CITY HALL — A Staten Island Ferry will honor the heroism of the late Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis.
The first of three new vessels being added to the city’s ferry fleet in the next four years will be named for the New Dorp native who died at age 24 while saving a Polish soldier in Afghanistan.
The Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis is expected to begin service in early 2019.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President James Oddo met with Ollis’ family on Thursday morning and will announce the naming at the St. George Ferry Terminal.
“Staff Sergeant Ollis represented the very best of our city,” de Blasio said in a statement. “For decades to come, the Staff Sergeant Michael Ollis will be an icon and a point of pride for Staten Island and the whole city.”
The push to honor Ollis with a ferry began soon after the city announced three aging boats would be retired and replaced. The idea received a groundswell of support on Staten Island, with one petition getting nearly 5,700 signatures. Oddo made an official recommendation to de Blasio in May 2014.
“Naming the ferry after him not only honors Sgt. Ollis, it also pays tribute to every Staten Islander who has made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this nation, and all those men and women who have put on a uniform in service of this country,” Oddo said in a statement.
Ollis, a graduate of Michael Petrides High School, enlisted in 2006 and served one tour of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.
On Aug. 28, 2013, during his third deployment in Afghanistan, the forward operating base where Ollis was serving was raided. Ollis died after stepping in front of a wounded Polish soldier to shield him from an insurgent’s suicide vest.
Robert and Linda Ollis also began a charity in their son’s name — the Staff Sgt. Ollis Freedom Foundation — to help soldiers and veterans.
Ollis has been posthumously honored with the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Silver Star and the Audie Murphy Medallion, as well as the Polish government’s highest military award, the Polish Medal of Honor.
“Naming a vessel in his honor is a fitting tribute to his service,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement.
The three new ferries will be funded with some $314 million in federal, state and city money and grants. The 4,500-passenger vessels will be designed to operate more safely in extreme weather and will be modeled after the popular John F. Kennedy ferryboats, complete with outdoor promenades.
These will be the first new class of boats added to the city’s eight-ferry fleet in a decade. They will replace the old Kennedy ship, the Andrew J. Barberi and the Samuel I. Newhouse.
The second new ferry is expected to be delivered in fall 2019 and the third is coming in early 2020. The new vessels are still in the design phase, with a bid to be issued this spring and the “notice to proceed” for the first of the three boats to be put out by the end of the year.
The city has yet to decide what to name the two other boats, though plenty of suggestions have been made.
Oddo has said in the past that politicians like himself shouldn’t get bridges, buildings, boats or even urinals named for them. He argues that distinction should be given to heroes like Ollis.
“Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis is a true Staten Island hero and will be a perpetual reminder that we can and must be about something greater than ourselves, in all ways big and small,” Oddo said.
The Department of Transportation and de Blasio’s office make final naming decisions.