Tag Archive | "Hampton Jitney"

Hampton Jitney: On The Road for 40 Years

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Biz Jitney 40th

By Stephen J. Kotz

It was during the deep recession of 1973-74, a downturn made all that much worse by the emergence of a little understood force called the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, that Jim Davidson had an idea.

“He bought two vans with bike racks and envisioned an intra-town service for people who didn’t want to drive from East Hampton to Montauk or Southampton to Sag Harbor during the oil crisis,” said vice president Andrew Lynch.

And so, the Hampton Jitney was born 40 years ago.

To celebrate the milestone, the company, whose dark green coaches are now a regular sight from the Montauk Highway to the Long Island Expressway and beyond, is planning a number of promotions this year kicking off with a “Design a Jitney” contest.

Artists have been invited to submit plans using the company’s logo and celebrating its anniversary. The winning design will be used to wrap one bus in the company’s fleet. And the winner will get complimentary tickets for use on the company’s Hamptons to New York City line.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Davidson to realize that a localized bus service wouldn’t cut it. “That fall, he quickly realized he wasn’t going to be able to make the payments on his vans because there was no business,” Mr. Lynch said. “One of his customers asked him to take him and his family back to the city, so he started doing that.”

For years, Mr. Davidson, a former Madison Avenue advertising executive, ran his company from a potato barn on his Bridgehampton property. In 1982, he was successful enough that he was able to purchase the Omni Building, a former catering hall and roller rink, on County Road 39 in Southampton.

Mr. Lynch’s parents purchased the business from Mr. Davidson in 1988, shortly before his death. Today, their son, Geoffrey Lynch, is the company’s president.

Andrew Lynch said that over the years, several competitors have challenged the company on its turf, but none have been able to make a serious dent in its business. “Our biggest competition has always been cars,” he said. “A key to our success is frequency, running a frequent schedule even when it doesn’t pay to do so.”

Besides its bread-and-butter business moving weekenders back and forth between the city and providing a convenient link during the week for business travelers, the Hampton Jitney has branched out in several directions.

In 2006, the company purchased the Sunrise Coaches and began providing service from the North Fork to the city. It also offers a popular airport connection service to MacArthur (Islip), Kennedy and LaGuardia.
“Charters are a really big part of our business,” said Mr. Lynch. “We do school trips, corporate events, weddings, ski trips and Broadway show day trips.”

The Jitney even provides excursions to Mets and Yankees games. “We do a lot of Yankees games,” Mr. Lynch said. “We had tickets for the last home game this year, which will be Derek Jeter’s last game, and they sold out in two days.”

The company even offers a Florida service that spares snowbirds from the need to drive to their winter homes. They simply drop off their cars, which are loaded on a car carrier, before boarding a bus that will take them to their destination.

The company continues to expand. It recently acquired a maintenance facility in Calverton that will also allow it to provide better service to the North Fork and Riverhead, Mr. Lynch said.

“We been positioning ourselves for the long haul, not the quick dollar,” Mr. Lynch said of the reason for the company’s success. “We really have become part of the history and social fabric of the community.”

For more information, visit hamptonjitney.com.

 

Peconic Bay Water Jitney Will Not Return to Sag Harbor in 2013

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Despite finding some success late this summer, Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch announced this week the Peconic Bay Water Jitney would not traverse the waters between Sag Harbor and Greenport villages this summer, citing the financial cost of funding the water taxi service.

“Having said that, we don’t want to stop pursuing funding from outside sources, whether public or private,” said Lynch at a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday night, adding the company would look into possible federal funding to help cover the capital costs needed to make the service a success.

The Peconic Bay Water Jitney – as it was coined by Lynch and his brother Andrew, and Response Marine owner Jim Ryan – made its official maiden voyage between Long Wharf in Sag Harbor and Mitchell Park in Greenport on June 28. The launch followed a contentious debate about the impact the ferry would have on the quality of life of both Sag Harbor residents and businesses, fears of a demand for parking and an increase in traffic dominating the discussion.

Ultimately, with the exception of former village board member Tim Culver, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees signed off on the temporary use of Long Wharf for the service and passed a local law allowing passenger ferry service, which like vehicular ferries is illegal in Sag Harbor, for one summer season.

For the Lynch brothers and Ryan, this opportunity was viewed not only as a business venture, but also as an opportunity to study a new form of transportation on the East End – water based transportation in a region historically and recreationally celebrated because of its access to the water.

The ferry service, which ran on a single leased catamaran with 53 seats below deck and an additional 20 seats on the top deck, ran for approximately 85 days, ending on September 30.

According to Lynch, during that time, the ferry service carried 16,650 passengers, starting with just 212 at the end of June, growing to 5,404 passengers in July and peaking at 7,402 passengers in August before serving 3,632 passengers in September.

Lynch said that averaged to about 195 passengers a day, not the 250 to 300 passengers daily the company had hoped for, but “pretty good,” said Lynch. “And it certainly opens the door in terms of potential, but what the service needs is someone who has the financial resources to handle the start up costs for the appropriate vessel and can handle a loss over multiple seasons before the service is reliable enough for people to use on a regular basis.”

“We grossed about $160,000 in revenue,” said Lynch. “We spent a heck of a lot more than that.”

Financially, the 2012 operating costs were close to $500,000. According to figures provided by Lynch, the vessel lease of the John Keith from the New York Water Taxi Service cost the company $110,000, with insurance coming in at $41,000. Staff wages cost $86,000, with vessel fuel costs – admittedly higher than Lynch originally expected – at $91,000. The creation of a shuttle service for passengers cost the company $74,000 and docking fees in Sag Harbor and Greenport were a total of $24,000.

