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Glen Cove may offer trial ferry service to the Bronx

Ramp to boats at the Glen Cove ferry

Ramp to boats at the Glen Cove ferry terminal. Credit: Howard Simmons

Glen Cove officials are considering providing ferry service to the Bronx that could begin as early as August.

The fall service would gauge rider interest in a local route before a two-year pilot program is expected to launch in May 2020, Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke said.

The ferry would shuttle passengers to the Soundview NYC Ferry terminal in the Bronx, where they could catch a connection to the East 90th, East 34th and Wall Street terminals. A round-trip ticket would cost about $25, Tenke said.

Service may kick off Aug. 25 and run through Dec. 10, according to a tentative timeline presented Tuesday at a pre-council meeting. Tenke said those dates may be adjusted.

“If we did this and no one was taking it because they didn’t like the fact that they had to switch at Soundview, then obviously we would focus on an express ferry to Manhattan,” Tenke said. “If it seemed to work, and more people were taking it because it gave them more options to pick up more ferries and go to different locations in Manhattan, then we would obviously explore that more.”

The city must run a commuter ferry service for at least two years or risk an order to pay back up to $16.6 million in federal grants that were used to help build the ferry terminal and dredge Glen Cove creek. Tenke said the “pre-pilot” will count toward the city’s two-year obligation.

The fall ferry was a recommendation from Port Chester-based consultant TMS Waterfront, which has guided the city through its selection of a ferry operator.

Hornblower Cruises and New York Water Taxi both submitted proposals to run a two-year pilot program, though neither company met all the city’s requirements, Tenke said. The proposals didn't include plans for marketing or amenities such as concessions, according to TMS president Shea Thorvaldsen.

“They want to see how ridership plays out,” Thorvaldsen said at the pre-council meeting.     

New York Water Taxi would charge the city $950 an hour. A round-trip ticket would cost $48.46, which is offset by an $892,500 subsidy provided by Garvies Point developer RXR Realty. Hornblower, which operates the NYC Ferry, would charge the city $1,200 an hour, with a proposed ticket price of $85.69 with the subsidy.  

Both ticket prices assume a ridership of 92 passengers a trip, which is about how many people took the ferry in 2017 during the "summer of hell," Thorvaldsen said.

Thorvaldsen recommended trying to negotiate down New York Water Taxi and said Hornblower’s rate would not be “fiscally responsible” for the city.

The city has not selected an operator because it’s waiting on feedback from the Federal Highway Administration and New York State Department of Transportation, Tenke said. The city council is expected to vote on approving an operator in the coming weeks.

Proposed figures

Glen Cove officials are weighing a fall ferry route to Soundview. The details haven’t been nailed down yet, but here are some initial figures being proposed.

Round-trip ticket price: About $25

Length of ride: 30 to 40 minutes

Tentative trial dates: Aug. 25 through Dec. 10

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