Greenport mayor wants to end railroad dock lease with county

09/18/2013 8:00 AM |

Greenport Mayor David Nyce said Monday he wants the village to end its lease agreement with Suffolk County for the railroad dock near the seaport museum.

During the Village Board’s work session Monday evening, Mr. Nyce said the dock has caused nothing but “headaches” and suggested giving it back to the county.

His suggestion comes days after the village moved the New York City fireboat Fire Fighter to the commercial dock, which had previously been used by commercial fishermen. Tension over the move has been mounting for months, mostly around the concerns of the fishermen, who say mooring the fireboat there conflicts with the village’s law obligating it to support and maintain a working waterfront.

Three commercial fisherman still use the railroad dock — Mark Phillips, Sid Smith and Benny Rose — according to Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, Mr. Phillips’ wife.

Regardless, board members voted in June to approve mooring the historic boat at the railroad dock. The vote was 3-2, with Ms. Phillips and fellow trustee David Murray voting in opposition.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The fireboat Fire Fighter, when it was docked at Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport.

Last week the village finally moved Fire Fighter from its original spot at Mitchell Park Marina to the commercial railroad dock — reigniting the controversy, Mr. Nyce said.

“We’ve had nothing but headaches from that commercial dock,” he said.

Mr. Nyce said he has received several angry calls regarding the move, including calls from Suffolk County officials.

The county leases the railroad dock to the village for a token fee of $1 per year, Mr. Nyce said. In exchange, Greenport maintains the dock.

Board members expressed frustration with the lease agreement, which obligates Greenport to maintain day-to-day operations at the dock but doesn’t permit the village to decide which boats can moor there.

“If it’s their dock, they can take care of the day-to-day,” said Trustee George Hubbard, who also serves as deputy mayor.

The village began renting the dock in 1982 in hopes of luring additional fishing boats to tie up there. Instead, Mr, Nyce said, the dock has become a “liability” for the village and hasn’t produced a significant revenue stream.

Ms. Phillips said Wednesday morning that she disagrees with the mayor.

“I can understand the drama, but to say the rail road dock doesn’t have any benefit to village is misleading,” Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said. “It is because of that dock many [fisherman] chose to stay in Greenport. We pay taxes, support local businesses and hire as many local people as possible. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on. It’s more than just a yearly rent, it’s a trickle down effect to other areas of business.”

The village attorney is in the process of reviewing the lease agreement with the county.

Mr. Hubbard said Tuesday that it’s unclear what would happen to the fireboat should the village end its lease agreement with the county.

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