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Jun 19, 2012 1:56 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Suffolk County Approves Sag Harbor-Greenport Ferry, Extends Long Wharf Lease

Jun 19, 2012 5:52 PM

The calls of “all aboard!” at the end of Long Wharf in Sag Harbor could come as early as next week, now that the Peconic Bay Water Jitney has secured Suffolk County approval to run a passenger ferry service between that dock and Greenport’s Mitchell Park Pier.

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the County Legislature approved a license and rates for the Water Jitney—a joint venture between Hampton Jitney President Geoff Lynch and Response Marine Principal Jim Ryan—marking the final go-ahead that the water taxi needed to launch a pilot program as early as Thursday, June 28.

The county’s stamp of approval sets the Water Jitney apart from past ferry proposals, which surfaced in Sag Harbor over the years but were defeated early on in large part by public sentiment. In an effort to slake fears of traffic jams and parking woes, the Water Jitney pilot program will include a ground shuttle transportation element, with parking offered at nearby Pierson High School throughout the summer.

“I’m looking forward to it, and I hope it’s successful,” County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said in a phone interview following the vote, “and I hope that the fears that some of the residents have are not realized. I personally think this will reduce traffic, not increase it.”

In another expected, unanimous vote on Tuesday, the legislature extended the expired lease of Long Wharf to Sag Harbor, which, in effect, will turn over certain decisions involving the Water Jitney, such as approving its landings, from the county to the village, according to Mr. Schneiderman. The lawmaker has previously said that he believes the county ultimately will hand over ownership of the wharf to the village, possibly later this year—a move that would then void the lease.

The county is extending the lease with the village to June 6, 2013, pending a report of the Long Wharf Advisory Committee, a group that was formed to make recommendations regarding the future use of the pier, according to a copy of the legislation.

The county has leased the wharf to the village for about the past 20 years, and the village has acted as a holdover tenant since the lease expired on June 7, 2011.

“In light of Peconic Jitney’s application for the water taxi and use of Long Wharf as a landing site while the county still owns it, our legislative counsel felt it necessary to formalize the lease extension until such time we complete the transfer of the wharf to the village,” wrote Catherine Stark, a legislative aide to Mr. Schneiderman, in an email.

As for the Water Jitney, the legislature approved a daily departure schedule that includes seven departures from Mitchell Park Pier in Greenport and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor on Mondays through Thursdays, plus two additional departures from each dock on Friday and Saturday nights.

The first boat takes off from Greenport at 7 a.m., the second from Sag Harbor at 8 a.m., the third from Greenport at 9 a.m. The schedule follows this pattern, with departures each hour at alternating docks, until an 8 p.m. departure from Sag Harbor on Mondays through Thursdays. The additional Friday and Saturday rides will depart from Greenport at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and from Sag Harbor at 10 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.

The approved fares are $11 per passenger for a one-way trip, and $20 per passenger for a round trip. A one-way ticket for children 12 years old and younger who are accompanied by an adult is $6, while a round-trip children’s ticket is $11. There is no charge for cargo or baggage, including bicycles.

The boat can hold up to 53 passengers.

“I look forward to this trial period, where I think people from Greenport and around can come over and come into some of our restaurants and shops, and maybe come back and buy things,” Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “And we’ll see. It’s a trial period. We’ll see how it unfolds.”

The Water Jitney won approval from the Sag Harbor Village Board, the lead agency on the ferry, on June 12. Board members granted a special temporary permit to the Water Jitney and also approved a $12,000 license agreement that expires on October 31.

Sag Harbor’s vote followed a three-hour public hearing that night during which many Sag Harbor residents claimed the ferry service would increase traffic and pollution, and that village officials had not set a clearly defined framework for measuring the pilot program’s success. Greenport had already signed off on the plan.

Mr. Lynch said he is targeting June 28 as his latest anticipated start date, and he plans to run the pilot until about Labor Day, about when the Water Jitney’s approval to use two Pierson High School lots for the parking and shuttle service expires.

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Well, I think it will be a good thing.

Just keep it small...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 19, 12 7:40 PM
I say make it big and go all the way to where the fun is... Mohegan Sun
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Jun 19, 12 8:17 PM
Good luck, however the catamaran vessel may not handle the rough tide-and-wind-driven rough seas around Shelter Island in ALL conditions?

Hopefully the approvals given by Suffolk County, Sag Harbor Village, and Greenport Village, took into consideration the safety of the passengers in the WORST of conditions?

BTW did Southampton Town and Southold Town sign off on this? If not, why not? Would not their liability insurance kick in if there were to be a major incident with a capsize ...more
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Jun 19, 12 7:58 PM
PS -- and the Town of Shelter Island regarding approvals at the Town level.

Liability, liability, liability.

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Jun 19, 12 8:01 PM
I can't wait!
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Jun 20, 12 8:21 AM
Thanks to all that made this happen for it will be a good to able travel by water and leave the car home,with the vote that came about in sag harbor it might have cost a village trustee his job when he lost for re-election.

By taxpayer1 (72), Southampton on Jun 21, 12 3:48 PM