The ferry employed a total of 15 people during its service, including four United States Coast Guard licensed captains who operated the John Keith, six deckhands, two shuttle bus drivers, two call center customer care representatives and one person in charge of administration and accounting.

Lynch said the firm also utilized local contractors for fuel, mechanics, parts supplies, dock building, welding and print and radio advertising.

“Anecdotally, I would say the service was a huge hit,” said Lynch. “I heard very little negative feedback from customers, municipal agencies. I think we had one sailboater in the harbor who didn’t like the boat. Financially, it was certainly a bust for the Peconic Jitney and for myself and my brother who were funding this thing. Given that, we don’t have any immediate plans to go forward with the service for 2013.”

Lynch said this season was a learning experience, similar to what any new business venture would go through. He said one vessel proved not to be enough in order to keep the frequency of trips in line with demand and keep crowds at a minimum at docking sites.

In terms of the long-term goal of expanding the passenger ferry service to other waterfront ports on the East End, Lynch said another, larger vessel would be required to comfortably traverse the water.

Lynch said, based on credit card receipts, it did appear the service was favored locally – locals making up a majority of riders rather than just day trippers and tourists.

“So the appetite for this from a local perspective is there and the potential for tourists and other day trippers,” he said. “There was a much broader market out there and I am hopeful we can continue, but we cannot do it on our own.”

According to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, who praised the service and pushed for the temporary permit to allow it to run in the summer of 2012, if the Peconic Bay Water Jitney does come back to the village with a 2013 proposal, it will have to start from scratch in terms of earning approval to run the service, and run it from Long Wharf – newly acquired by the Village of Sag Harbor through a deal with Suffolk County.

Peconic Bay Water Jitney Will Run Through October 1

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Following a 30 percent rise in passengers in the month of August, this week the Hampton Jitney announced it would extend service of the Peconic Bay Water Jitney through October 1 — a month longer than originally expected.

On Monday, Hampton Jitney vice president Andrew Lynch said the Peconic Bay Water Jitney is running a full schedule Thursday through Monday throughout the month of September, closing for Tuesday and Wednesday. The September schedule will provide six round trip passenger ferry trips between Sag Harbor and Greenport villages Sunday, Monday and Thursday, with seven round trips planned daily for Friday and Saturday.

According to Lynch, the ferry saw a 30-percent rise in passengers in the month of August — exactly the kind of boost the service needed to make the decision to continue through the beginning of the fall.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback and we want to continue the service to see what kind of off-season demand there is,” said Lynch on Monday.

As the Sag Harbor School District’s Pierson Middle-High School is open for the school year, Lynch noted that the shuttle service associated with the ferry would not continue, adding it was not used much to begin with.

The passenger ferry service has been running since July after both Sag Harbor and Greenport villages green-lit a trial run in May. The Peconic Bay Water Jitney is a partnership between the Hampton Jitney and Response Marine’s Jim Ryan, who oversees the water jitney between the villages. The jitney seats 53 people below deck and has over 20 seats on the top deck.

The permit from the Village of Sag Harbor allows the service to run through October 31 when the temporary law allowing passenger ferry service from Long Wharf will sunset and ferry service will become illegal in Sag Harbor without board intervention.

Since the service started, the village has been studying the impact of the ferry service through its environmental planning consultants, Inter-Science Research Associates.

According to Inter-Science President Rich Warren, that study will not be completed until mid-to-late October.

On Monday, Lynch said that no final decisions have been made on whether or not the Jitney would seek to continue the service next season or expand it to include destinations other than Sag Harbor and Greenport.

“We are going to take some time to do a deep evaluation of the service as a whole and see what kind of viability it has moving forward,” said Lynch. “That being said, August was a very strong month.”

“I have had nothing but compliments from people,” added Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride. “This has given a lot of residents the opportunity to take a real boat trip and maybe try something they normally have not had the chance to do in boating over to Greenport.”

Peconic Bay Jitney Ridership Low; Hampton Jitney Remains Hopeful

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The Peconic Bay Water Jitney — a passenger ferry service operating on a trial basis this summer between Sag Harbor and Greenport — has not seen the ridership Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch originally hoped for during its first two weeks of service.

According to Lynch, the ferry service has averaged 175 riders per day, a far cry from the 300 passengers Lynch originally said would make the venture a financially worthwhile endeavor for his company to pursue.

However, on Tuesday night in front of the Sag Harbor Village Board, Lynch said he remains hopeful that once his firm starts advertising and marketing the water taxi in a comprehensive fashion ridership will increase, making it viable for the Jitney to consider pursuing long term plans for a passenger ferry service out of Sag Harbor.

“To date there has been a total of 1,920 passengers both ways, which is roughly 175 passengers a day,” said Lynch. “It’s not enough that I would say it is a viable business, but it is encouraging given we have only had 11 days of operation.”

Lynch said statistics have shown that ridership is fairly even in terms of people coming from Sag Harbor or Greenport villages, although Greenport has a slightly higher number of passengers using the service.

A shuttle bus service, operating from a Pierson High School parking lot to the ferry and also connecting with stops in East Hampton, also shows lower ridership than expected. According to statistics presented by Lynch on Tuesday night, about 60 people in total have taken advantage of the shuttle, just five or six passengers using the shuttle to get to East Hampton Village.

