Is Block Island-Greenport service in jeopardy?

07/22/2010 12:00 AM |

The new Greenport-to-Block Island excursion service being offered aboard the Peconic Star Express is embroiled in controversy. Longtime Greenport fishing boat captains Dave Brennan (left) and Rob Spitzenberg stand aboard the new boat last month, before the Greenport Village Board began questioning whether it had the authority to allow the excursions.

Is the Peconic Star Express boat to Block Island operating illegally? That was the question after a lengthy and heated argument at Monday night’s Village Board meeting.
When Capt. David Brennan added the Peconic Star Express to his existing contract with the village to keep boats at the railroad dock, his application said nothing about Block Island excursions, Mayor David Nyce said. In approving the new boat for dockage, village officials thought they were simply adding another fishing boat to the captain’s fleet, the mayor said.
Then he read The Suffolk Times’ June 24 story about the advent of Block Island trips from Greenport and it raised a question in his mind.
The dock where the excursion boat ties up is owned by Suffolk County. The village has a contract with the county allowing it to use the dock for commercial fishing purposes, including fishing and party boats. It does not provide for the regularly scheduled foot-passenger service being offered by Peconic Star Express to Block Island.
Mr. Nyce said he thought it was important to get a clarification from Suffolk County about whether the excursions to Block Island from Greenport are acceptable.
That riled Trustee Chris Kempner, who said she had read the lease between the village and Capt. Brennan and concluded there was no problem with the excursions. She objected to village attorney Joseph Prokop’s opinion that the Peconic Star Express might be operating outside of what the village could approve.
Ms. Kempner insisted it’s not a county issue and that it’s important that a decision be in the best interest of villagers.
“Whether or not we’re in favor of it may be moot” if the county doesn’t want it, Mr. Nyce said. To not include the county is “ill advised,” he said.
The village needs a clear definition of what is or isn’t allowed at the dock, Trustee George Hubbard said.
Capt. Brennan, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, said Wednesday morning he was surprised that there had been any question about his operation.
“I am doing absolutely nothing different than I have been doing since 1989,” he said. The Peconic Star II, which is often used as a fishing vessel, has been used for lighthouse tours and trips to Montauk and Connecticut, he said. He has provided service for weddings, funerals and even ran