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Glen Cove to miss Jan. 1 deadline for starting ferry service to Manhattan

Mayor Timothy Tenke said he is confident the city will not have to pay back the $16.6 million in federal funding tied to meeting the deadline.

The Glen Cove ferry terminal on July 7,

The Glen Cove ferry terminal on July 7, 2017. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Glen Cove will miss a New Year's Day deadline to begin regular ferry service to Manhattan, but Mayor Timothy Tenke said he is confident the city will not have to pay back millions of dollars to the federal government as a penalty.

Federal grants paid for most of the $22.5 million cost of constructing a ferry terminal along Glen Cove Creek and performing related work, including dredging the creek and building a bulkhead. The $16.6 million in federal funding required the city to start ferry service by Jan. 1, 2019, or risk an order to repay the money.

Tenke said ferry service is not expected until the spring or summer of 2020. During a May meeting with the Federal Highway Administration, Tenke asked for an extension of the deadline.

Agency spokeswoman Nancy Singer did not respond to questions about whether the federal government would begin demanding repayment after Tuesday.

Tenke said agency officials have not warned the city they would strictly enforce the deadline and “I don’t think they’re just going to spring this on us at the last minute.”

In the May meeting, “the feds were satisfied the funds that they had given for the construction of the ferry terminal were used properly,” Tenke said.

Federal officials are aware the city has been working with the New York State Department of Transportation to finalize a ferry-service plan and want the ferry to succeed, Tenke said.

Singer said in an email that highway administration officials are waiting for the state's recommendations on a draft ferry plan the city submitted to the transportation department in October. 

Glen Cove's 2016 effort to attract a ferry operator was unsuccessful. Two companies earlier this year submitted proposals for ferry service, but they want major subsidies, Tenke said. He has declined to identify the companies.

Tenke told federal officials that beginning service in 2019 would pose safety hazards with barges and other equipment using the creek for bulkhead installation and because of other work, and construction on Garvies Point Road, which leads to the terminal.

Garvies Point developer RXR Glen Isle Partners plans to complete about half of the 1,110 condos and apartments it is building for the $1 billion project next to the ferry terminal by spring 2020. Those residents would increase the ferry’s potential passenger base, Tenke said.

Uniondale-based RXR Realty, the developer's majority partner, has promised to provide a $1 million subsidy over two years for the ferry. City officials had been discussing a larger RXR subsidy with company representatives, but Tenke said those talks won’t resume until the ferry service plan is complete. RXR paid Port Chester-based consultant TMS Waterfront to create the service plan.

“Once we have the plan finalized and we know how we’re going to be going forward with this, then we can start seeking additional subsidies,” Tenke said. He also has requested state subsidies.

State transportation spokesman Patrick Muncie said “conversations are ongoing” with the city on the ferry.

GLEN COVE-TO-MANHATTAN FERRY MILESTONES

2001-2002 Attempt at ferry service founders from high costs and low ridership

2003 City receives first grant from $16.6 million in federal funds for a ferry terminal, creek dredging and other work.

2016 Glen Cove begins search for ferry operator; none submits a proposal.

2016 Ferry terminal finished.

2017 Temporary ferry service launched amid Penn Station construction. Riders complain of inconvenient times; ridership is low.

Jan. 1, 2019 Federal deadline for ferry service to begin.

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