Colin Jost, one of the stars of “Saturday Night Live,” has driven the Staten Island Ferry through New York Harbor many times. But Monday he drove it for the first time as owner.
Jost and his castmate Pete Davidson, who both grew up on Staten Island, have co-owned a hulking orange ferry since they joined a group of investors who successfully bid on it in January. The group paid New York City more than $280,000 for the boat, named after John F. Kennedy, after winning a competitive auction.
Then they had to figure out what to do with it.
The partners are still working on their plan to turn it into a floating entertainment center. While doing so, they had to find a place to dock a 277-foot boat weighing 2100 tons.
They settled in a shipyard on the western edge of Staten Island, just a few miles from the terminal where Mr. Jost had boarded a ferry every weekday morning on his commute to Regis High School in Manhattan. Mr. Jost’s father, Daniel, had dropped Colin off at the ferry on all those school days, so it was only fitting that he should come along for the ride.
Monday was moving day and Mr Jost’s partners decided to make a production of it. Instead of having the ferry towed straight to the shipyard, they had two tugs push it into the middle of the busy harbor to take photos and video of it against the city’s most famous backdrops.
For example, a comedic actor who broadcasts fake news on late-night television ended up on the roof of a 57-year-old ferry with no working engines next to the Statue of Liberty, while a helicopter and a camera drone buzzed above him.
“I’m a cautious person by nature and this is definitely the riskiest thing I’ve done,” Mr Jost said, referring to the whole adventure.
He said he wanted to get involved in the venture because of his nostalgic connection to the ferry, and he texted Mr. Davidson and asked, “Split it?” mr. Davidson, who did not join the group on Monday, responded enthusiastically, recalling Mr. Jost himself.
Daniel Jost, a former teacher at Staten Island Technical High School, was more cautious, urging his son to do his “homework” on the idea before plunging into it, Mr Jost said. But aboard the boat, both father and son seemed pleased with the whole lark.
“Because it came from a pure place, it was a smart decision in the end,” said Mr. jost. But, he added, “At worst, we’ll just dock it somewhere and make it New York City’s largest houseboat.”
One of the partners, Paul Italia, explained that he wanted to try to keep the positive energy that the first news of the group’s purchase had sparked. Mr Italia, owner of The Stand, a comedy club near Union Square in Manhattan, said he had been inundated with ideas and offers since the news broke three months ago.
“The support is incredible, but there are also haters,” said Mr. Italia, referring to all the people who thought it foolish to reuse such a large, old boat.
They bought the ferry “as is,” complete with dozens of wooden benches, a working popcorn maker in the concession stand, and posters of the subway system on the walls. Mr Jost pointed out that some of the posters advertised ‘Impractical Jokers’, a TV show for which his brother Casey was a writer and producer.
Mr Italia said that when he was trying to find a last home for the ferry after the refurbishment, he had studied a satellite image of New York Harbor and contacted anyone he could find who owned properties on the docks. water in Brooklyn and Manhattan. He said city officials had cooperated in his search.
The ideal spot would be at the end of its own pier, as the ferry is built to load — people and cars — from both sides, said Ron Castellano, another of the partners, who is an architect and developer.
Wherever it ends up, “It’s going to be one of the best nightlife spots in the world right away,” said Ed Burke, Staten Island deputy borough president, who attended. “People are being tickled by this,” said Mr. burke. “It’s of great importance on Staten Island.”
After a few hours on the water, the tugs pushed the ferry into a slip at Caddell Dry Dock & Repair, where it will remain for repair and refurbishment. Once it was docked, Caddell’s workers figured out a way to get the passengers off the boat, but Mr. Jost didn’t wait for them.
He climbed out a window on a pier, then smiled at his partners and the rest of the passengers. “When you ride a ferry as much as I do, you learn a few tricks,” he said.