Each week day, approximately 75,000 people commute from Staten Island to Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry. Some of these travelers are tourists enjoying a variety of exciting destinations in New York City. However, the vast majority of ferry riders are people who are traveling to their jobs.
On either side of the ferry route, passengers gather at the two ferry terminals: Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, and the St. George Terminal on the Staten Island side of the harbor. Ferry service operates 365 days per year, 24 hours a day. When passengers arrive at either terminal, they expect to find a clean environment. In each terminal, the workers of AHRC New York City’s Hudson River Services (HRS) help to make sure that floors are swept and mopped, windows and escalators are clean, and trash cans are emptied regularly.
“It’s a good job,” said HRS worker, Leonel Cortez.” There are good people to work with, and a good salary.” Among his daily duties at the Whitehall Terminal, he particularly enjoys working with the power washer. In order to prepare for his job, Leonel trained for 4 months, providing cleaning services at the headquarters of AHRC New York City (AHRC NYC). Hudson River Services’ mission is to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to build full lives as defined by each person, supported by dedicated families, staff, and community partners.
“I like working here,” says HRS worker, David Jackson. “I meet so many people from around the world. I also like to mop the floor and make sure things are clean.” He is proud to meet the maintenance needs of the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and thankful for the income it provides.
For over 20 years, Hudson River Services has provided commercial cleaning and building maintenance services for companies across the New York City metro area. The workers are employed at over 200 sites. In addition to the services they provide, they share one commonality: They happen to have a disability or other barriers to finding work in the community.
“The importance of work in our society is very clear, and obtaining a job is highly valued,” says Steve Towler, Assistant Executive Director of AHRC New York City. “In our [Employment and Business Services] department, we find creative solutions to help people to prepare for work, and to obtain and keep good jobs. It’s a major focus for all of us.”
Since its inception, HRS has secured numerous contracts with government customers, primarily in the janitorial field. Many of these contracts are achieved through AHRC NYC’s relationship with New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID). NYSID assisted HRS to secure the contract with the DOT for janitorial services with the ferry. The opportunities to work under these contracts are life-changing for the people who find jobs through AHRC New York City.
Meaningful employment has added value to the lives of each of the HRS employees, and they have proven their commitment to their work. In the days immediately following Super Storm Sandy in 2012, the HRS workers banded together to make difficult commutes to the work site possible so that they could ensure the proper cleaning of the storm-worn facility. Their efforts in the weeks following the storm helped the terminals to resume operations, enabling thousands of New Yorkers to get back to work.
“I don’t have to give much instruction,” says DOT Ferry Terminal Supervisor, Eugene Brady. “[The Hudson River Services workers] never take off or miss a day. They know their job, they do it well, and they are very dedicated. They take their job seriously and provide good service. I am very satisfied with the quality of [their] work.”
Across the harbor, HRS worker,
Gary Eisenberg keeps busy, emptying the trash cans and mopping the floor of the St. George Terminal.
The northern shore of Staten Island is undergoing a redevelopment, which will transform the area surrounding the Staten Island ferry terminal into a dynamic destination with a high-end retail outlet, a hotel, and the tallest observation wheel in the Western Hemisphere. Construction of the wheel is scheduled for completion in 2017. Once the wheel is built, it will provide stunning views of the harbor and surrounding boroughs. Ferry services will eventually expand to include traffic from New Jersey, and each visitor arriving by ferry will be introduced to the neighborhood of St. George through its ferry terminal. By providing quality maintenance services for the DOT, the workers of Hudson River Services will be on call to make sure these commuters receive a good first impression.