Rudolph W. Giuliani
Becomes First Mayor
To Land On Rikers Via
DOC Harbor Unit Boat

Mayor Giuliani (above left), with a hand from then-DOC Security Chief William Fraser, climbs the dock ladder to come ashore on Rikers after a trip aboard the launch C.O. Guy Hudson.

With Commissioner Kerik watching, His Honor (above right) is presented with a DOC Harbor Unit jacket and cap during the brief voyage from Randall's Island. He is believed to be the first mayor to visit Rikers via a Correction boat in the 18-year history of DOC's Harbor Unit and the only mayor to do so since the bridge was opened in 1966.

Officer Robert McMahon (at left) calls ahead the ETA as Officer Inesta Alfonso steers through the rivers and Hell Gate. An aide (also left) tries to block boat noise while dialing City Hall. The connection made, Mayor gets on the phone as Officer James Marsilia keeps watch outside.

The opening of Rikers bridge -- dedicated Nov. 22, 1966, by Mayor John V. Lindsay -- brought about the end of ferry service to the island.

Ferries had departed daily from the Bronx E.134th St. slip on the half-hour and from the Rikers slip near the powerhouse and garage at 15 minutes before and after the hour.

In an earlier era, DOC owned and operated passenger and freight steamboats daily between its islands (Hart, Rikers, Blackwell's) and E.26th St., Manhattan, and passenger steamboats between City and Hart Islands. Its fleet of a half-dozen steamboats and patrol launches used a dozen departmental docks.

The present DOC Harbor Unit started in 1980. That year a $500 expenditure under a federal surplus program gained DOC a patrol boat (shown in 1980 photo left).

At the outset, the unit was based on City Island, chosen because of its proximity to Hart Island. But the department's cutback of activity on Hart Island led the Harbor Unit to relocate its base to Rikers in 1994.

It still renders Hart duty but also provides quick access to the jail barge at Hunt's Point (shown left); patrols around Rikers, and responds to waterway emergencies. Recently, it helped capture suspects fleeing harbor police.

In 1991, the unit rescued civilians off the north end of Hart after their boat struck the island's rocks and sank. In 1992, the unit came to the aid of a ferryboat crewman who had fallen between the ferry and the dock. In 1993, the unit assisted City Islanders hit hard by a powerful squall overturning their sailboats. In 1994, the patrol boaters rendered similar help during a Northeaster. In the last four years alone, they have responded to more than 120 calls for assistance on the waters off DOC islands.

When the Mayor came aboard at Randall's Island for the journey to the Rikers building dedication honoring C.O. Sam Perry, His Honor had just completed dedication ceremonies involving NYPD launches. DOC Harbor officers, under the command of Capt. Miguel Western, saw in his choosing their C.O. Guy Hudson launch for the trip to Rikers a recognition of their unit's unsung service. They responded with the presentation of the official jacket and cap symbolically inducting him into the unit.

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