For the second straight year, North Hempstead will offer a launch service for residents who use the town dock in Port Washington, though not for free like last year.
The service this year, unlike the pilot year, will cost boaters an additional $225. At a town board meeting last week, officials cited "several issues" with the rowboats it provides, including a 2011 drowning that police said involved alcohol and, officials said, at least seven "accidental slips and falls on rowboats."
In past years, residents could use town rowboats to arrive at their vessels. But last summer, the town said it prohibited them, allowing boaters to use a launch service -- provided by local Meyran Marine Service Inc. that also runs a water-taxi service around the harbor -- for free. The service, the town said, would ordinarily cost residents $500 for the season.
This year, boaters are going to be charged the $225 launch service fee on top of the $200 cost for mooring permits. But they can still use rowboats made available by the company, not the town, only during night hours when the launch service is not running.
Peak hours, during most of the summer season, are 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week.
Town launch services are rare on Long Island. Huntington has run a service at Gold Star Battalion Beach for years, and residents can pay $800 for the service, which runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. for most of the summer season, town spokesman A.J. Carter said. But it is not mandatory: there are spots for about 30 residents, for $150, to store their rowboats.
At the hearing, Robert Valentine, a lifelong Port Washington resident whose father owns a small powerboat, questioned the charges, and why it was mandatory for all boaters. He said he preferred the rowboats, and that waiting for a launch service can take a long time, but Ryan Mulholland, town spokesman, said the service would involve "a direct route."
"We, as mooring holders, are being forced to pay more than double what we paid for . . . a service that we don't need," Valentine said in an interview after the meeting. "The rowboats worked fine for well over 30 years."
The town said 60 percent of boaters had already been using the service, and the price is far less than the company's usual fee.
During the hearing, board members debated charging residents who did not wish to use the taxi service a smaller fee. Several boaters near the town docks last week called the town's plan reasonable.
"To have a boat available to you and have someone to take it out to you is basically like a yacht-club service," said Ron Feigenbaum, 66, who owns a sailboat and uses a private mooring. "Cheaper, though."
Several described the rowboat process as tiresome for those "not on the younger side," said Tom Forgione, 55, who letters and installs boat graphics.
Dina De Giorgio, a councilwoman from Port Washington, said she is open to re-evaluating the plan, amid calls at the hearing to make the service optional.
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