Welcome to the used boat club, Pete.
In January 2022, Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson bought a decommissioned NYC ferry.
We all had a good chuckle. It was fitting that a sly character like Davidson, and his SNL cohort Colin Jost, would do such a thing.
They had a good plan, too. The were going to take the rusty MV John F. Kennedy, which had been shuttling passengers between Manhattan and the mainland since 1965, and convert it into a floating comedy club. Genius move, really.
Davidson’s real estate broker Paul Italia said at the time: “The idea is to turn the space into a live entertainment event space, with comedy, music, art, et cetera. We’re in the early stages, but everybody involved had the same ambition — not to see this thing go to the scrapyard.”
Davidson told People Magazine: “There’s a few levels. So there’s gonna be a bar, there’s gonna be a nice restaurant, and the lower will be like an entertainment space. And we’re going to dock it in the city (NYC), and have like a nice little thing. Or, it could all go to s&!# and I’ll be doing lots of gigs next year!”
Even NYC Mayor Eric Adams was keen on the idea, saying: “I love this idea. What a great way to give an NYC icon a second life. Let us know how we can help and we’ll be there for the maiden voyage.”
Not only would the public get a chuckle from two comedians doing something off-kilter like buying a ferry on a whim, but it would also preserve the history of Davidson’s beloved Staten Island. The MV John F. Kennedy would live once more as an entertainment hub, tourist attraction, and historical monument. It was a noble endeavour.
Sadly, much like John F. Kennedy’s real WWII boat, PT- 109, the comedians plan appears to be sunk.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight at the premiere of “Transformers: Rise of the Beast,” Davidson admitted he and Jost were really stoned when they cut the cheque.
“I have no idea what’s going on with that thing,” he said, shaking his head. “Me and Colin were very stoned a year ago and bought a ferry. And we’re figuring it out.”
When ET asked if Davidson planned to use the boat for the movie premiere’s after-party, he said: “Hopefully it turns into a Transformer and gets the f$&! out of there so I can stop paying for it!”
To understand Davidson’s predicament from a boater’s perspective, it’s not so much the purchase price (he and Jost paid a meager $281,000 USD for the boat), but the unexpected costs of reviving such a massive vessel.
The MV John F. Kennedy is 277 feet long (84 m), with a 69 foot beam (21 m), and weighs 2100 tonnes. Even when it was running she had a modest top speed of 13 mph (21 km/h) from massive diesel engines. However, at the time of purchase the ferry was classified as “not running” and was described as being in “poor condition” by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. While the Kennedy can hold 3500 passengers and 40 cars, which is plenty for a nightclub or a comedy show, that’s a lot of rusty steel to rebuild.
Ask any boater who’s ever repainted a hull or undertaken an engine rebuild and they’ll recoil in horror. There’s a reason why boaters have always sneered at the idea of ‘fixing up’ an old boat, or taking chance on a classic vessel that’s a little past its prime. There are always surprises below deck. Always.
Good luck, Pete. You’re going to need it.