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Six years after Glen Cove ferry terminal was built, plans to launch ferry service still in limbo

The Glen Cove Ferry service is still not

The Glen Cove Ferry service is still not available for use. The terminal was built to serve the Garvies Point development as well as the surrounding community.  Credit: Danielle Silverman

Glen Cove's ferry service didn't launch last year as planned and a new launch date from the ferry terminal built using $16.6 million in federal grants has not been announced, according to city officials.

"As a result of COVID-19 and the uncertain and fluctuating numbers of commuters into Manhattan, the [New York State Department of Transportation] agreed to provide us with an indefinite extension of time to launch the ferry," city spokeswoman Shannon Vulin said in an email. "When commuter numbers into Manhattan are such that would make the ferry a viable means of transportation, we intend to launch."

In June, the city reported in financial documents that both the NYSDOT and the Federal Highway Administration have authorized an indefinite extension to begin ferry service between Glen Cove and Manhattan.

Ridership figures from the Long Island Rail Road show a sharp drop during the pandemic last year and while numbers have improved in 2021, they remain far below 2019 levels. Systemwide, the LIRR had 3.9 million riders in August 2019 compared with 1 million in August 2020 and 1.6 million last month, according to LIRR reports. In an interview last week with WABC, Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke said low LIRR ridership was "an indicator ... of who's going back into Manhattan" since many workers continue to work from home.

In January 2020, the Glen Cove City Council unanimously authorized Tenke to negotiate a contract with Hornblower Metro Ferry LLC to provide commuter service beginning in May 2020 at a cost of $3.1 million annually for two years. The city's costs were to be offset by ticket sales. Vulin wrote in an email Monday that the contract hadn't been executed.

Tenke declined to be interviewed and Hornblower Metro Ferry did not respond to an inquiry this week.

The city completed construction on the ferry terminal building in 2015. The building, bulkhead and related construction used $16.6 million of federal grant money that will have to be repaid if the city doesn't begin ferry service. The terminal was built to serve the Garvies Point development, which has been partially built out, as well as the surrounding community. Garvies Point developer RXR Realty agreed to subsidize the ferry by $1 million in its first two years of operation.

An eight-week trial run in summer 2017 didn't augur well for demand for the service. At that time the Metropolitan Transportation Authority replaced some train service with Glen Cove ferries due to construction work that caused major delays on the LIRR. Newsday reported at the time that some boats traveled at 15% capacity amid complaints of poor scheduling.

The city issued a request for proposals for ferry service in 2017 and received two responses, including from Hornblower, according to financial documents. The city missed a Jan. 1, 2019, deadline to start the service but sought and received an extension from the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation until May 2020 to allow time for the completion of housing construction at Garvies Point and completion of the Herb Hill/Garvies Point Road construction projects so that "hazardous construction conditions" around the ferry terminal would be reduced, according to city financial documents.

Glen Cove Ferry

  • 2010 Construction on bulkheads and infrastructure begins
  • 2015-2016 Ferry terminal building completed
  • 2017 Glen Cove issue request for proposals for ferry operator
  • 2020 May launch put on hold due to pandemic

SOURCE: Glen Cove bond documents

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