Suffolk County holds public hearing on Greenport-Sag Harbor water taxi plan

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman, right, talks with Hampton Jitney president Geoffrey Lynch Tuesday after a public hearing was held in Riverhead.

The Suffolk County Legislature held a public hearing Tuesday afternoon in Riverhead to discuss a Greenport-Sag Harbor water taxi proposal.

The Peconic Bay Water Jitney 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 North and South forks would hug the western shoreline of Shelter Island. During bad weather, an alternative route would move along the island’s eastern side.

Pierce Hance of Sag Harbor was the only resident to address the Legislature at the meeting and said he opposes the plan because he believes it would increase traffic and parking congestion within the South Fork village.

“We already have an extreme problem with traffic and parking during the summer months,” Mr. Hance said. “What we do not support, which we haven’t supported for a number of years, is a point-to-point system where Sag Harbor becomes a concentration point for vehicular traffic.”

The biggest hurdle facing Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch’s water taxi plan is getting the Sag Harbor Village Board to change its code, which bars ferries. Sag Harbor Village has scheduled to vote May 8 on amending its law to allow ferry service this summer on a trial basis.

If Sag Harbor approves the plan, Greenport Village will hold a special meeting May 10 for public comment.

Mr. Hance said he would support the plan if it included more destinations, such as in Orient and Southampton, so that water taxi parking is spread out.

Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch said during the meeting that a regional plan is a future goal of theirs, but they’ve decided to start with a Greenport-Sag Harbor route in order to determine the water taxi’s feasibility on the Peconic Bay.

Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said he supports the plan because he believes it will provide alternative transportation on the East End.

“The idea is to reduce the number of cars on the road, not increase them,” he said.

Tuesday’s public hearing was recessed and the Legislature is expected to vote next month on granting Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch a license to operate the ferry and to establish a schedule and rates.

If approved, one-way tickets would cost $11 and round-trips $20.

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