New York's coldest job: The deck of the Staten Island Ferry


It may be the coldest job in the coldest corner of New York on the coldest night of the season: working the decks on the Staten Island Ferry.

Gale-force wind gusts off New York Harbor drove the windchills below zero and even veteran deckhands struggled in the cold.

"I feel it everywhere," said Ralph Franco, a ferry deckhand. "Everywhere, from head to toe. If you don't dress for it, you're going to freeze."

Franco has been a deckhand on the ferry for 32 years. But he says no matter what you wear, or how much you wear, it's still brutally, unbearably cold.

"You just try to stay as warm as possible, but that's not always easy," he said.

Four ferries crisscrossed New York Harbor Friday night, each with as many as eight deckhands responsible for securing the ship as it approaches the dock, with not much time in between to warm up.

"During rush hour, you could be out here for at least an hour," said Elroy Wallace, deckhand. "Inland you may get a temperature of 20 degrees, but on the water it could feel like minus 10."

Deckhands say they dress in layers, some with as many as three layers of trousers and six layers on their upper bodies. Wool hats and gloves are a must.

Grateful passengers admire the deckhands for their tenacity and their endurance.

"They work hard, and the conditions are pretty miserable," said Bill Collins, a commuter. "I applaud them."

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