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Glen Cove begins search for ferry service operator to NYC

The Glen Cove ferry terminal on Wednesday, June

The Glen Cove ferry terminal on Wednesday, June 29, 2016: City officials hope potential operators of a ferry to Manhattan can start service in the fall. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

The City of Glen Cove has begun looking for potential operators for the ferry service to Manhattan that officials hope will start in the fall.

The city sent out requests for proposals last week to ferry companies for what would be the first regularly scheduled route between Long Island and Manhattan in years.

The service would begin at the recently constructed city-owned ferry terminal off Hempstead Harbor and make a stop near 35th Street in midtown and another near Wall Street.

The RFP calls for a minimum of three morning rush-hour departures to Manhattan and three evening returns to Glen Cove. Other services, such as dinner cruises and trips to Yankees and Mets games, are “strongly encouraged.”

Travel time is expected to be 50 to 60 minutes, Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles said.

Officials with three metropolitan-area ferry companies attended an informational session on the ferry last year, and a fourth company has since been in contact with the city, Peebles said.

Jim Barker, president of Seastreak, and Peter Ebright, executive vice president of New York Water Taxi, said they want to review the RFP before deciding whether to submit a proposal.

Patrick Smith, a spokesman for New York Waterway, declined to comment. In February, he said the company was not actively considering Glen Cove. Representatives from Hornblower did not return phone calls.

Donovan Finn, an urban planner at Stony Brook University, said three daily trips in each direction is “the bare minimum” to offer enough options to commuters with varying schedules. Ferry operators may be reluctant to offer more trips until it’s clear there’s enough demand, he said.

Parts of the RFP are worded generally, such as the requirement that service be “competitively priced.” Finn said those generalities are typical when starting a new service.

The RFP includes a requirement for a marketing plan. Peebles said inadequate promotion was one reason a 2001-02 ferry run by the now-defunct Fox Navigation failed.

The RFP asks applicants how much of a subsidy would be needed. RXR Glen Isle Partners LLC, the developer of the proposed Garvies Point project next to the terminal, has agreed to spend as much as a million dollars on subsidies for as long as two years if necessary. RXR believes the ferry may help attract buyers and tenants to the project’s proposed 1,110 condominiums and apartments.

Glen Cove resident Ron Menzel said that with two lawsuits seeking to block construction of Garvies Point, now is not a good time to seek ferry operators.

Even if Garvies Point goes forward, “it’s not as if in six months, it will be built and the 1,100 units occupied,” said Menzel, one of 105 plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits.

Peebles said there is enough demand for a ferry from other local residents to make it successful even without Garvies Point.

The lawsuits were one reason — construction delays for the terminal were another — the RFPs went out weeks later than expected, she said. Peebles said she’s “optimistic” the lawsuits will be resolved by the time ferry service begins.

Earlier ferry

Fox Navigation, a now-defunct enterprise run by Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, unsuccessfully tried to run a ferry service from Glen Cove to Manhattan from May 2001 to November 2002.

The tribe says high operating costs and low ridership led to the service’s demise. The city says inadequate promotion and other missteps caused the problems.

The service started out with ferries of 250 to 284 seats that made three daily trips to lower Manhattan’s Pier 11 in about 45 minutes. Four months later, service was cut back to a single boat that took about 55 minutes. By the end of the run, less than a quarter of that ferry’s 399 seats were typically occupied, Fox said.

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