Noting he plans to be more aggressive with marketing and advertising, Lynch said he is hoping ridership will increase in coming months. Sag Harbor Village’s temporary law allowing the passenger ferry service to operate sunsets on October 31, although Lynch has said will likely suspend the service and assess its success after Labor Day weekend.

The ferry was docked on Tuesday and for most of Wednesday contending with mechanical issues, but was expected to start service again by Wednesday afternoon.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride wondered if Lynch would even continue the shuttle service given its low ridership.

“I have committed to do it,” said Lynch. “Unless there are objections I plan to continue to do it. If it went to zero despite marketing I may consider pulling it but at the moment it is seven days a week.”

Sag Harbor resident Mia Grosjean wondered if discount commuter tickets might encourage people coming to Sag Harbor or Greenport for work in the morning to use the ferry as a means of public transportation. Lynch said ridership is particularly low on the 7 a.m. ferry from Greenport and the 8 a.m. leaving Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.

Lynch said if a demand is there, his company would respond.

“I am happy to talk to them,” he said. “Send them my way.”

Resident Myrna Davis, speaking on behalf of the board of Save Sag Harbor said she was concerned that surveys — meant to discern how people were getting to the ferry, where they were parking and how they were spending their money — had not made it onto the boat yet.

“It’s the only way without following people to know where they are parking,” said Davis. “A lot of people think the excessive traffic, and I know it is happening in other villages as well, is because of the ferry.”

“I will say, there is a lot of traffic around and the water Jitney only wishes they were all riding the ferry,” said Mayor Gilbride.

Mayor Gilbride and Lynch committed to ensuring the surveys would be on the ferry as soon as possible. Mayor Gilbride added that the first meeting of a committee to monitor the ferry will be held next Tuesday.

“The traffic for the last two weeks that everyone is encountering — trust me, it is not the ferry,” said Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, who is monitoring the ferry service’s impacts not only as the Chief of Police but also as a member of the committee the village has created to assess the impact of the ferry on the community.

Noting that despite fears, the ferry was not causing a wake and not running over boaters or children sailing, Chief Fabiano said many of the concerns about the ferry have so far proved unfounded.

“I just want to say it is not happening,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Sag Harbor-Greenport Ferry Service Takes Off

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On Thursday morning, the inaugural departure of the Peconic Bay Water Jitney ferry service from Greenport to Sag Harbor had just one passenger — Hampton Jitney Vice President Andrew Lynch.

“We were biting our nails a little bit with me being the only passenger on the 7 a.m., but as the weekend progressed we were pleasantly surprised by the number of people using the ferry,” said Lynch on Tuesday.

For East Hampton resident Jane Stuart, an avid fan of the North Fork, finding a new way to travel to Greenport without a car was an experience she could not pass up. On Tuesday morning, Stewart and Patty Robert, a Staten Island resident visiting for the holiday, boarded the noon ferry from Long Wharf, excited at the prospect of meeting friends in Greenport for lunch and coming back to Sag Harbor as a group for dinner.

“Usually I take my car over,” said Stuart, as the ferry glided out of the harbor and into Peconic Bay. “This is much better. We get to be out on the beautiful water for 40 minutes each way. It’s almost like owning your own boat.”

Stuart and Robert made their way to the ferry through the Hampton Jitney’s shuttle service, which picks up people at Pierson High School, where passengers from outside Sag Harbor have been encouraged to park their cars.

“It was easy, smooth,” said Stuart. “I will definitely be doing this again.”

The Peconic Bay Water Jitney, operating on a catamaran coined the “John Keith,” began traversing Peconic Bay between Sag Harbor and Greenport last Thursday. For the next several months, the Hampton Jitney company will assess the financial viability of the passenger ferry service, which has been approved by the villages of Greenport and Sag Harbor on a temporary basis for this summer. Those villages will also be studying the economic, traffic and parking impacts the service has on their communities to discern whether or not this concept holds water for everyone involved in the long term.

According to Jim Ryan, of Response Marine, who is leading operations of the ferry service, this past holiday weekend ran smoothly, and ridership after the inaugural voyage was in line with what he had hoped for during what he called the ferry’s “soft opening.”

“We have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have taken it,” agreed Lynch. “Especially since we have not even really advertised it yet.”

According to Lynch, over the weekend an average of 30 passengers rode on the 53-passenger vessel.

“We even had one trip coming back from Sag Harbor on Sunday that was sold out,” he said.

Late Wednesday night, Lunch noted the Jitney had finally reached a deal with the Suffolk County Transit Authority and East Hampton to allow for a bus route between East Hampton and Sag Harbor for those looking to incorporate the Long Island Railroad or Suffolk County Transit Authority into their mass transit traveling options, and to reduce parking and traffic woes in Sag Harbor Village.

Starting at 9:15 a.m. the shuttle will make six loops – seven on Friday and Saturday – throughout the day, stopping at EAst Hampton’s Lumber Lane parking lot for a pick-up before a stop at the East Hampton Railroad Station. From there is will head to the Pierson High School parking lot to pick up passengers before dropping off at Long Wharf.

“We want people to use as many mass transit options as possible,” said Lynch. “Now that there is more signage, we are hoping to see an increase there.”


The company is directing those who make reservations on the ferry and are driving to Sag Harbor for the service to the Pierson High School parking lot, which they are leasing for the summer from the school district. The shuttle bus is included in the $20 round trip fare for the ferry. Discounted tickets are available for children under 13 and a one-way fare is $11. Bikes ride free.

