Proposal to Stop the Staten Island Ferries From Stopping at Quarantine Landing 1858

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To his Honor the Mayor and the Commissioners of Health, of the City of New York:

SIRS: In regard to the petition which was received by your honorable Board on Saturday last, from sundry residents of Staten Island, asking the Health authorities of the port to prohibit the Staten Island ferry boats from stopping at the Quarantine landing, and alleging as a reason therefore, that yellow fever was prevailing there, I have to report, that, owing to the occurrence of seventeen cases, and nine deaths, on the outside of Quarantine this season, on Staten Island, and especially owing to the fact that a glaring account of these cases was given in the papers, an unnecessary alarm was thereby created, which has driven hundreds from the Island, and frightened as many more who are remaining, so that some of them have in all earnestness petitioned to have the ferry-boats cease landing at their wharf below Quarantine.

In considering the subject of the petition before your honorable board, two questions necessarily arise, viz: First, as considerations connected with the public health, or with the safety of passengers who travel on ferry boats call for the prohibition sought for: and, second, what damage will accrue to the public or to individuals, if the prayer of the petitioners be granted.

In answer to the first question, I desire to say, judging from past facts connected with the history of Quarantine, and especially from those connected with the port's experience in 1856, that, in my opinion, there is nothing more than seeming danger in allowing the ferry-boats to stop at their landing, just below Quarantine. In the whole of this matter, theory and fact are at war with each other. Theorists, with very good arguments, insist that there must be danger in nearing Quarantine with a boat load of passengers, and hence they ask for a corresponding prohibition; while those who are swayed by facts, who are the old residents of the island, who have witnessed the ferry boats stopping at the Quarantine landing with perfect immunity to passengers, remonstrate against the prohibition, and challenge any person to cite an instance of yellow fever fairly traceable to the fact that the ferry-boats stopped at the landing below Quarantine.

In answer to the second question, as to the damage and inconvenience which will accrue, if the prayer of the petitioners be granted, I have only to say that I am not acquainted with the location of the residences of citizens who take the ferry at the landing below Quarantine, nor am I sufficiently versed in the business interests of the island to say how much damage in this respect would arise in case the prohibition should be resolved upon.

In 1856, and during the months of July and August of that year, there were fifty-three cases of yellow fever on the east shore of Staten Island; thirty-one cases on the outside of Quarantine, and twenty-two cases within the walls thereof, among the employees of the Institution. This year, so far, there have been, as reported by Dr. Walser, but seventeen cases in all, outside of Quarantine, (none at all for seven days past) and none at all within the institution as endemic; not a nurse, orderly, washerwoman, or other employee has had the slightest attack of the disease. In 1866 the Quarantine grounds were infected in almost every nook and corner, and cases of yellow fever occurred immediately outside thereof, in almost every direction; and yet the ferry-boats continued to ply, and land as usual at the wharf below Quarantine, without producing the least alarm, and without, as the result proved, any danger or detriment to passengers or to the island. This year, so far, the limits of Quarantine have not been at all infected, and the number of cases on the island outside have been comparatively few, and hence, if the ferry-boats could make their regular landings in 1856 with impunity, it follows that there must be, at least, as little danger now.

It is urged by those who seek the prohibition, that the danger of landing at the wharf below Quarantine, has been increased over that of 1856, from the fact that cargoes from vessels, not having had sickness on board in their port of departure, nor on their passage, are discharged at a wharf in Quarantine. This argument would have much weight if there were evidence that the discharging of such cargoes was followed by danger to persons who constantly live and breathe in the atmosphere next adjacent to where such discharging is going on. With a large family, I occupy a dwelling within a stone throw of the wharf mentioned; and during every day and night hundreds of persons pass and repass still nearer the wharf, and yet no member of my family has suffered from yellow fever, nor have the inmates of the grounds, other than those stevedores who have come directly in contact with the cargo and vessels. If the discharging of these vessels, upon which there has been no sickness, is thus proved not to be dangerous to those who constantly breathe the atmosphere surrounding them, it is a stretch of the imagination to suppose that passengers aid in the removal of Quarantine; and also by persons who desire to purchase property on the island, and who thought that an alarm cry would add to the chance of getting it at a low figure. I make no such charge, and I cannot understand how the motive which brought about the alarm, can have any weight in disposing of the prayer of the petitioners. The alarm exists, and many of the ferry travelers from the island to New York are worried constantly at being obliged to stop just below Quarantine; and if to prohibit the ferry-boats from landing there, would allay the alarm, and such prohibition would not be a serious loss and inconvenience to the citizens of the island, I would recommend that the prayer of the petitioners be granted. Respectfully, your obedient servant,

R.H. THOMPSON, Health Officer.
Quarantine, Monday, Aug. 30, 1858.



Website: The History
Article Name: Proposal to Stop the Staten Island Ferries From Stopping at Quarantine Landing 1858
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 New York Times Aug 31, 1858. p. 2 (1 page)
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