Ferry firm eyes Glen Cove launch site

The Seastreak ferry water taxi vessel in the The Seastreak ferry water taxi vessel in the East River at Manhattan's 34th Street Pier. The vessel has begun corporate bookings in Glen Cove. (Sept. 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

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A private ferry firm is looking at Glen Cove as a launch site, a possible early step toward bringing back regular water taxi service to the city.

When a company approached Atlantic Highlands, N.J.-based Seastreak about holding a training session on one of their boats, president Jim Barker thought of Glen Cove.

"I knew they had this new beautiful terminal sitting there," Barker said. The slip "should be a good springboard for future trips out of there, whether they're private charters or special events."

The chartered ferry trip was launched last month.

Getting on the water from Glen Cove is easier now that it has completed construction of a $14 million dock and boat basin, built mostly with federal funds. Still to come is a $3 million ferry terminal building on the site.

"We're really open to all possibilities out of Glen Cove," Barker said. "We'd like to try to test the market with some products, such as the Hudson River and possibly look at trying some commuter runs into the city."

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The ferry terminal has long been a part of the planned waterfront Garvies Point development, a project of Uniondale-based RXR Realty. It is to include 860 residential units, a hotel, and office and retail space.

The question of whether the city and the new development can support a commuter ferry is one that Barker said he wants to look at. The company runs a commuter ferry day and evening between Monmouth County, N.J., and Manhattan that costs $655 a month.

For a commuter run, Barker said the most likely scenario would be to use a single boat making two runs in the morning to Manhattan and two in the afternoon for the return trip. Barker estimated the monthly cost at about $500.

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"I'm not sure the market can justify $500 a month, but I'm sure there is some market there and that's what we would have to study before we instituted any type of commitment to ferry service there," he said.

When the first few buildings at Garvies Point are finished, the city will consider soliciting a ferry operator, said Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi. While Suozzi said the city hopes the dock will be used for both commuting and recreation, the operator, not the city, will bear the financial risks. If the ferry service requires a subsidy to get started, under the development agreement with RXR Realty, the city can require the developer to put in $1 million.

"There will be no subsidies from the city for that," Suozzi said. "The city is not in the ferry business."

Glen Cove's last experiment with a commuter ferry was more than a decade ago.

"It was tried once before and it failed," said Jeff Zupan, a transportation expert at the Regional Plan Association. Zupan said successful ferry routes are convenient and affordable.

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"The problem is to get any kind of frequency where people are going to find it an attractive option . . . you're going to need quite a number of boats," he said, which is expensive.

Fox Navigation, a company formed by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut, ran the service for 18 months before stopping in 2002 because of low ridership.

Possible Seastreak Ferry Routes from Glen Cove

Manhattan

Bear Mountain

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Yankee Stadium

Citi Field

Stamford, Conn.

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