Service begins in Greenport at 7 a.m., the ferry’s first Long Wharf departure at 8 a.m. except on Sundays when service begins an hour later. The ferry, which takes about 40 minutes, departs on the hour, leaving Greenport at 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. with service from Sag Harbor at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. There is an additional 10 p.m. departure from Greenport on Fridays and Saturdays with an 11 p.m. boat out of Sag Harbor as well.

For Dr. Tom Halton, a Sag Harbor resident and member of the village’s Harbor Committee, Tuesday marked his first trip on the ferry. He was joined by his wife, Diane and daughter, Corrine, who shopped in Greenport while Dr. Halton explored the nautical history of the village – a hobby of his.

“I think it is just a wonderful way to travel,” he said on his return trip to Sag Harbor. “I am just thanking God the village decided to give this a chance. It’s a really beautiful ride.”

While a number of residents and business owners in Sag Harbor raised concerns with the Sag Harbor Village Board before it approved the ferry service on a trail basis for this summer season, according to village clerk Beth Kamper there have been no complaints logged with the village or the police department since the ferry launched.

Kamper joined Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano and Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley on a Friday voyage to Greenport. Mayor Gilbride said he spent most of his time in Greenport looking at local shops and asking business owners what they thought of the service.

“Everyone seemed pretty happy to see us,” he said on Monday.

Mayor Gilbride, Chief Fabiano, Yardley, Kamper and Sag Harbor Planning Board Chairman Neil Slevin will study the service this summer with the help of environmental planning consultant Rich Warren and Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait.

“If it works, it works and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” said Mayor Gilbride. “But we had to give it a chance.”

Sag Harbor Village Approves Passenger Ferry Service, For Now

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Despite mounting opposition, the Sag Harbor Village Board approved a passenger ferry on a trial basis on Tuesday night, offering service between Sag Harbor and Greenport villages this summer.

Deputy Mayor Tim Culver cast the lone dissenting vote.

Operated by the Peconic Bay Water Jitney corporation — a company founded by Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch and led by Response Marine’s Jim Ryan —Lynch says he hopes to have the ferry service up and running by June 28, the Thursday before Fourth of July weekend.

According to Lynch, while the village approved a temporary permit giving the Peconic Bay Water Jitney the right to ferry passengers from Greenport to Sag Harbor and vice versa through October 31, he expects to end the service after Labor Day weekend. After that it will be evaluated for its success or failure — both from the business’ perspective and that of the village — before Lynch decides whether or not he will apply to the village for a long-term service, possibly with more ports of call.

As a part of the agreement, which stipulates the village can discontinue the service immediately if it finds it’s having a negative impact on Sag Harbor residents, the Peconic Bay Water Jitney will pay the village $12,000 to dock on the north end of Long Wharf. The 53-person catamaran will dock overnight and re-fuel in Greenport, which will charge the ferry the same fee.

Lynch said he is looking for upwards of 300 total passengers per day to determine whether or not the ferry is a successful business venture.

The Village of Greenport has already approved the ferry service with Tuesday night’s meeting behind them, the Peconic Bay Water Jitney needs only the Suffolk County Legislature to sign off on its charter and fee schedule. According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman that is expected to happen at the legislature’s June 19 session. Lynch has proposed charging $20 roundtrip, $11 one-way and half price for children under 13. Passengers may bring bikes aboard for free.

After determining it would lead the environmental review of the ferry, the trustees were met with three-hours dominated by voices of opposition, arguing that the village board did not have clear standards by which it would judge the success or failure of the ferry service once it ceases operation. Residents also argued allowing the ferry, even on a temporary basis, could hamstring the village into allowing Lynch to move forward with a larger ferry service whether they want it or not. Others expressed concerns about traffic and parking, particularly around Pierson High School where the Peconic Bay Water Jitney has contracted to lease parking lot space on Jermain Avenue from the Sag Harbor School District for $20,000.

Madison Street resident Kathryn Levy opened the public hearing presenting a statement signed by a number of residents and business owners.

“We believe that the proposed trial is unacceptable,” read Levy. “The impacts have not been fully or properly assessed. No criteria for the trial’s success — as defined by the costs and benefits to the village community — have been established thus making it an entirely arbitrary, some would say fraudulent, trial.”

Levy said the group was concerned about the impact the service could have on the harbor, the merchants who need precious parking for their patrons and not ferry passengers and the impact on the historic streets and houses of Sag Harbor.

Save Sag Harbor board member Jane Young said her board also had some concerns about the ferry service and has been inundated with emails from residents.

Young said the not-for-profit wanted assurances the service would in fact remain temporary and that criteria could be legally established to study the potential impact of the ferry on residents, including benchmark numbers for how they will assess traffic and parking. Young said trustees should also charge fair market rates for dockage on Long Wharf and that Save Sag Harbor wanted to be assured the service would not cost the village or its taxpayers a dime, under any circumstances.

Jermain Avenue resident Carol Williams said she was concerned about the impact to her neighborhood now that the Hampton Jitney will be encouraging people to park at the school lot before they are shuttled on a 12-person van to downtown Sag Harbor. That concession was offered by Lynch in an effort to reduce parking concerns associated with the new service. The Jitney has also proposed a shuttle service between Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Sag Harbor in an effort to reduce traffic impacts.

“I don’t believe the parking has been thought out,” said Williams, noting it was only in the last couple of weeks she even discovered parking at the school was being considered.

