SNL’s Pete Davidson and Colin Jost rescue retired Staten Island Ferry boat for $280K

January 21, 2022

The MV John F. Kennedy in 2015. Photo: Godsfriendchuck via Wikimedia commons

“Saturday Night Live” stars Pete Davidson and Colin Jost, along with comedy club owner Paul Italia, were the high bidders for the retired Staten Island Ferry boat John F. Kennedy, the NY Post reports. The boat, recently retired from the Staten Island Ferry fleet, was listed for $125,000 at a public auction that ended Wednesday. The auction price of the vintage vessel, retired after over five decades of service, had been slashed in half, but its new owners bid $280,000 in a last-minute bidding war, armed with plans to transform the ferry into a live entertainment venue.

Photo courtesy of the City of New York

Built in 1965, the John F. Kennedy, recently retired from the Staten Island Ferry fleet after its final trip in August, was listed for public auction starting at $125,000 by the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services. As of Wednesday morning, 18 bids had been made online, bumping the price to $140,100 according to the auction site.

At nearly 300 feet long, with a capacity of over 3,000 passengers, the John F. Kennedy was the first of the fleet to use diesel-electric propulsion machinery and one of the first to feature outdoor promenades and extended foredecks. It was the oldest boat left in the Staten Island Ferry active fleet until its retirement.

Moving this piece of NYC maritime history to its new home will likely be no laughing matter–free shipping isn’t part of the deal. As the Staten Island Advance reports, the boat’s hull is in good shape. Its mechanicals, less so.

Still, the rescue was a noble one and fitting for Staten Island natives Davidson and “King of Staten Island” star Jost. Italia told the Post, “We’re in the early stages, but everybody involved had the same ambition–not to see this thing go to the scrapyard. ”

The ferry was listed in an “as is” and “where is” condition: “This double-ended, passenger and vehicle ferry up for auction is in poor condition and had to be decommissioned due to mechanical issues, the mechanical issues are on the propulsion end.”

Renovating a vintage ferry boat is certainly a labor of love. A few have been reborn as floating offices and event spaces: The former Washington State ferry Enetai became the Santa Rosa to host parties and events while docked in San Francisco (it’s now the local offices of Hornblower and other cruise lines).

In Brooklyn, the former 650-passenger ferry Schamonchi, aka the Bushwick Boat, mentioned as an “outlaw houseboat” by the New York Times, ferried visitors to Martha’s Vineyard each summer since 1978 before being privately purchased and spending a decade as a party vessel and informal houseboat (complete with hot tub, metal shop and washer/dryer) on the embattled Newtown Creek.

Photo courtesy of the City of New York

The John F. Kennedy is eligible for placement on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, but the responsibility for submitting the required paperwork will fall to its new owners. You can find more information about the auction here.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story was published on January 19, 2022, and has since been updated.


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