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Ferry service connecting Greenport and Sag Harbor set to return, but board still undecided on landing site

Greenport Village trustees debated potential landing sites for Peconic Jitney’s passenger ferry service again at a work session last Thursday night, with continued resistance to the company’s request to use Mitchell Marina.

Hampton Jitney president Geoff Lynch has previously approached trustees at village meetings, most recently requesting to enter a five-year agreement to use Mitchell Park Marina as a landing point for the revived subsidiary Peconic Jitney. Mr. Lynch said the company has filed an application with Suffolk County for a five-year franchise license for a shuttle service between Greenport and Sag Harbor. 

Mayor George Hubbard emphasized that trustees are still not in favor of using Mitchell Park Marina as a landing site as he kicked off the discussion last Thursday, and said village employees have been trying to come up with alternative sites. 

The farthest west portion of the railroad dock might not have enough water for the shuttle, he said. 

The dock at the end of Bay Avenue, however, is in a residential area and not used very much, he added. People would have to be bused in, but it’s on the open water and there’s enough space for the shuttle boat, he said. 

“That just came up yesterday afternoon so we have not talked to the people from Peconic Jitney about that yet, I’m just mentioning this to the board,” he said. “If everybody feels dead set against it, then we won’t discuss it anymore.”

Trustee Julia Robins said putting the shuttle there would “totally change the character of that neighborhood.” 

Mr. Hubbard said he understands where it is — his “mother lives down there” — but it would be one bus going in and out, and the location had been suggested by the marina manager because it’s a “sturdy, six-foot-wide dock” that isn’t used much.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said Sag Harbor needs to change its code for Peconic Jitney to use Long Wharf as a landing site. “I’m not sure where they’re at in the present moment with their yay or nay vote on that,” she said. 

Village of Sag Harbor trustees seemed to support the shuttle service at a March 8 meeting, and passed a resolution to set a public hearing on a local law that would permit limited seasonal operation of the passenger-only ferry on Long Wharf providing service between Sag Harbor and Greenport. Trustees clarified that the public hearing is to “allow for the use in the zoning code” at Long Wharf and is not approving the application.

One trustee said the board agrees that “there is no other suitable site.” Another trustee emphasized at one point that Long Wharf has changed a lot over the past decade. 

“Ten years ago, it was sort of an industrial wharf that was in great need of rehabilitation. Today it’s an urban park. I love the idea of a ferry; I’m not convinced Long Wharf is the place for disembarking and on-boarding passengers,” the trustee said. Peconic Jitney representatives emphasized that it’s the safest location for the ferry. 

“I think everything is still up in the air,” Ms. Phillips said at Greenport’s meeting last Thursday. “I would like to hear what Trustee Clarke and Trustee Martilotta would have to say about it.” 

Trustees Peter Clarke and Jack Martilotta were not present at last Thursday’s meeting. Trustee Clarke said in a note included with the meeting’s agenda packet that he strongly supports the initiative and would ask the board to “work hard to create a short-term solution to launch the service for 2022 that does not require a large investment.”

“Perhaps we can plan the necessary improvements to the Visitor’s Dock on a cooperative basis with the Jitney for the 2023 season,” he suggested. “Overall, it would be a good idea for the village to have a public location where passengers and day trippers can be safely dropped off and picked up. Increasing the vitality of recreational activity on our waterfront is an important priority. Increasing accessibility to our waterfront is a priority.”

Mr. Hubbard pointed out that Peconic Jitney does not have a written agreement with Claudio’s to store the shuttle when it’s not in use.

“Until we get more information and everything else we’re not going to be able to put that on as an agenda item,” he added.

Mr. Lynch, who was present in the audience, responded later that the company’s agreement with Claudio’s is verbal. “We can work on a written agreement and bring that forward,” he said.

Representatives from Claudio’s and the Greenporter Hotel later expressed support for Peconic Jitney.

“Peconic Jitney would still very much like to work with the village regarding the relaunch of this service,” Mr. Lynch said. 

He said he’s unfamiliar with the dock at the end of Bay Avenue, but the company has previously ruled out the railroad dock due to safety concerns. 

“There’s very little lighting over there, the planks are far apart and it would just be a more precarious situation for passengers,” he said. “We still believe that the northern bulkhead of Mitchell Park Marina is the safest, most convenient spot for passengers. It’s loading passengers on and off onto terra firma and it’s really the safest location that we can see and from ADA-compliance, wheelchair accessibility, it’s really the best location.”

He added that he recognizes that boat traffic at Mitchell Marina has “increased dramatically” over the past decade, but the shuttle’s impact would be “basically two hours a day spread over a 10- to 12-hour period.” 

During a 2012 pilot program run out of Mitchell Marina, there were “no incidents whatsoever with our boat,” he said. 

Mr. Lynch said at a Sag Harbor meeting on March 8 that the ferry shuttle can accommodate up to 100 people but the company is limiting capacity to 53. There would be seven round trips per day, he said.