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Village board opposed to Mitchell Park landing site proposed for Peconic Jitney

The Hampton Jitney president butted heads with Village of Greenport trustees over the potential landing site for a proposed shuttle boat to Sag Harbor at a work session last Thursday.

Company president Geoff Lynch is seeking to enter a five-year agreement with the village to use Mitchell Park Marina as a landing point for the revived Peconic Jitney. Hampton Jitney has submitted an application to Suffolk County for a five-year franchise license for a shuttle service between Greenport and Sag Harbor. The ferry route would cross Peconic Bay around Shelter Island into authorized landing sites at ports in both villages.

Although village trustees support the idea, they disagreed with using Mitchell Park Marina as a landing site. 

“It sounds like the board is in consensus that we’re in favor of this but we need to hammer out some details,” Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said towards the end of the discussion. “I know you need landing agreements from both sides to finish work with the county.”

Mr. Hubbard suggested further discussion and a vote on the agreement in March. 

“I support the jitney, I think it’s a great idea, I agree with you on that. But I do have a question about whether the landing site in Mitchell Park is appropriate,” Trustee Julia Robins said after Mr. Lynch’s pitch.

She expressed concern about traffic at the marina and the condition of the bulkhead, which she said is “compromised” and will eventually need to be rebuilt. Ms. Robins said she thought the proposed compensation was too low as well. 

Mr. Lynch said “that’s certainly open to negotiation” and the company has looked at alternative sites in the village, particularly the visitor’s dock, which is “not adequate for this service.” It’s very small and too narrow, he said, plus it’s a “long walk” from the municipal lot where the visitor’s dock is, all the way into the village.

“To me, it’s an accident waiting to happen,” Mr. Lynch said. “I don’t believe it’s a safe location.”

Ms. Robins said she walks the distance almost every day and it’s only a few blocks. Trustee Mary Bess Phillips also disagreed with Mr. Lynch and said the board needs to discuss the decision. 

“There’s parking over there for your customers and we have encouraged people to use that parking lot to walk along the boardwalk down Mitchell Park to get down the street and it’s become more active since we put in the 72-hour parking time in the parking lot, so it’s now actively turning over,” she said. “I’m not keen on the Mitchell Park site … Projecting forward in the new business plan with the marina, that might just not fit with what we’ve got going at the moment.”

She emphasized the village board needs to discuss the decision and pointed out that Sag Harbor is also still discussing the proposal.

The Sag Harbor board of trustees said the full presentation would be on the agenda next month and the proposal is publicly available. “The process now should be one of inquiry and examination,” an official said at a Feb. 8 regular meeting. 

Hampton Jitney has requested the use of Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Loading and unloading passengers would take 15 minutes every two hours, according to a presentation that can be viewed on the Village of Sag Harbor website.

Ms. Phillips said although she’d like to discuss working with Hampton Jitney, “Mitchell Marina to me is out.” 

“We believe it’s the safest location to bring people in and out of the harbor. We’ve done it, it’s a proven entity and it worked very well with no issues whatsoever in 2012,” Mr. Lynch said, referring to a pilot version of the ferry that ran during the summer of 2012. 

He said the company would be willing to look at a few other locations, but insisted Mitchell Marina “is the safest locale.” 

Trustee Jack Martilotta said he loves the idea of the jitney but expressed concern about the number of people moving in and out of the marina, as well as parking.

Mr. Lynch responded that “in our experience coming in and out of Mitchell Park ten years ago, it was really no increase in parking from these passengers that were coming in.”

Ms. Phillips pointed out that boat traffic in the village has “increased greatly” since the outbreak of the pandemic. “Claudio’s has become extremely busy with vessels zooming, and I do mean zooming, in and out,” she said. 

She asked if Mr. Lynch would aim to launch the shuttle service in 2023 if he can’t get it off the ground in time for this summer. 

He said that since the company intends to make a long-term commitment, the short answer would be yes, but the goal is still to launch the service in 2022. 

Trustee Peter Clarke, who also emphasized safety, at one point suggested working with Hampton Jitney to improve marine infrastructure.

Ms. Phillips insisted the village board needs to discuss the plan. 

“It’s the same scenario that was backed in 2012 that came late to the plate, in trying to get it started for that year. I think that’s something we all need to discuss. I think we’re really looking for a long-term discussion,” Ms. Phillips said. “Mitchell Marina has been pushed forward with a different business plan than when you were there back in 2012 and we have invested a lot … This is something that’s a small entity that may just shift the dynamics.” 

She emphasized the board should not make a decision that night.

The shuttle service would operate seasonally from mid-June through the end of September. Mr. Lynch said the company is in the process of securing a lease for the sister boat to the vessel from a 2012 pilot version of the shuttle service. The ferry has been refurbished with new electronics and upgraded with new tier-three diesel emission engines, and would offer concessions.

Mr. Lynch said the company has a verbal agreement with Claudio’s to store the boat there over night. He said the vessel is “maneuverable” and would be operated by professional captains. 

“The objective here of the proposed ferry service is the same as before, to connect these two villages in a way that will potentially reduce traffic congestion on local roadways, and increase foot traffic and tourism in both villages,” Mr. Lynch said. 

Part of the proposal includes an updated reservations platform that will allow a more comprehensive customer database and better communicate with passengers.