Editorial: Legislature jumps over village trustees on ferry

Greenport is certainly no stranger to traffic, crowds and parking issues. Many a nice summer weekend finds the village packed with visitors who love the waterfront along Mitchell Park and the charm that is still evident in a formerly thriving fishing community transitioning into something else entirely. 

Many people traveling to the South Fork on Friday nights during the summer will not go the normal route because of massive traffic problems on Montauk Highway from Southampton Village all the way east to Montauk. Many have reported the trip from, say, Shinnecock Canal to East Hampton Village can be hours long. It’s a mess that only gets worse. 

To avoid that, some bound for the South Fork now go to Greenport, wait in line at the North Ferry terminal, and then drive across Shelter Island to the South Ferry en route to North Haven and Sag Harbor and other destinations on the South Fork. Greenport, in other words, is a transit point.

Now, on top of this, a new service that will only draw more South Fork-bound people to the village has been greenlighted by the Suffolk County Legislature — a Greenport to Sag Harbor ferry.

The Legislature rather strangely approved a five-year ferry license and rates for Peconic Jitney, a subsidiary of Hampton Jitney, even though village officials have said the ferry isn’t welcome to dock in Mitchell Park Marina.

The Legislature gave its approval to this new way to reach the South Fork from the North Fork by essentially jumping over Greenport’s government and its residents, many of whom can’t deal with crowd issues as they are now.

Since, without Mitchell Park Marina, there aren’t a lot of options for the Peconic Jitney to use as a landing site, the village’s opposition to the use of the marina for the ferry would appear to put this ferry on hold. 

What is clear, though, is how the Legislature’s handling of this issue peeved village officials. And they should be.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, not one to hold her tongue when the facts warrant speaking out, said she complained to Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cut­ch­ogue) about the village being cut out of the discussion. She said she felt as though the village was “strong-armed with politics.”

“I explained to him a few things …” she said in an interview. This translates to: Where the ferry wants to dock isn’t a decision that will be approved by the board.

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. pointed out that Mitchell Park Marina, home to very large private yachts in the summer, is a bad spot for a busy ferry service.

“It only takes hitting one $40 million boat and gouging it and we’ll have nobody left here,” he said. “And you can lose the whole operation for one little accident.”

The ferry license is good through November 2027, so there is time to — possibly — work this out. As greenlighted by the Legislature, ferry operations would be Friday, Saturday and Sunday in May and June. Ferry service would be daily in July and August. The last service would be 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It would be weekends only in September and October.

When, and if, this will ever begin is up in the air. Perhaps next time the Legislature could give village trustees a heads-up before they pass something that would have a profound impact on the community.