North, South Ferries not bothered by water taxi proposal

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03/24/2012 2:30 PM |

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | A North Ferry vessel makes a run from Shelter Island to Greenport Monday morning. North Ferry GM Bridge Hunt said he'd welcome a water taxi proposal connecting Greenport with Sag Harbor.

Two Shelter Island-based ferry companies aren’t too worried that a proposed Greenport-Sag Harbor water taxi will hurt their business. In fact, they welcome a new route linking the North and South forks.

North Ferry general manager Bridge Hunt, whose ferry connects Shelter Island with Greenport Village, said he believes the new water taxi will create another destination for his passengers.

“If we can connect people to another transportation connection, then that’s a plus for us,” Mr. Hunt said. “We’ll do our thing. They are going to do their thing … One more transportation connection is a win-win.”

The plan, proposed by Jim Ryan of Response Marine and Hampton Jitney president Geoffrey Lynch, would include shuttle bus service to and from the water taxis. The 35-minute boat ride between the two forks would hug the western shoreline of Shelter Island. During bad weather, an alternative route would move along the island’s eastern side.

One-way tickets would cost $11 and round-trips $20.

South Ferry owner Cliff Clark, whose boats run between Shelter Island and North Haven, said he first proposed linking Greenport Village and Sag Harbor Village about 12 years ago.

At the time, Mr. Clark said, he had support from former Greenport mayor Dave Kapell and even received federal funding to help pay for the project. But Sag Harbor Village, which bars ferries, shot down his idea.

“We didn’t want to be a bad neighbor, so we backed down,” Mr. Clark said.

Although Mr. Clark said he doesn’t know how a Greenport-Sag Harbor water taxi will affect his business, he described the plan as positive for the East End.

“It may cause people that would never go to Sag Harbor to discover a new community,” he said. “I know Jeff and Jim will do a good job.”

While Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch are facing the same legal hurdle Mr. Clark did, Sag Harbor Village is showing more interest in the plan this time around.

Sag Harbor Village Clerk Beth Kamper said the Village Board agreed last week to schedule a public hearing in April to discuss amending its code in order to allow a water taxi pilot program to start this summer.

Now that its South Fork neighbor appears to be on board, the Greenport Village Board has warmed up to the water taxi proposal. But some details still need to be ironed out before the village signs off on the plan.

During a March 16 public hearing Village Board members expressed the concern that water taxi passengers could fill up municipal parking lots. Mr. Lynch said at the meeting that he’s working on a parking agreement with the Greenport School District. If approved, Hampton Jitney would provide shuttle service between the school and the dock.

After Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch presented their case during the hearing, David Berson, owner of the electric boat Glory, was the lone speaker during the public comment portion. Mr. Berson said he’s concerned about the ferry’s potential negative effect on the bay and asked that an environmental study be completed before the plan moves forward.

After the hearing, Mr. Nyce reminded the public that anyone who could not attend the hearing can still submit written comments on the plan.

The village does not anticipate taking any additional action on the water taxi unless Sag Harbor makes the code change required for the vessel to land there.

jennifer@timesreview.com