For about 24 hours, it was a New York City mystery: Who would pay more than $280,000 for a hulking, orange 57-year-old Staten Island Ferry boat whose engines don’t work?
The answer turned out to be a group of investors that includes two of the most famous natives of the island, Pete Davidson and Colin Jost, cast members of “Saturday Night Live.”
Mr. Davidson and Mr. Jost joined a consortium of New Yorkers who placed the winning bid in an auction that ended on Wednesday, according to Paul Italia, a comedy club owner who did the bidding for the group. A spokeswoman for NBC, the network that broadcasts “S.N.L.,” also confirmed the involvement of the two performers.
“Yes, Pete Davidson and Colin Jost are involved,” said Mr. Italia, who founded The Stand, a comedy club in Manhattan. “Yes, we bought the boat and we have a general idea of our dream of what we want to do.”
Mr. Italia said they were considering turning the ferry into “an arts and entertainment venue” but added that it was too soon to know what was feasible. “The reality is that everyone who came together on this has a sincere motive to see the right thing happen, to restore a piece of New York,” he said.
Mr. Italia described the buyers as a group of like-minded New York City natives who wanted to save the old boat from being scrapped. He said Mr. Davidson and Mr. Jost got involved because the ferry, known as the John F. Kennedy, “had a special place in their hearts as Staten Island natives.”
Mr. Davidson, who still lives on Staten Island, has made fun of his roots on “Saturday Night Live,” noting the borough’s former gargantuan garbage dump and its abundance of pizzerias and bagel shops.
He starred in “The King of Staten Island,” a 2020 movie in which his character spends his days smoking marijuana and dreaming of becoming a tattoo artist. And lately, he has thrilled residents of the borough by bringing his even-more-famous girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, to visit.
Mr. Jost wrote in his 2020 memoir, “A Very Punchable Face,” that his commute to high school in Manhattan involved riding the ferry every weekday. Mr. Jost, who is married to the actress Scarlett Johansson, no longer lives on Staten Island.
Among the other investors in the boat is Ron Castellano, who described himself as an architect, developer and contractor. Mr. Castellano said the Kennedy had significant historic value as the last of an old style of ferries. The purchasers of the ferry were first reported by Vulture.
The Kennedy, which was commissioned in 1965, was by far the oldest boat in the city’s fleet when it was retired in August, said Vincent Barone, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation.
Despite its age, the Kennedy was popular with riders because it had broad promenades on its decks that provided space for riding in the open air and made it easy for passengers to board and disembark.
The city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services put the ferry up for auction this month, seeking an initial bid of $250,000. After it was lowered to $125,000, Mr. Italia started bidding. But, he said, each of his bids was quickly countered by an undisclosed rival.
The top bids hovered around $140,000 until the Wednesday evening deadline approached. At the last minute, Mr. Italia’s rival bid $280,000, triggering a brief extension during which Mr. Italia placed the winning bid: $280,100.
“He certainly made us spend more money than we wanted to,” Mr. Italia said of the unidentified rival.
But the purchase price is the least of the buyers’ concerns now, he said. The auction website made clear that the boat was being sold “as is” and “where is,’’ which is at the St. George Ferry Terminal along the north shore of Staten Island.
The buyers have about two weeks to move the boat, which is 277 feet long, 69 feet wide and weighs more than 2,100 tons.
Mr. Italia said it would take two tugboats to tow the Kennedy and a lot of money to store it while its ultimate destination is determined. In the meantime, he said, the owners will seek help from the city and the state.
“We’re going to need a tremendous amount of support to get this done,” he said. “It’s a heavy lift.”