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Lawsuit: SI Ferry businesses plagued by a lack of security

All aboard the Staten Island Scary.

Ferry terminal businesses on both sides of the route linking Lower Manhattan and Staten Island are plagued by a lack of security, with shoplifters and the homeless targeting their stores and employees, a new lawsuit charges.

“Just last night, they grab so many of our (lottery) tickets and left,” said Niel Contractor, manager of the WaterEdge Cafe, as a shirtless homeless man in a winter coat walked Friday through the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island.

“It’s every day,” said Contractor, who recounted regular beer ripoffs, an April assault on an employee and break-ins at the locked ice cream cases. “It’s crazy.”

The 23-page court Thursday filing also charged the New York City Economic Development Corp. was refusing to adjust rents for the nine plaintiff businesses and threatening evictions following a decline in post-pandemic ridership.

“Defendant has failed, and continues to fail, to hire sufficient security and personnel,” said the Manhattan Supreme Court suit. “Defendant has permitted, and continues to permit, vagrants to interfere with plaintiffs … thieves and shoplifters (to) harass and rob employees.”

In addition, unauthorized hawkers and other individuals are allowed to illegally peddle competing goods and solicit business from ferry riders, the lawsuit charged.

“Sometimes we have people stealing, they’re homeless or junkies,” said worker Jesus Perez of Liberty News and Gifts in the Whitehall Ferry Terminal at the tip of Manhattan.

“It’s increasing a lot,” said Perez, adding the situation worsened in recent years. “After the pandemic, it was crazy.”

Six of the plaintiffs operate in the terminal on Staten Island, with the other three based in Manhattan.

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The businesses run the gamut from restaurants to a newsstand to a pretzel operation, with one lease dating back to January 2006 and a second to November 2008.

The Staten Island Ferry seen devoid of people during the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak on March 22, 2020 in Manhattan, New York.

A spokesman for the NYC Law Department said the city would review the case once served with the documents.

The court filing sought an injunction against the city “compelling defendant to properly secure and maintain the premises” while calling for monetary damages — including the legal costs and attorney’s fees in the case.

Roland Rexha, Secretary/Treasurer of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association that represents ferry crew members, echoed the call for improved conditions.

“It’s time to throw Staten Islanders and everyone who works and rides on the Staten Island Ferry and in the terminal a life raft from unsafe and perilous conditions,” said Rexha.

Contractor said the employee attacked last month was working a night shift by himself when targeted.

“He fell to the ground,” said Contractor. “He got punched in the head. He was out sick for a week … By the time this guy calls (police) … they’re gone. They finish everything, they left.”

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