Representatives from seven ferry companies attended a recent informational session for a proposed Glen Cove-to-Manhattan commuter route.
Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles said the turnout “exceeded expectations.” But it’s unclear how many companies will submit applications for the route by the Sept. 9 deadline.
The city last month sent out requests for proposals for a route with stops in midtown and lower Manhattan.
Representatives from five of the ferry companies either declined to comment or said there was not yet a decision on applying for the route. Officials with two companies did not return phone calls.
One potential stumbling block could be Glen Cove’s yearslong insistence on not providing cash subsidies for the ferry.
Most commuter ferries rely on subsidies to keep fares low enough to attract a large ridership, said Roland Lewis, president and chief executive of the Manhattan-based Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, which supports increased use of commuter ferries.
“Whether it’s a bike share or ferries or buses or rail, transportation in the modern world needs governmental [or other] subsidies,” he said. “Otherwise it will be a premium service for the few.”
Uniondale-based RXR Glen Isle Partners LLC, the developer of the proposed Garvies Point residential, recreational and commercial project next to the city’s recently completed ferry terminal, has agreed to spend as much as $1 million on subsidies, if necessary, but only for up to two years.
Although Peebles ruled out a cash subsidy, she said the city may consider other assistance, such as paying for boat maintenance.
Tim Mooney, owner of Fire Island Ferries, was at the July 14 informational session and ferry-terminal tour. He is weighing whether to apply for the route, but said the prospect of either buying or leasing boats — his current ferries wouldn’t meet the city’s parameters — is one factor giving him pause.
Mooney said if the 1,110 condos and apartments planned for Garvies Point were already built, the route would be more lucrative, because many potential customers would live within walking distance of the terminal. Construction on Garvies Point has not yet begun.
Mooney said he wants more information about parking. There are 100 spots next to the terminal, and Peebles said the city is planning other spots nearby or shuttles to off-site parking.
Mooney said parking even a third of a mile away — one of the city’s options — could work, but “a shuttle is always a challenge. People are looking to get out of their cars and get where they’re going and don’t want to have a commute to another commute.”
Lewis said once ferry service begins, the operator must stick with it. The now-defunct Fox Navigation tried a Manhattan route in 2001-02, but four months after its launch, the operator cut service from three daily trips in each direction to one, and a year later ended all service.
The new service should “be in place a number of years, to allow ridership to build and let people understand it better,” Lewis said.
Glen Cove Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles said representatives from seven ferry companies attended an informational session on the proposed route between Manhattan and Glen Cove:
Fire Island Ferries
New York Water Taxi
New York Waterway