The final 'ex' for ex-Staten Island ferry, ex-Rikers floating dorm.

The Walter Keane at Rikers.

Demolition of the Walter Keane (above, below) on Staten Island.

Life preserver preserved.
As the Cornelius G. Kolff, the vessel ferried passengers and vehicles between the Islands Staten and Manhattan.
Above: Theodore W. Scull's photos of the Cornelius G. Kolff in 1982 blizzard.
Below: NYC DOC photos of the Kolff/Keane and Merrell/Wildstein at Rikers.

In 1987, after 36 years navigating New York Harbor, the Kolff and its twin, the Pvt. Joseph F. Merrell, the last two Staten Island steam ferries, were "retired" to Rikers as stationary floating 162-bed dorms for inmates. The Kolff (closer to dock), originally named for a Staten Island business/civic leader who wrote its history, was renamed the Walter B. Keane for a veteran Correction Officer who died in a job-related accident.
The Merrell, originally named for an S.I. WWII Medal of Honor winner, was initially renamed for Vernon C. Bain, warden of the Rikers jail for sentenced male inmates at the time of his death in a 1985 Bronx traffic accident. Later that name was given to the 800-bed barge jail that opened in 1992 on the Bronx mainland opposite Rikers (below, color).
Name No. 3 for the Keane twin ferry: the Harold A. Wildstein (further one from dock), honoring a 35-year DOCer murdered by a would-be robber. As jail population eased in the early 2000s, the ferries' use as reserve dorms declined. Then they were used for DOC offices, inmate programs, and services.
When DOC began shutting down a number of its regular jails, on and off Rikers, the time had come for the agency to bid farewell to the ferries and for NYC to put them up for bid.

The Merrell/Wildstein was purchased by a Bayonne company for scrap, brought to the waters of the Kill Van Kull separating Staten Island from New Jersey, and placed alongside a pier about July 2003.

The vessel was partially disassembled but sunk into the waters at the foot of 2d Street in Bayonne before salvage was completed. Its removal was the subject of a lawsuit filed by the federal government in November 2004.

Above left, courtesy of NYC ferries historian Jeffrey D. Cavorley, is a photo of the Pvt. Merrell in drydock in 1984 before it became the Harold A. Wildstein. Above right is his photo of a Merrell lifering found floating in Kill Van Kull after the incompletely scrapped ex-Harold A. Wildstein sunk at the Bayonne demolition dock.

The above photo was taken by ferries historian Cavorley from Shooters Island in the Kill Van Kull as the ex-Walter B. Keane was being docked in Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, in September, 2004. Metal Management Inc., a company unconnected to the salvage firm in the sunken Merrell/Wildstein ferry case, bought the ex-Kolff/ex-Keane for scrap value from a Queens financier who had purchased it from NYC in the Spring of 2004.

He said that originally he had hoped to see its survival in NY or elsewhere, possibly as an floating casino or health services facility or emergency shelter for the homeless. His boat publication ad copy, below, promoted that idea but in vain. NYCHS blocks out the phone numbers and e-mail address in the ad image below because the item offered by the ad for sale is no longer available.

Indeed, in January 2005 when NYCHS photographed (right and below) the Keane salvage site in Mariners Harbor near Union Ave. and Richmond Terrace, (see map left), not far from where Bethlehem Steel workers had built the Kolff a half century ago, the ex-ferry was rapidly approaching its final "ex" status - extinction.

Keane, Bain & Wildstien images are NYC DOC property. Demolition images are copyrighted by NYCHS that thanks SEAN MAGEE, JEFFREY D. CAVORLEY (see his Old New York Ferryboats), and THEODORE W. SCULL (see his SI Ferry & Blizzard of 1982). All copyrights reserved and retained. Return to NYCHS Home Page.