Tag Archive | "Hampton Jitney"

Passenger Ferry Service May Find Home on Bay Street in Sag Harbor

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The Hampton Jitney’s proposed passenger ferry service connecting Sag Harbor and Greenport villages was originally envisioned as docking on Long Wharf. However, this week it was revealed that a second location, further from Main Street, is being considered in an attempt to ease concerns about traffic and parking.

Last Wednesday, Hampton Jitney president Geoffrey Lynch met with Sag Harbor Village Harbor Master Bob Bori at a village owned dock nestled between the Breakwater Yacht Club and the Sag Harbor Village Wastewater Treatment Plant on Bay Street

According to Bori, the two discussed the possibility of having the passenger ferry service use this dock as opposed to Long Wharf. In addition to keeping traffic generated by the passenger ferry service away from Main Street, Bori noted that the parking lot next to the Breakwater Yacht Club is engineered for small shuttles like the one Lynch has proposed to bring people from East Hampton and Bridgehampton to Sag Harbor for the ferry service.

It would also settle one of the village Harbor Committee’s concerns that Long Wharf itself is not a safe location for passengers to traverse to board a water taxi. While technically a county road, Long Wharf serves as a village parking lot and has no pedestrian walkway meaning people are either walking in traffic or on the outside of the wharf’s railing with nothing between them and the water.

“I think this would be a halfway decent spot,” said Bori on Tuesday of the Bay Street location. “It moves everything away from Main Street but is still within walking distance.”

Bori said he has yet to hear back from Lynch on whether or not moving the ferry to Bay Street was a concept he would move forward with.

On Monday, Jim Ryan with Response Marine — the firm that will operate the water taxi for the Hampton Jitney — said the option was being explored.

“We are hoping to bring the vessel out in mid-April and take practical measurements of each dock,” said Ryan.

He added that there are different docks in Greenport that could also be used for the ferry service. The marina at Mitchell Park may be the most visible location and is under consideration, Ryan said. He added that a second site near Greenport’s Long Island Railroad Station, the North Ferry from Shelter Island and where Suffolk County Transit has a stop is another option.

“They have a transportation hub already,” said Ryan. “The goal right now is to make sure every option is explored. This way if we do start we will be meeting the needs of both villages to the best of our ability. We want to take into account every variable so we can put the vessel in the most safe, and visible location, but visibility can also be accomplished through advertising.”

Ryan said the team was also working with Suffolk County Transit in an attempt to sync the ferry service to the public bus in both Sag Harbor and Greenport.

Ryan added that by the end of the week he expects that both school districts in Greenport and Sag Harbor will also join the conversation. It has been suggested, in the wake of parking and traffic concerns in both villages, that the service could use school parking lots as one of the stops in the bus service the Hampton Jitney has proposed to reduce traffic coming to the ferry.

Sag Harbor Village Board Warms to Passenger Ferry Concept

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web water taxi

The Village of Sag Harbor is poised to sign off on a pilot program that would allow a passenger ferry service to operate between the village and Greenport this summer.

On Tuesday night, a majority of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees voted in a straw poll to move forward with plans to amend village law. That amendment would allow the Hampton Jitney and Response Marine to operate a passenger ferry service off Long Wharf for a trial period over this summer season.

The decision came after residents voiced their opinions about the proposal. While most were in favor of the idea, others expressed concern that it was not researched enough.

However, four of five members of the village board — with deputy mayor Tim Culver casting the lone dissenting vote — were swayed. The board voted to hold a public hearing on next month to legalize passenger ferry operation off the north end of Long Wharf this summer.

The Hampton Jitney will fund the Peconic Bay Water Jitney service with Response Marine handling the operation of the water taxi the team intends to use this summer.

“We have really taken on this endeavor because we feel it has a lot of potential and could be a viable transit solution for the East End,” said Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch on Tuesday night.

According to Lynch, the ferry will offer roundtrip service from Greenport to Sag Harbor starting at 7 a.m. ending at 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11:45 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. His firm has contracted to lease a low wake catamaran from New York Water Taxi that would seat 53 people.

In an attempt to reduce the amount of traffic or parking problems the ferry could generate in Sag Harbor, a village already notorious for its traffic congestion, Lynch has devised a shuttle service that would connect Sag Harbor to Bridgehampton and East Hampton.

