Dinner cruise boat OK, but ‘must pay fair share’

03/10/2011 11:00 AM |
COURTESY PHOTO The 100 foot-long by 30 foot wide Cabana Dinner Cruise boat.

COURTESY PHOTO The Cabana Dinner Cruise boat is currently up on blocks.

A dinner cruise boat would be welcome in downtown Riverhead, as long as town officials can devise a way to “even the playing field” so that the boat does not have an unfair advantage over existing restaurants and businesses that pay property taxes.

That was the consensus among Riverhead Town Board members and representatives of the downtown Business Improvement District and Chamber of Commerce during a meeting with the boat’s owners in Town Hall on Thursday.

The boat, called The Cabana, is 98 feet long and 30 feet wide, and had been operating in New York City.

Its owners are now looking to dock it on the East End, and have made Riverhead their first choice.
Town officials had initially voiced concern that boat patrons might take up too many parking spaces along the riverfront behind East Main Street. They also worried that the vessel would have an unfair advantage over existing businesses.

“We have to make sure that your docking fees are equivalent to the taxes that a business would pay,” Supervisor Sean Walter told The Cabana’s owners at the meeting. “We can’t let you have an unfair advantage.”

Former Riverhead councilman and soon-to-be downtown restaurateur Vic Prusinowski, who was also at the meeting, said that when he was on the Town Board 15 years ago, a similar arrangement was worked out with the owners of the Peconic River Queen cruise boat, which has since left. That agreement assigned a docking fee determined by a formula devised by town assessors and based on the per-seat average that downtown restaurants would pay.

Mr. Walter said he would try to dig up that agreement and use it to develop an agreement with The Cabana group.

Vito DiCandia, one of the partners in The Cabana group, said he and the others are not opposed to paying their fair share, as long as the fee isn’t “going to cripple us.”

“We have to level the playing field,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. DiCandia argued that The Cabana would actually boost business for local restaurants because it would use them for catered events on the boat. “We are not looking to hurt local businesses,” he said.

The boat owners also don’t think parking will be an issue because most of their cruises will be in the evening.

“We’ll fix the parking issue,” Mr. Walter said.

The Cabana is currently in storage, according to Mr. DiCandia, who said the longer it is not in the water running cruises, the more money the company stands to lose. He’s hoping to have the boat docked in Riverhead as quickly as possible, he said.
BID president Ray Pickersgill said he spoke to downtown businesses about the cruise ship and “all they want is for you to pay your fair share.”

The town has not yet determined how much the docking fees should be.

The arrangement with The Cabana group would be in the form of a license agreement, and would not be subject to a public hearing, officials said.

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9 Comment

  • what taxes everybody is on some kind of deferral

  • The boat folks should get a rundown on the actual taxes paid. There are too many deferrals and they should be retracted at this point. Not sure how all of those breaks did anything more than line the pockets of the business while keeping downtown dead.

  • Parking problem!!! Downtown is Ghosttown!

  • Under what authority was Sandmine Sean’s buddy Victor Prusinowski doing at this meeting?

    Since when do the Supervisor’s friends and family network get a say in what businesses come to Town and on what terms?

    Is Prusinowski sharing his commissions with Walter?

  • as a former councilman and future partner in a new restaurant on main st. which would make him a member of a seperate taxing district called the bid and the parking district. he was on the board and helped make the decision on the other boat that was here.but you should know that ron

  • i suppose you are talking about the tax defferments given out by the ida. if that is the case than i do not blame you for not understanding how it works because the ida never explained it.those people that got the abatements got them only on the new additions and the exemptions do not apply to special district taxes.the way it works is like this,and i will use a house as an example,you put an addition on your house and do not pay additional taxes on the extention for a specified amount of time,you do pay additional special district taxes plus you get a break on your sales tax for products and equipment needed for the new addition.

  • Sorry, Ray, being a former councilman or future partner in a potential business convey no legal authority for Walter to have his friends and family network control who comes to do business in Town.

    It would appear that in addition to ethics and constitutional law, our Sandmine Supervisor flunked Antitrust Law as well since allowing competitors to create entry barriers to a territory or market violates more laws than the shades of bleached blondes your salon can provide.

    Stick to perms and waxes.

  • ron,ron,ron, not one single person said they did not want the boat to come downtown,all we want him to do is pay his fair share in taxes and for the services he will be using,electricity ,sewer, and water. the bid was invited ,as were the parking district and the chamber to get their input. the ultimate decision should be based on precedent.you as an attorney should understand that.if the town just charges him a dock fee and he is conducting a business from public property that would be wrong,especially serving liqueur.lets just say the town gives him a super deal and only charges a dock fee,what would stop one of the other businesses from buying a barge ,docking it hear,and opening a tiki bar.i am sure as a harvard law school trained attorney you understand the legal issues.also what is to stop the businesses from suing the town if he opens a business in the parking district and does not pay parking district taxes. by the way ron i am not a hairdresser,i own the business with my daughter and do not appreciate your condescending attitude towards our business,we have over 500 thousand dollars invested in our business on main street and employ 21 people who by the way use all the other businesses on main street.