Tensions flare at Village work session after plans for Peconic Jitney stall

Facing a deadline to reach an agreement before summer, Hampton Jitney asked the Village Board for further direction on their plans for a passenger ferry at its work session last Thursday. However, board members were against discussing an agreement during a public session. 

“People need to understand what their plan is,” said Trustee Mary Bess Phillips. “We need to be provided with a proper business plan on why this would be a beneficial idea for our village.” 

The frustration from Jim Ryan, general manager of Hampton Jitney, was evident during the work session. Mr. Ryan and Hampton Jitney president Geoff Lynch insisted that they have submitted an adequate business plan and now require further instruction from the board in order to proceed. 

“We are asking if we can proceed with the village itself to talk about that,” said Mr. Lynch. “We need some direction on the road forward.” 

The plan was to replicate a 2012 pilot program that operated a ferry between Mitchell Park Marina and Sag Harbor. Despite ongoing disagreements the Village Board had about the proposed launch site, a license for Peconic Jitney was approved by Suffolk County last spring. 

Village officials rejected a proposal to locate the project in the marina at Mitchell Park. “[The board] said no, we don’t want that kind of traffic in Mitchell Park with the mega yachts and everything else coming in and out. Parking would be a problem,” Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said Tuesday.

In October, Mr. Lynch pitched a plan to modify the village’s visitors dock to accommodate the ferry landing before the 2023 summer season. At the time, he told the board that, based on water depth, the location would be doable but would need “substantial reconfiguring” and proper engineering.

Though the board favored the idea of the visitors dock location, trustees are lukewarm about the prospect of cost sharing.

“We need to do more negotiating,” said Mr. Hubbard. “People want to know real numbers, they want to know figures. [They] need a place to tie up [their] ferry boat and the village taxpayers shouldn’t be paying [for it.] It should be their expense, not our expense.”

Viewing a business plan, the mayor said, would answer questions such as who pays for repairs, how much the village will be paid in rent and other terms of a lease. While the jitney company reportedly asked for a long-term, 50-year lease, Mr. Hubbard said a 10-year lease may be more appropriate.

If implemented, the ferry would run on weekends in May and June, daily in July and August, and weekends again in September and October, likely shutting down for the season around Columbus Day weekend. Company officials have estimated that between 300 and 400 people would use the service on peak days. 

In Sag Harbor, officials hope to land the vessel on the north side of Long Wharf. 

The board insisted that negotiations on how to move forward must not be held during a public work session.

“Our negotiations need to be documented and vetted,” Ms. Phillips said. “You cannot make negotiations during a work session. A process needs to be followed.”

Trustees also wanted to know where Sag Harbor stands on Peconic Jitney’s plan. 

Mr. Ryan insisted that Peconic Jitney has completed what was required of them. He stated that they answer to the taxpayers as well and are acting for the benefit of public interest. 

“We’ve done everything you’ve asked us to,” Mr. Ryan said. “The jitney is a public service.”