boat for New York Harbor, purchased by taxpayers for $500,000, has turned out to be a useless rusting hulk officials are now desperately trying to sell on eBay.
   
Top bid so far: $14,800.

New York taxpayers bought the boat, called the Islander, in August 2007. After decades of trips between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard, a Massachusetts authority had put it up for auction.

“We were the winning bidder,” said Jon Meyers, director of real estate for the Governors Island Preservation & Education Corp. He added that the state got the boat for $250,000 less than the asking price from the Martha’s Vineyard and Woods Hole Steamship Authority.

But Meyer said the 200-foot passenger and car carrier has never been used since: Once it got to New York Harbor, inspectors realized it was not seaworthy. In fact, it had been run beyond its lifespan.

Fixing it would cost $6 million for steel work alone to get it in shape for its intended purpose backing up a 50-year-old vessel called the Coursen, which transports people between Manhattan and Governors Island hourly from 6:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A week ago, the state Office of General Services moored the rusted vessel on eBay. The three-deck ferry has been on auction for a week. Thursday’s top offer of $14,800 at press time came after 34 bids.

“It’s not like buying a used car,” said Meyers, referring to his corporation’s purchase.

He said his office checked out the Islander before it was put up for auction by the Massachusetts ferry company, but couldn’t tell the extent of fix-up costs for corrosion and deterioration, or estimate the expense for new steel until after it was purchased.

Meyers insists he does not suffer from buyer’s remorse. “We had three weeks. … We had a limited amount of time to inspect it,” he said by way of explanation.

The corporation, a subsidiary of Empire State Development Corp., the state’s well-financed economic development agency, still needs another boat to service Governors Island.

The state purchased most of the 172-acre stately island and the Coursen in 2003 for $1 from the federal government.

In the current eBay auction which ends Monday the seller warns “vessel is in poor condition” and cautions the Islander is being sold “as is … with all faults.”

Meyers said the state is prepared to take the highest bid, no matter how low.

James M. Odato
 
Albany Times Union

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