There's been a bit of an uproar among commuters who use the Staten Island Ferry, which has been stripped of the holiday decorations that formerly livened up the terminals in Manhattan and Staten Island. The DOT has taken away the "holiday" tree and the big electric Hanukkah menorahs, which Rabbi Moshe Katzman has provided every year for decades. DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow issued a statement explaining the new policy, suggesting that the change is mainly about "keeping the passenger terminal clear" to "allow staff and crew to focus on their primary mission: Getting the system’s 65,000 daily commuters where they need to go safely and on schedule." But could there possibly be more than a desire for "clear" terminals at work here?
While Solomonow omitted religion from his statement, Bloomberg wasn't afraid to state the obvious on his weekly radio appearance today. "The Department of Transportation got sued one time too many," the mayor said today, according to DNAinfo. "You start getting into the whole issue of religion in public spaces. [There] are plenty of [other] places to celebrate Christmas. We didn’t diminish any one religion. We just said, ‘no.' "
It's a major reversal from last year, when the DOT got rid of an unapproved nativity scene from one of the terminals, but kept the trees and menorahs. At the time, Solomonow said, "We find that Staten Islanders can agree that these holiday symbols enliven our terminals and will continue to [do so] throughout the holiday." Now Solomonow says, "After a review of our policy last year, DOT has implemented a policy that does not permit decorative displays in the ferry terminal area."
The lack of cheer has been coldly received. The Daily News penned a goofy editorial today saying, "Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? Don’t bother. Sadik-Khan’s Grinch brigade has barred all evidence of the holiday season that might lift the spirits of the thousands who pass every day." And the Staten Island Advance went out and spoke to commuters about the policy, getting some great quotes. Lila Sparks of Brooklyn declares, "Even the Christmas tree is no longer called the Christmas tree — but a holiday tree. With all this depression that is going on with life we need to have some type of way of reminding us that we're still human." Yeah, yeah; quit bleating and get on the boat!