Pete Davidson Bought a Decommissioned Ferry for $280K, Got Asbestos and Roaches Instead

Successful conversion stories are a dime a dozen these days, whether we’re talking about smaller projects like vans, trailers or buses, or larger houseboats. To paraphrase the old saying, behind every success story is at least a dozen failures no one talks about, and this celebrity-backed venture could be one of the latter.
Pete Davidson checks out his new boat, a decommissioned Staten Island ferry he plans to turn into a nightspot 12 photos
Photo: Robert Miller for NY Post
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To kick off the New Year, more on a whim than after serious consideration, self-proclaimed “idiots” Pete Davidson and Colin Jost bought a boat. They didn’t buy any regular boat, though: the two comedians, famous for their extended stints on Saturday Night Live, who are also good friends in real life, bought a ferry. In fact, they bought one of the decommissioned Staten Island ferries they used to ride as kids, thinking their impulsive, nostalgic purchase could translate into a successful business venture slash nurturing haven for upcoming comedic talent.

The whole plan, if there ever was one, could be derailed by recent findings, according to a source speaking to the New York Daily News late last month on the condition of anonymity: the ferry has an asbestos problem and is infested by cockroaches. Either one of these issues would pose serious challenges to the conversion, but the two together could spell the end of the venture before it even began, says the spy.

But first, some context: Davidson and Jost, backed by an investor group fronted by Paul Italia, paid the city $280,000 for the ferryboat, which was sold at an auction in an as-is condition. The boat in question is the M.V. John F. Kennedy, a massive 277-foot (84.5-meter), 2,100-ton vessel first put into service in 1965 and retired last year. The reason for the retirement was excessive wear and tear of the boat, but if that wasn’t bad enough, there was also a fire in the engine room after permanent docking, which rendered it completely non-functional.

John F\. Kennedy Ferry
In recent updates, Davidson and Jost revealed plans to turn the ferry into a nightspot through an exhaustive conversion. There would be a wining and dining venue onboard, as well as live entertainment, including music and comedy gigs in the entire below-deck section. The ferry would be docked “in the city,” Davidson said.

As of the moment of press, the Kennedy is docked at the Caddell Dry Dock & Repair, where work on it is underway. Last month, Jost said that they had renamed it Titanic 2, though whether he said in earnest or not is yet to be determined. He also laughed about how they thought they had everything planned out but hadn’t really thought beyond the moment of purchase.

They should have, says the spy, backed by Kevin Hennessey, the former captain on the Kennedy. All Staten Island ferries have asbestos in them and are infested by roaches, but the two comedians picked the short straw when they chose the Kennedy as their boat because things are comparatively worse here.

“As time went by and pipes and wires rot, the asbestos paneling was busted open and patched,” Hennessey explains. “It’s generally harmless until you grind it or drill into it.” As for the roaches, they have long turned the lifeboat storage cupboards under the seats into a home because “lazy” people kept throwing trash inside.

“I wish these guys luck with the project, but they’re going to need some help,” the ferry’s former captain continues. “They had good intentions, but this was an impulse buy by two guys with a lot of money who don’t know anything about maritime vessels.”

John F\. Kennedy Ferry
He doesn’t elaborate on the planned conversion, but anyone can read between the lines: it’s going to be incredibly expensive (think in terms of millions of dollars), if not downright impossible. If you ask Paul Italia, comedy club owner, real estate developer, and investor in the venture, he will say that all this is “garbage information.” Italia says that a budget has already been set for the conversion and that more details on the project will be revealed by the end of the year.

Whoever ends up being right, Jost and Davidson prepared for failure from the start, if not for anything else. “Worst case, we just dock it somewhere and make it New York City’s biggest houseboat,” Jost said last month. “It could all go to s**t, and I’ll be doing lots and lots of gigs next year,” Davidson conceded in an earlier February interview.

Worst case scenario, they’ll get some hilarious, if expensive, boat-based joke material. Colin Jost talks about Titanic 2 in the video below, past the 7.40-minute mark.

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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