Zoning board of appeals chairwoman and architect Gayle Pickering wondered how the village intended to assess the ferry service.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the villages would ask passengers to complete a survey about how they got to the village, where they parked, and how much money was spent during their travels. He added it is also something that will be monitored by Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Thomas Fabiano, Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley, Village Clerk Beth Kamper and Planning Board Chairman Neil Slevin. At her request, he invited Pickering to join that committee.

Harbor Committee member Jeff Peters questioned why the village would only charge $12,000 for dockage.

“We should be asking for more money if we want to do this,” said Peters.

Responding to the criticism, Sag Harbor Trustee Robby Stein noted that the Sustainable East End Development (SEED) study included the suggestion of passenger ferry service on the East End. He added the village’s Harbor Committee, sans Peters, has also deemed it consistent with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP). He added the decision to lease parking space to the Jitney was solely a school decision and not one made by the village.

“I do not know what the effect will be,” said Stein. “If we don’t try it and look at it, how will we know?”

Stein added he believed adolescents who don’t drive but would like to spend time in Greenport would also benefit from the ferry service, as would those who don’t have access to boats.

The American Hotel owner Ted Conklin said mechanically the ferry could work, but he was concerned about the impact it could have on the sailing community, traffic, parking and did not believe it would benefit local businesses.

“Financially, it will not be beneficial especially when you look at the demographics of Greenport,” said Conklin. “It will be more beneficial to Greenport than Sag Harbor.”

To the naysayers who accused the village board of rushing the process, The Wharf Shop owner Nada Barry said this has been in discussion for months.

“There are people in our area who want to use this,” said Barry. “I also want to say in one’s life, and I am older than most of you in this room, static-ness does not get you anywhere be it in business or in community.”

According to Lynch, he will open his books regarding ferry service to the village and the village will be indemnified should any accidents occur associated with the ferry.

“Again, this is only a pilot project and I think that is being missed,” said Lynch’s attorney Tiffany Scarlato. “It is a 100-day project and will not continue unless the village board thinks it is successful.”

“Certainly, what I have gotten from this is it is a way to gather information to determine whether or not it is viable,” said Mayor Gilbride. “If it is out of control we can terminate it quickly.”

District to Lease Lots to Ferry Operator

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By David McCabe


Despite opposition from neighbors, the Sag Harbor Board of Education has unanimously decided to lease two of the parking lots at Pierson High School to Peconic Jitney, the new company seeking to operate a ferry service between Sag Harbor and Greenport this summer.

The company, which is largely financed by Hampton Jitney, will run a shuttle between Long Wharf and Pierson, allowing ferry passengers to park their cars in the school lots while they travel to the North Fork for the day.

The decision came during Monday’s school board meeting, which stretched on for three and a half hours — largely because of discussions unrelated to the parking lots.

A group of about 40 area residents, calling themselves Neighbors of Pierson, had voiced opposition to the initial plan — which would have used the school’s Montauk Avenue lot, on the grounds that it would increase traffic and noise in the primarily residential area.

In an attempt to resolve these issues, prior to the meeting Sag Harbor School District  Superintendent Dr. John Gratto met with Steven Reiner, who represents Neighbors of Pierson, and Geoffrey Lynch, the President of Hampton Jitney. As a result of that meeting, Dr. Gratto adjusted elements of the proposal in an attempt to satisfy residents complaints. Most significantly, Peconic Jitney will lease the Jermain Street lot instead of the Montauk Avenue space, while the school’s Division Street lot will act as overflow parking for passengers.

Since the Jermain Street lot is already in a high traffic area, Dr. Gratto said, the influx of vehicles is less likely to disturb neighbors. But despite the alterations to the proposed contracts, members of the public and board members grilled Lynch and Dr. Gratto for about 45 minutes.

“This is the opportunity for the board and the public to discuss this for the first time,” board member Chris Tice said.

Much of the concern for those present stemmed from the proposal’s stipulation that the final shuttle would arrive in the lot at midnight on the weekends. Tice, as well as Reiner, raised the possibility this might be too late for neighbors.

Lynch noted the schedule is only tentative and could be changed if there is no demand for an 11 p.m. ferry from Greenport.

He also said the driver of the shuttle, an 11-passenger van, will be responsible for removing garbage from the lot after he or she drops off the final group of passengers.

Dr. Gratto and others on the board argued that the additional traffic brought to the neighborhood as a result of the deal is outweighed by the $20,000 in revenue the lease will generate for the district.

“The school district does have an interest in revenue producing ideas that allow us to maintain programs and services for students,” Dr. Gratto said.

Reiner countered that though the school’s neighbors were not pleased about the proposal, they understood the need for additional revenue in fiscally lean times.

“There are good reasons for the school district to want to make a couple of bucks out of this,” he said.

The contract between Peconic Jitney and the district will only be enforced if the ferry service receives approval from a variety of other authorities, including, said Lynch, the state, the county, the Coast Guard, the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and the Village of Sag Harbor Board of Trustees. Lynch added that of those groups, the village trustees would be the most likely to shut the project down if there are major concerns at the end of the ferry’s trial run period this summer.

“If there are too many negatives that are outweighing any positive benefit that this ferry may bring, then they will kill it,” he said.

If they don’t, the ferry’s financers are hoping that the service will begin no later than the last week of June — allowing the route to be operational during the busy July 4 holiday weekend and remaining up and running through Labor Day.

