ST. GEORGE, Staten Island (WABC) -- The New York City Department of Transportation commissioned the newest Staten Island Ferry vessel Monday.
The Staff Sergeant Michael H. Ollis is the first new ferry added to the fleet since 2005.
The $85 million, state-of-the-art ferry is named for Michael H. Ollis, a New Dorp resident who was killed in Afghanistan saving the life of a fellow soldier in 2013.
"He made doubly sure they were safe before he left and went towards the fight," Ollis' father Robert Ollis said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, DOTB Commissioner Hank Gutman and Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo presided over the ceremony, which included honored guests Gold Star Parents Robert and Linda Ollis.
"Staff Sergeant Ollis represented the best of New York City, and we're proud to honor his legacy with a beautiful addition to the iconic Staten Island Ferry fleet," Mayor de Blasio said. "With two more new ferries on the way, we're transforming this system into the modern, reliable, safe fleet Staten Island deserves - and we'll carry Michael's name with us every day the boat is in our harbor."
The ferry has completed harbor trials and passed U.S. Coast Guard inspections.
Staten Island resident Anita Aasen played a key role in getting to this point. After Ollis' death, she started a petition urging officials to name the ferry after Michael. She hadn't even met his family.
Support from all over the world poured in. She had a good reason for launching her campaign.
"My father was a World War II vet and talked about what they talked about today -- the bond and the service," she said.
It will serve passengers for the first time later this year.
The SSG Michael H. Ollis is the first of three new, 4,500-passenger ferries commissioned by the de Blasio administration since 2014, with support from funds provided by a range of federal agencies and elected officials, including U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
The mayor first announced its name alongside Borough President Oddo and the Ollis family in 2016.
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The three new ferries will be larger, more modern and safer in extreme weather than the existing fleet. They will feature popular design elements of past Staten Island Ferries, including phone-charging outlets and more comfortable seating, as well as an oval upper-deck promenade that will for the first time serve as an outdoor walking track for riders.
The second boat in the Ollis class, the Sandy Ground, honors one of the nation's first Black settlements, located on Staten Island's South Shore, which also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The Sandy Ground is expected to arrive in New York in December 2021 and begin regular passenger service in 2022 while the third boat, named for Dorothy Day, the legendary Catholic peace activist who lived on Staten Island, will arrive in 2022.
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