Roy Zhang, a second grade student at P.S. 170, explained how he had come up with a name for one of the city’s new ferries.
“Friendship has big power and different people can make friends, even of different skin color,” he said.
Having been on a boat at the age of four was what inspired Zhang to think up Friendship Express as the name for one of 20 boats for the waterborne services scheduled to begin May 1. Across the five boroughs, second grade students were encouraged to submit the most popular names suggested by their classmates, and three of six classes at the Ralph A. Fabrizio School, P.S. 170 had winning entries — not only Friendship Express but Lunchbox and McShiny — in the competition sponsored by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), under whose auspices the ferry program (operated by Hornblower) is being run.
Angela Tafuri’s Class 204 found out it had won with Friendship Express when Tafuri showed a slide on the Smartboard after a lesson. On the other hand, the students in Class 201 taught by Michelle Goh were at first in disbelief that they had won at all after submitting The Lunchbox as a possible name for a boat.
The name Lunchbox came about when a child remarked that different lunchboxes hold different kinds of food, and thought the ferry would hold different types of people. That kid was Ali Rabah, who said he had forgotten about the competition until the results were announced. In class, each student had submitted his or her own idea with the favorites determined by a vote.
The class had been learning about Native Americans and people in the past who had changed America when Goh remembered Rabah shouting out the suggestion, and the class followed along with the idea that “diversity is everywhere, especially in the world we live in.”
That was a common theme between the classes. Isabella Chen, of Class 204, who suggested calling one of the boats the Culture Express, said, “We come from all different countries and different cultures, and so all people can ride the Friendship Express and make friends even when they are different.”
Not knowing if the ferries have yet been painted, some of the students in Class 204 were eager to suggest motifs and said if it were up to them they’d design the boat with all kinds of people “working together, planting flowers, sharing, and maybe holding hands around the boat because it’s the Friendship Express.”
“We are the world as it should be,” stressed Tafuri, adding that she “runs a tight (friend)ship (express)” in the classroom.
“Whenever we have a citywide event we usually participate,” said P.S. 170 Principal Tony Wu, “but this is the only event where we were so successful.”
While some schools have received certificates of recognition, including P.S. 102, which submitted the name, The Owl’s Head, only a few have been announced by EDC because legal approval is still needed.
Other winning names announced by EDC include Sunset Crossing from P.S. 971 in Sunset Park as well as Waves of Wonder from P.S. 15 in Manhattan, and Urban Journey from P.S. 69 in the Bronx.
P.S. 170 is located at 7109 Sixth Avenue.