Greenport Approves Ferry as Sag Harbor Village Debates How to Study the Service

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Geoffrey Lynch’s plan to test the viability of a Hampton Jitney run passenger ferry service between Sag Harbor and Greenport continued to find support last week. The Village of Greenport authorized Mayor David Nyce to draft a letter of consent to allow the service to dock and operate out of Greenport on a trial basis this summer season.

According to Mayor Nyce, the village board reached that agreement on Thursday and will discuss where the vessel should dock as well as a rate schedule in executive session during its Monday meeting.

In an interview on Monday, Mayor Nyce said that following a hearing where residents asked village officials to protect the shellfishing industry by siting the passenger ferry at Mitchell Park Marina, the village was moving in that very direction.

While supporting the service with a letter of consent, in order to ensure the pilot passenger ferry service is not held up for this season, Mayor Nyce said on Monday the board will likely discuss the terms of a final deal with the Hampton Jitney. He added that Greenport officials are working with the Village of Sag Harbor to ensure rates and responsibilities carried by the Hampton Jitney during this summer season are similar in both villages.

Mayor Nyce confirmed that both villages, by law, will have to charge the Hampton Jitney docking rates for the Peconic Bay Water Jitney, as municipalities cannot gift public property, but declined to reveal what rates the villages were considering until the contract was reviewed next Monday.

The Village of Greenport’s decision follows the Village of Sag Harbor, which last week also paved the way for what Lynch — the owner of the Hampton Jitney — has coined the Peconic Bay Water Jitney. The Sag Harbor Village Board, sans Deputy Mayor Tim Culver, temporarily amended its village-wide ban on passenger ferry service in Sag Harbor through October in an effort to give Lynch the opportunity to test the waters on a ferry services between the Twin Forks as an alternate transportation option on the East End.

In addition to the villages’ approval, the Peconic Bay Water Jitney must also receive a license from Suffolk County, which also has the right to approve the ferry’s rate schedule. Currently that is proposed as $20 round trip, $11 one-way per person. This week Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said he was trying to ensure a 15-years and under children’s ticket was available at half price to ensure families could afford to use the service.

According to Legislator Schneiderman, the county will continue its review of the ferry service in June. Lynch and his partner, Jim Ryan of Response Marine, have said they would like to launch their service at the end of June and intend to run it through Labor Day, assessing its success after the final holiday weekend of the summer.

Sag Harbor residents have largely been divided on whether the ferry service, which will launch nine times a day on a 53-person catamaran off one side of the north end of Long Wharf and will dock overnight in Greenport, will be a detriment or benefit to the community. Mayor Nyce said residents in Greenport were “generally favorable” of the concept and particularly like the idea of increasing commerce in the downtown.

In response to some residents concerns, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride spoke of developing a task force of village employees to study the impact the ferry has on traffic, parking and commerce — the three areas of concern raised by village residents during the debate over the ferry this spring.

On Monday night, the village’s Harbor Committee took that one step further, giving the proposal its seal of approval under the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) under specific conditions. They also called on the village to develop a substantive way to assess the ferry’s impact.

Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait, who has been working with Planning Board Chairman Neil Slevin, said he would like the village to develop a metric based system to analyze the impacts to traffic, parking and commerce. Tait suggested the village should contract with a planning expert — like the village’s consultant Inter-Science Research Associates — to formalize those metrics so that the final study of the ferry is not subjective, but one based in fact.

Tait and Slevin envision the village team Mayor Gilbride suggested — the police chief, harbor master, superintendent of public works, village clerk and members of the Harbor Committee and Planning Board — could report to an expert conducting these traffic, parking and commerce studies.

The cost of the study, said Tait, should be born at least in part by the Hampton Jitney as they are a commercial entity that stands to profit from the proposal.

As an example, said Tait, one way to study parking and traffic impacts is to poll people using the ferry on how they got there — by car, by Jitney shuttle or by foot — and if they did come to Sag Harbor by car, ask where they parked. Similarly, ferry passengers could be asked to fill out basic information on where they shopped or ate in Sag Harbor while touring the village.

“This way at the end of the trial period we don’t have an assessment with people saying, ‘I like it,’ ‘I didn’t like it’,” said Tait. “We have metrics to measure this by.”

The Harbor Committee also formally approved the plan as consistent under several chapters of the LWRP, including those that promote the use of the village as a center of maritime activity, suitable for water dependent uses including specifically a ferry service, as well as a village that promotes access to the water and protects scenic resources and vistas.

One condition, however, was that the north end of Long Wharf, long used for fishing or simply gazing into the harbor, not be used by the ferry service.

While Tait argued the village could use the west side of Long Wharf for the ferry instead of the north end, after the meeting Harbor Master Bob Bori told Tait he did not believe the boat could safely navigate into the west side and would need to take a portion of the north end.

The Sag Harbor Village Board will review the Harbor Committee’s recommendation at its June 12 meeting where it is also expected Lynch will make a formal proposal to run the ferry service this summer off Long Wharf.

Update: Sag Harbor Approves Ferry Law

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It is now legal in Sag Harbor Village to apply for a permit to run a passenger ferry service.

That is for now, anyway.

At Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting that board voted 4-to-1 to amend village code to allow passenger ferry service in the village between now and October 31. Under the village code, both passenger and vehicular ferry service was prohibited in Sag Harbor. Once this new local law sunsets in October, the village board would have to introduce new legislation to extend the allowance or discontinue it.