Lynch said the shuttle service would make 14 loops each day.

Instead of the large Hampton Jitney buses, Lynch said the firm would start out with a 13-person shuttle and move up to a 20-person shuttle if necessary.

According to Lynch, the shuttle would begin at Marine Park in Sag Harbor, loop down Main Street and to the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike to Scuttlehole Road and would connect with the Suffolk County Transit bus stop at the Bridgehampton Commons.

It would then travel Montauk Highway towards East Hampton meeting passengers at Jitney stops in Bridgehampton and East Hampton. The shuttle will make two additional stops in East Hampton at county bus stops on Newtown Lane and at the East Hampton Village train station before taking Route 114 back into Sag Harbor where it would let passengers off at Marine Park.

Lynch said there has also been discussions about contacting the Sag Harbor School District about a second pick up point at Pierson High School, where people could park their cars and get on the shuttle bus to the ferry.

Before the board of trustees voiced their opinions, they asked to hear from the public.

Wharf Shop owner Nada Barry said the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce board of directors has voted and would like to see the ferry service operate on a trial basis.

“How many times have we been at this,” asked Pierce Hance, a former mayor of Sag Harbor. “It must be spring again.”

Hance noted that he was personally involved in the Sustainable East End Development Strategies (SEEDS) study, a study that Lynch and Response Marine’s Jim Ryan have cited as being supportive of this kind of transit system. Hance said that the rail-bus-water taxi concept was explored, but that the group never came to consensus on whether or not water transit should be a part of the transportation plan for the East End.

“I am not against ferries, but my concern is these people this year show up again and after last year there should have been a whole year of planning where they would come before this board,” said Hance. “This leaves very little time for discussion. The concern is if you let this one go through, how do you control it?”

“I am here to say I am in favor of and am looking forward to the prospect of having a ferry here,” said resident Linda Schwartz.

She added she would like to see the service opened up to offer passage to Montauk, giving residents the ability to take a water taxi to the beach, rather than a community so similar to its own.

“Originally, I thought this was a dangerous proposal and that ferries in general would be dangerous to Sag Harbor,” said resident and Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait.

Tait said that instead of viewing this concept as one that could add to the traffic and parking issues in the village, he was choosing to look at this as something that could take cars off the road in the long run.

“As a resident I think it could be positive and that is why I like the way you are handling it — as a pilot program,” said Tait. “It may alleviate some of this traffic we have if it takes cars off the roads. We need an alternative to what is happening in terms of traffic here.”

“I think this is the most sensible idea that has come along in a long, long time,” added resident Alexandra Lee Hunt. “I would certainly use the ferry and I think it is also energy conscious.”

Bay Street resident Patricia Donovan disagreed, saying she believes it will bring a tremendous amount of traffic into the village, which already has traffic problems.

“I think they just want to make a whole pile of money and get started on something that will be very detrimental to our village,” she said.

Jeff Peters wondered what kind of money the village could expect to cover the cost of dockage or repairs to Long Wharf.

Mayor Gilbride said a financial figure has not been discussed with project sponsors and they would be required to rent their space on Long Wharf. Lynch added that his firm intended on spending money on capital repairs, including the construction of passenger float barge so that people could safely board and depart the ferry.

While most village board members supported the idea, Culver said he was “a little queasy” at the idea of granting a temporary permit for something against village code. He added he would like to see a traffic impact study completed.

“It’s always easy to say no and turn it away,” said Mayor Gilbride. “I think sometimes you have to open the door and let some of these things happen.”

Locals Outraged Over New MTA Tax

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“Isn’t this taxation without representation? I thought we already went through this,” said Sag Harbor Variety Store owner Lisa Field when asked what she thought of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new payroll tax.

The tax, signed into law earlier this month, will require local businesses, including hospitals, schools and governments, to pay a 34 cent tax for every $100 of payroll. Suffolk County is set to pump millions of dollars into the MTA to help shore up the authority’s $1.8 million deficit. From the halls of the state assembly to the sidewalks of Main Street, people are saying the MTA is unfairly taxing Suffolk County residents for a service they rarely use and the county is in essence funding the New York City transportation system.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele contends the MTA package was made “behind closed doors” with officials, hailing from the New York Metropolitan area, leading the negotiations.

