Government

Legislature approves Greenport-Sag Harbor ferry, but location concerns could delay service

The Suffolk County legislature has approved a ferry license and rates for Peconic Jitney, a subsidiary of Hampton Jitney, despite an ongoing disagreement over the proposed ferry’s landing site in Greenport. 

Company president Geoff Lynch approached Village of Greenport trustees at a work session in September, proposing to revive the 2012 pilot ferry program on a more long-term basis. The ferry service would run between Greenport and Sag Harbor for five years, he said, with services running through the summer months. 

More recently, Mr. Lynch has butted heads with village trustees over a North Fork landing site for the shuttle. He hoped to dock at Mitchell Marina, which the board has consistently opposed, although they otherwise support the ferry concept. The license approved by the Suffolk County Legislature April 12 allows for a public service ferry across Peconic Bay, between Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport and Long Wharf Pier in Sag Harbor. 

Sag Harbor has not approved the use of Long Wharf Pier for the ferry service either. 

Some Greenport Village trustees expressed “shock” at the license’s approval at a work session Thursday night and said the Legislature didn’t communicate with the village.

“We have not agreed to that or anything, but they voted on that. [The legislature] gave a five-year license to operate a ferry,” Greenport Mayor George Hubbard aid. “Right now, the board consensus was, it wasn’t coming in Mitchell Park.”

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she spoke with county Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who told her the Legislature can’t tell the village what to do.

“I explained to him a few things, that we all kind of agree that the concept is great, it’s an idea, but that where they want it to go just wasn’t going to be a decision the board was going to approve. And he said, ‘Well, Suffolk County Legislature can’t tell you where they can go within your village,’” Ms. Phillips said. 

Village attorney Joseph Prokop chimed in, saying, “The Legislature does this all the time, they go ahead and create chaos in villages because they have no regard for local government.” 

The board still opposes using Mitchell Park as a landing site, citing the busy flow of boat traffic from the marina, although Trustee Peter Clarke pointed out that alternate locations haven’t proved viable for the ferry so far. 

“I was less opposed to the Mitchell Park idea than any other trustee,” he said. “I continue to be very favorable to this idea, as I know you all are. I have great respect for the marina and the operating of the marina. The only phrase that caught my ear in their presentation was that they are accustomed to operating in New York Harbor and so I was more amenable to the location. I don’t know any other location to offer to encourage this service. We’ve exhausted everything else, it seems like.”

Mr. Hubbard said the village board will not vote on the agreement next Thursday and suggested making plans to strengthen the visitors dock.  

“It’s not an option down there,” he said, referring to the marina. “It only takes hitting one $40 million boat and gouging it and we’ll have nobody left here. And you can lose the whole operation for one little accident.”

Ms. Philips said she feels as though the village was “strongarmed with politics.” Mr. Clarke, in a nod to the company’s agreement to dock the shuttle at Claudio’s while it’s not in use, suggested loading and unloading at the restaurant’s dock, an idea that would need to go before the planning board.

The ferry license granted by the county is valid from its date of approval through Nov. 1, 2027. Operations are approved for Friday, Saturday and Sunday service in May and June, with a shuttle running from Greenport every two hours between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. The shuttle would run daily in July and August on the same time schedule, except the 9 p.m. service would run only Fridays and Saturdays. Services would cut back again to weekends only in September and October, with the last shuttle departing Greenport at 7 p.m.

Mr. Lynch told The Suffolk Times in an interview that the company is in contact with both villages and has a public hearing set for May 10 in Sag Harbor. Mitchell Park Marina remains the “best” and “safest locale” for passengers, he said, but he’s not sure the village agrees so the company is considering alternatives as well.

Otherwise, he’s “very happy” the ferry license was approved. “I think the county Legislature recognizes that this proposed service is in fact a great way to connect the north and south forks in a sustainable manner without adding to traffic congestion or parking issues in those towns and certainly promotes tourism and foot traffic in both of those downtowns,” Mr. Lynch said.

The license, however, remains contingent on landing agreements, he noted, so it might be necessary to postpone the service to 2023.

“We would like to run this summer because we do have the ferry boat in place and that opportunity might go away by 2023,” he said. “That is our intent, even if it means an alternative location in the Village of Greenport, and then certainly we would love to work with the village to get back into Mitchell Park or some other municipal dock that they see as more fitting for this service.”

Mr. Krupski told The Suffolk Times that the license was approved because of the program’s timing, but it’s up to Peconic Jitney to secure arrangements with Greenport and Sag Harbor. The company can’t do anything without both approvals, he said. 

Mr. Krupski isn’t sure if the license needs to be resubmitted for approval should the landing sites change. It can probably be amended, he said.

Details about the Peconic Jitney shuttle proposal are available on the Village of Sag Harbor website: http://www.sagharborny.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1445/The-Peconic-Jitney-2022?bidId=

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