That will hinge on the success or failure of the Peconic Bay Water Jitney, a Sag Harbor to Greenport passenger ferry service that Hampton Jitney president Geoffrey Lynch and Response Marine’s Jim Ryan hope to launch this summer as a pilot program to study the success — and impact — of a passenger ferry service on the East End.

Lynch and Ryan have proposed a passenger ferry service that would dock in Greenport Village, but offer service to Sag Harbor via Long Wharf. The ferry would offer around nine round trips between the two villages starting at 7 a.m. and would utilize a low wake catamaran Lynch intends to lease from New York Water Taxi. The catamaran can hold 53 people.

Lynch has proposed a Hampton Jitney shuttle service connecting to Suffolk County Transit buses and will offer service between Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton and East Hampton in an effort to reduce traffic and parking connected with the ferry. Lynch said he is also in talks with the Sag Harbor School District to lease a parking lot on Montauk Avenue where passengers will be encouraged to park and board a bus to Marine Park. From there, they would then walk to the ferry on Long Wharf.

On Tuesday night, the Sag Harbor Village Board remained resolute in their support of the proposal, particularly in the concept of it being a pilot program that can be scrapped come the fall if it proves too burdensome on village residents or businesses.

Mayor Brian Gilbride said he has already formed a committee including Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, Village Clerk Beth Kamper, Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley, Harbor Master Bob Bori and Planning Board Chairman Neil Slevin to study the impact of the ferry this summer. Mayor Gilbride said he would also welcome any other members of the village boards to join that effort as well as a business owner representing the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Trustee Robby Stein said that many of the questions raised during the public debate surrounding the ferry, including impacts to traffic, parking, the environment and village liability, were valid, but that passenger ferry service is a concept being batted around nationally as a new mode of transportation.

“I do want more answers from the Jitney, but I want to try this,” said Stein.

“It is always easier to say no to something,” said trustee Ed Gregory, who said he would like the community to have a chance to assess the service before it passes judgment.

“And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but we will never know if we close the door on this process,” said Gregory.

“This is a waterfront village,” said trustee Bruce Stafford, adding parking in Sag Harbor has been an issue since he was born.

The lone dissenter on the board was Deputy Mayor Tim Culver, although he praised the village board for taking the initiative to try a service like this in an effort to study it rather than rely on traffic models drafted by consultants in offices.

“I will say every neighbor of mine on High Street and Bay Street has come up to me and really objected and opposed the ferry,” said Culver, noting it will likely be the most impacted residential community in the village.

While the vote passed, the proposal will still be vetted as a formal application by the village board, said Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. Lynch will also need the approval of Suffolk County for the ferry’s charter and fee schedule, as well as a nod from the Village of Greenport, which must approve where the boat can dock, before the Peconic Bay Water Jitney becomes a reality.

Since it was first proposed, the idea has sharply divided many in the Sag Harbor community. Tuesday night was no different.

Former Sag Harbor Mayor Pierce Hance criticized board members for not attending the hearings on the county level about the ferry service nor a Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce dinner last week where several business owners expressed concern about the negative impact it could have on their way of life.

Hance added that Lynch is seeking a five year license from the county, not one for six months, and said that details regarding the landing of the vessel on Long Wharf remained murky.

Holding a village code, Hance noted that of all allowed businesses and uses in Sag Harbor only three are expressly prohibited: nightclubs, large uses like nursing homes and, of course, ferries.

“If you really want to consider one of the three things precluded in this document and allow them a special permit to see if it works I think someone should come back with a six month permit for a nightclub,” said Hance, adding he did not believe this was a well planned project, but one that would make Sag Harbor a “guinea pig.”

As the administrator of the Custom House, Ann Lieber disagreed.

“We used to have a ferry that came from Connecticut and people went to lunch and to the stores and the Custom House,” said Lieber. “I think the ferry would be a wonderful idea. Not only would it support stores and restaurants, but our historic places. It’s only for this summer we are trying, so why not give it a shot? I know I would love to take it to Greenport.”

Dr. Tom Halton, a member of the village’s Harbor Committee, agreed that giving it a try was the best course of action. That committee sent a memo of support for the pilot program earlier this spring.

Former board member Jennifer Houser disagreed sharply questioning the planning that has been completed to assess the ferry service. Houser also noted that surrounding communities on the South Fork have long shunned passenger ferry service because it is not desirable.

“Sag Harbor doesn’t want it either,” she said.

Houser asked whether the Town of Southampton, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Peconic Baykeeper or the Environmental Protection Agency had weighed in on the ferry. She also asked whether a formal Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan consistency review had been completed by the Harbor Committee.

“In fact what review process is in place and has been contracted for on the village level,” asked Houser, wondering who was liable if there was an accident or gas spill and who would monitor the moving ferry.

“I hope you realize there are too many issues adrift to stand behind this idea,” said Houser.

High Street resident Tim Martin presented the board with a petition against the ferry.

“Part of the reason I moved to High Street from Jermain was the traffic,” he said, adding he did not see the commercial benefit of the ferry service except for the Hampton Jitney.

“Only one person that I showed the petition to said they did not want to sign it, so it was pretty overwhelming,” said Martin.

Margia Kramer said new businesses, many paying high rents, would suffer if the service is allowed believing it will create parking issues throughout the village. She called for a village referendum before trustees considered the idea seriously.

“It is just silly,” said Kramer. “Why say, ‘Just do it, just try it’ when it can have an adverse impact on people doing business here.”