Back in March, Thiele seemed certain the tax wouldn’t be voted through, but the state legislature indeed passed it on May 6, after state senator Brian Foley of Long Island swayed the vote, allowing the package to pass by two votes in the senate.

“Between March and now a lot of arm twisting went on,” explained Thiele.

“I thought we were pretty effective in putting up a unified decision,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of the efforts made by local officials to oppose the payroll tax. “We have lost the power, and all of this money is leaving Long Island and going to New York City.”

Schneiderman maintains the East End is underserved by the MTA. Although the county contributed $250 million to the transit authority last year, the MTA currently runs just three trains on weekdays from the East End to New York City.

Geoff Lynch of the Hampton Jitney said the transit system works well in New York City because the authority services a small geographic area with a high density population. But on the East End, he added, a smaller population is spread out over a wide geographic area.

According to a press release from Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine, the county will pay around $520 million when the new MTA taxes and fees are enacted or about $347 per resident per year — on top of the taxes residents already pay toward the MTA. Schneiderman believes only 10 percent of Suffolk’s population, or 150,000 people, ride the LIRR.

“The county will pay around $3,000 to $4,000 per rider. We could lease each of them a car and we could forget about the trains,” argued Schneiderman.

When asked if East End residents will get more LIRR service in exchange for their contribution to the MTA payroll tax, Sam Zambuto of the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) said no.

“[The Payroll Tax] allows the LIRR to maintain the existing level of service and eliminates the service reductions that were slated for implementation,” Zambuto reported. “It also reduces the fare increase from an average of 26 percent to an average of 10 percent.”

MTA representative Kevin Ortiz said even with $1.8 billion in funds procured from the payroll tax and other fees, the MTA will still face a small deficit in the upcoming year. Ortiz argued that the new funds would bring additional wages to the county because the MTA uses the services of  subcontractors in Deer Park, and other Suffolk locations. He added the MTA’s capital plan would create $11.8 billion in wages and salaries in the 12 counties it services.

“They have to look at the big picture,” said Ortiz of Suffolk residents.

But local residents, from hospital administrators to business owners, say they are having a hard time seeing the “big picture.”

“Everybody that is in business out here will be subject to this new tax,” asserted Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris. He added that the tax will cost the village administration upwards of $10,000.

Southampton Hospital faces an even steeper tax burden because of its large payroll. Marsha Kenny, the director of public affairs, said the hospital had already closed its books for the 2009 budget when they learned of the tax. The hospital expects to pay $140,000 to the MTA this year.

Len Bernard, the Sag Harbor School District Business Manager, estimated the school will pay between $46,000 to $50,000 for the tax, though the state has promised to reimburse school districts.

“I am not at all confident the state will give funds to reimburse the school districts,” remarked school superintendent Dr. John Gratto. “I am concerned that if they do reimburse the school district for the tax it will come at the expense of general state aid.”

“I can point to every single line item on the budget and tell you how it benefits someone in the community, but I can’t with this,” continued Gratto. “We are just subsidizing New York City.”

Responding to the outrage of local communities over the payroll tax, the Suffolk County Legislature voted on Tuesday, May 12, to create a commission to conduct a feasibility study on Long Island seceding from the State of New York.

“We want it to be on the ballot next year as a non-binding referendum to create the State of Long Island,” said Schneiderman. “Every year we give the state about $8 billion but we only receive around $5 billion in services.”

Schneiderman conceded, however, that a state hasn’t successfully seceded since the 1860s, when West Virginia split from Virginia.

“I think this is more symbolic,” said Schneiderman. “We want to send a message to Albany that the present situation is unacceptable.”

Thiele believes Suffolk County constituents are feeling increasingly overburdened by state taxes, especially in light of the economic downturn.

“I have never seen a recession end by taxing people more,” he declared.

It may be that the MTA payroll tax will have a trickle down effect, with implications not just for business owners but patrons of Long Island restaurants and retail establishments as well.

“A lot of businesses in the area increase their prices in the summer and decrease their prices in the winter,” said Tora Matsuoka, co-owner of Sen and Phao Thai Kitchen. “Prior to finding out about this tax, [and a new beer and wine tax] my feelings were that we wouldn’t readjust our prices, but it is something we are considering … taxes in New York are stringent and I think it is driving people out of the state.”