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Glen Cove council OKs $6.2M deal for ferry operator of Manhattan service

If the city doesn't start ferry service in

If the city doesn't start ferry service in May, it may have to repay $16.9 million in federal grant money that it used to build the Glen Cove ferry terminal and bulkhead on Glen Cove Creek. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The Glen Cove City Council Tuesday night approved paying a ferry operator $3.1 million annually to provide commuter service to Manhattan beginning in May.

The council voted 7-0 to approve basic terms to the two-year contract and authorized Mayor Timothy Tenke to negotiate and execute a final agreement with Hornblower Metro Ferry LLC, an affiliate of San Francisco- based Hornblower Yachts Inc.

If the city doesn’t start ferry service in May, it may have to repay $16.9 million in federal grant money that it used to build the Glen Cove ferry terminal and bulkhead on Glen Cove Creek.

“We know this is a tough launch,” Tenke said at the council meeting. “We know that having a service going to Manhattan out of Glen Cove is going to be tough, but we are going to rely on the marketing and the fact that we're going to have plenty of parking down there.”

Under the terms of the contract, Hornblower would provide a minimum of 2,080 hours of service at a rate of $1,500 an hour for two years as the sole and exclusive operator of city ferry service. The company will negotiate landing rights with New York City and obtain necessary permits.

Last year, the City Council approved entering into negotiations with Hornblower to provide the service.

Hornblower will operate a single boat between Glen Cove and the 34th Street ferry terminal in Manhattan. The company also operates a New York City ferry service, and commuters will be able to connect to another ferry for other destinations such as Wall Street.

The schedule and cost to commuters have not been determined.

“The ticket prices haven't been set yet, pending the marketing, advertising concessions and terminal rental income to be determined within the next three months,” Shea Thorvaldsen, a consultant for Glen Cove, said at the council meeting. Thorvaldsen said the eventual cost of landing rights in New York City will also be a factor in the ticket price.

The cost to the city will be offset by ticket sales, and the city has the option to cancel the contract after the first year for a $1 million termination fee.

Council members expressed mixed feelings about their votes because of the cost and uncertainty, but said it was better than repaying the federal grant money.

“We’re between a rock and hard place,” Councilman Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews said before his vote. “There’s not a perfect choice."

Stevenson-Mathews said the city needs to lobby Albany for money to support the ferry service.

“I don’t think it’s going to fly if we don’t get subsidies,” Stevenson-Mathews said.