Another Division Street resident said he supported the idea because it was “forward thinking” and suggested an account could be set aside by the Hampton Jitney in the wake of a problem to cover any costs.

“Parking has always been a problem, will always be a problem,” he added.

“I have lived in Sag Harbor for 10 years,” said Steve Frankel, whose wife Debbie Rudoy owns life’style clothing boutique on Main Street. “I am listening to all these ideas being put forth and a lot of them are not based on facts. They are romantic notions of what could be, should be and won’t be.”

Frankel said this was not an “experiment” to be considered but something that could truly hurt businesses.

“My wife has a business on Main Street and she is scared to death because she knows if people cannot find parking they will not stop here,” said Frankel. “Most things in this village happen very slowly because things are considered very carefully, so it seems out of character to me that there is the decision being made to try this experiment this summer.”

Not wanting to continue to defend his plan, Lynch said he commended the board for considering the proposal.

“I believe it is forward thinking and there are a lot of transportation advocates that have come up with a lot of ideas and there have been a lot of studies,” he said. “I think it is time we try something out.”

“We are a waterfront village,” agreed Kate Plumb. “If it doesn’t work out we won’t do it again, but we are not going to know what the consequences are unless we try it.”

Ferry Proposal Criticized at Chamber Meeting

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Some business owners and community members at a Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce dinner on Tuesday night criticized a proposal by the Hampton Jitney to begin a ferry service between Sag Harbor and Greenport villages this summer. They questioned whether it would benefit Sag Harbor businesses and its clientele or if it would instead clog village streets and parking spaces to the detriment of the local economy.

The event came in advance a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting next Tuesday, where that board will decide whether or not to allow the Jitney a four-month reprieve from the village’s ferry ban to see if the concept works for the community at large.

Last month, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees introduced a local law to allow Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch to seek a temporary special permit to operate a passenger ferry terminal between May 1, 2012 and October 31, 2012 from the north end of Long Wharf.

Ferries are otherwise illegal in Sag Harbor.

According to Lynch, the ferry service will not begin until the end of June as he needs approvals from both the village and the county.

Lynch said he believes a pilot passenger ferry service, dubbed the Peconic Bay Water Jitney, could help reduce traffic and parking issues, but also help both villages’ economies. During a presentation at Tuesday night’s Chamber of Commerce dinner, Lynch said it would cost his company about $500,000 to run the ferry this season.

The Hampton Jitney has contracted to lease one low wake catamaran from New York Water Taxi that would seat 53 people.

Lynch has devised a shuttle service to connect Sag Harbor to Bridgehampton and East Hampton, which he says will reduce parking and traffic impacts.

On Tuesday night, Lynch said he was also working with the Sag Harbor School District to use their parking facilities as a hub for those wanting to drive to Sag Harbor to catch the ferry. Passengers would be shuttled in a Hampton Jitney 11-person shuttle, he said, from that parking lot to Long Wharf.

The proposal has largely had the support of the village board and Mayor Brian Gilbride.

On Tuesday night, both Lynch and his partner, Response Marine’s Jim Ryan, stressed this would be a pilot program and would only continue if it was something that worked for both Greenport and Sag Harbor villages. Lynch added if it was successful he would eventually seek to expand the passenger ferry service to other destinations on the East End and that it could become a part of a larger vision for public transportation on the East End.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, a Noyac resident, questioned what kind of formal planning had been completed to look at the impact on parking from a local or regional perspective.

“We are very nervous about the parking impact,” she said.

Lynch said no formal study had been completed and that his company viewed this summer season’s pilot program as the best way to assess the impact of a passenger ferry.

Debbie Rudoy, owner of life’style fashion boutique said parking and traffic was also her concern. Rudoy said the loss of parking spaces while the former Bulova Watchcase Factory is reconstructed has already impacted parking in Sag Harbor.

“If there is more traffic it will put people off from coming here,” she said, adding she did not believe her clientele would use a shuttle service preferring the freedom of their own vehicles.

“I think it is not a good time to test this out,” added Rudoy.

Marianne Farrell, who will chef Livia Hegner’s new gourmet food store Pepalajefa, questioned if businesses would benefit from the ferry.

“We all know where our bread and butter comes from and it’s not from people using the ferries,” she said.

Lynch argued a comprehensive plan to deal with parking and traffic through initiatives like a passenger ferry service could aid everyone.

“The people in our shops are not going to take public transportation,” said Farrell. “It’s a lovely idea and a great service, but I don’t see the benefit.”

Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce member Robert Evjen said to alleviate parking and traffic concerns, the Jitney could create a shuttle system to Main Street from Havens Beach for all East End residents, not just those using the ferry.

“We are certainly open to that,” said Lynch.

Jacqueline Brody said her concern was the impact the ferry would have on the boating community.

“I look at this as a recreational advantage and helping to alleviate the parking and traffic problems,” said real estate agent Chip Dineen, an avid biker who said he uses public transportation.

Dineen added people seeking to go to the beaches in East Hampton could have an alternative way to get there without getting in their cars by using the ferry, decreasing traffic.

Former mayor Pierce Hance, who has staunchly opposed the concept, questioned why Lynch would use Sag Harbor instead of East Hampton and Southampton as its starting point.

Lynch said the dense population of Sag Harbor was why it was selected.

“And I think because we view Sag Harbor as a destination,” he said.

“If the negatives outweigh the positives, we will not continue to run this service,” added Lynch.

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing on the ferry concept at its Tuesday meeting at 6 p.m.