This is the boat you don’t wanna miss.
The SSG Michael H. Ollis, now at Caddell Dry Dock on Staten Island, will dazzle even hardened commuters when it starts service in the fall.
The ship is the first of three new vessels in the Staten Island Ollis Class Ferries series. It cost the city a reported $309 million and features a walking track, more comfortable seating and charging stations galore.
The ferry is named after one of the borough’s own sons, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a New Dorp, SI, native who was 24 years old when he was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2013. He was on his third tour of duty during Operation Enduring Freedom and due to return home just two months later.
Michael saved the life of a wounded Polish officer, and according to his mother, up to 40 other contractors were shielded by Ollis’ sacrifice.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Linda Ollis, told The Post of seeing the boat named for her hero son. “We feel very honored and blessed by it, that so many people will see Michael’s name up there on the boat. It gives us such a warm feeling.”
Michael’s dad, Bob, a Vietnam veteran, noted how much their son touched people’s lives. “He was a special person to a lot of people he helped,” said Bob, who added that friends and Michael’s former school teachers visit the family’s home to remember him.
The parents, who also have two daughters, were video-conferenced in during the christening of the ship in Florida. They’ve been kept in the loop during the whole process and are hoping for a private tour.
Their one request is in the works: for his picture and story to be displayed on the ferry. Michael has been honored by the Polish government with its highest military award, the Polish Gold Star Medal of Honor, as well as the Afghani Star. Back home, he was honored with the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Silver Star and the Audie Murphy Medallion.
The Ollises can’t wait to check out the new 320-foot ferry, which will serve the 5.2-mile route between St. George Terminal on the north shore of Staten Island and Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. (The ferries carry 22 million passengers annually for free.)
“There was a lot of time, money and energy spent towards making sure these were very technologically advanced and environmentally- and ergonomically-friendly ferries,” said Joey D’Isernia, President of Eastern Shipbuilding Group of the fleet. He also noted that the fleet’s signature bright orange paint job is still intact.
Several SI ferry captains trekked down to Panama City, Fla., to check out the new fleet.
“The captains came down here and they were blown away, saying, ‘People are going to be so excited when they get on these,’” recalled D’Isernia. One even remarked to him, “It’s like driving a spaceship.”
Passengers are in for a treat, too. “They’ll notice a much higher level of fit, finish, amenities and ergonomics,” said D’Isernia. “Noise and vibration will be at a minimum. There’s a higher level of comfort and amenities.”
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NYC could use some hope right now and the new ferry couldn’t come at a better time. As an Eastern Shipbuilding Group representative put it: “NYC is opening back up — it’s a great comeback story.”
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