Susan B. Anthony didn’t live long enough to enjoy the success of her fight for women’s suffrage. But she’s secured her place in history as a valiant warrior for women.
A century after the 19th Amendment was passed, her name adorns a 130-passenger NY Waterway vessel that will ply the Hudson each day, alongside sister ferries Molly Pitcher, Betsy Ross, and more than 30 other boats named by NY Waterway for key figures in American history, mainly men.
The Susan B. Anthony was built in 2002 by Yank Marine, a New Jersey-based ferry company. Before it was converted, it was named the Suzie Girl and used as a party/fishing boat for private charters off the Jersey coast.
Local officials, maritime officers, a color guard from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, and NY Waterway reps turned out to watch Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver give the vessel the proper sendoff with a traditional crack of a champagne bottle across the bow. The celebration came 100 years after the passage of the 19th amendment, on June 4, 1919, which gave women the vote.
Before Oliver christened the ferry, she reflected on NY Waterway’s own history, dating back 32 years.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Mr. Arthur Imperatore for decades,” she said. “My grandparents came to Jersey City in 1929, and my mom was two years old at the time. I’ve spent a great deal of time in Hudson County. I know what was here before the Gold Coast was created. I befriended Lillian Liberti, the director of Port Development in the 1980s, who brought me out here and told me one day this was going to be an unimaginable place for the people of New Jersey.”
Arthur Imperatore is president of NY Waterway.
“Susan B. Anthony was an inspiration to all of us, and many women here are wearing white today, as the suffragists wore white while demanding the right to vote,” Oliver said. “Never in her wildest dreams did Susan B. Anthony think there would be a ferry here named after her.”
Imperatore floated the notion of dedicating the vessel to the women’s suffrage movement.
“It’s a great honor and interesting to reflect on the state of politics that was brought about by female revolutions, starting with Susan B. Anthony, and it’s prophetic that this boat was originally named Suzie,” Oliver said. “It occurred to me that we only had two other boats named after women, and it was the perfect choice to name this one after a great American leader who started the suffrage movement.”
Elephant in the room
During his speech, with state politicos on hand, Imperatore doubled down on NY Waterway’s current struggle to secure permits from Hoboken to construct a maintenance facility at Union Dry Dock.
NY Waterway plans to vacate its Weehawken refueling station, in part to accommodate a 280-unit residential development on the waterfront. A developer owns the Weehawken land and has received state and federal approval to build.
NY Waterway already owns Union Dry Dock. However, Hoboken officials intent on taking the land for a public park issued a stop-work order on the construction.
“We owe it to our employees, one by one, who are first rate,” Imperatore said. “They’re crackerjacks, they’re the best in the business. I want to thank the machinists who labor so hard under terrible conditions, which we’re trying to ameliorate by finally getting control and possession of our own property at Union Dry Dock in Hoboken. I hope to live long enough to accomplish that mission. I’m asking for support because the conditions our men work under are very, very difficult.”
It’s been a lengthy dispute between the NY Waterway and the city of Hoboken. At the beginning of June, that dispute culminated in NY Waterway suing the city for the right to construct at Union Dry Dock. That case is ongoing.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla has spoken extensively about how the proposed facility would prevent Hoboken from securing its last link of land to maintain a contiguous public space on the city’s waterfront. Attorneys representing Hoboken claim that there’s an alternative site that could be used as a “stopgap” just south of the current facility instead of Union Dry Dock.
The city offered NY Waterway $11.6 million for Union Dry Dock, but NY Waterway has no intention of selling.
In 2017, there was talk of Hoboken seizing the land through eminent domain, but the city stopped short of that at Gov. Phil Murphy’s request. Last month, Bhalla said that eminent domain might be back on the table in the future.
In an interview with Hudson County View after the christening, Oliver expressed confidence that NY Waterway will be able to secure permission to build the facility at Union Dry Dock.