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Glen Cove mayor asks Cuomo's office to help with subsidies for planned ferry service 

City officials will have to repay the federal government up to $16.6M by Jan. 1 if they don't find an operator to launch a Long Island-to-Manhattan commuter service.

People commute to the 34th Street terminal in

People commute to the 34th Street terminal in Manhattan aboard a ferry from Glen Cove on Sept. 1, 2017. Ferry service was offered that summer while tracks used by the Long Island Rail Road at Penn Station were repaired. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Glen Cove is asking New York State for subsidies for a planned ferry run to Manhattan as the Federal Highway Administration continues to adhere to a Jan. 1 deadline for the city to start service or risk an order to pay back up to $16.6 million in grants to the federal government.

Mayor Timothy Tenke said he talked with representatives of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office on July 20 and requested subsidies for the ferry. No specific amount was discussed, he said.

State officials said they would “see what kind of sources are available,” Tenke said.

Cuomo’s office did not respond to questions about potential state subsidies.

In addition, city officials are continuing talks with Uniondale-based RXR Realty to increase the amount of the developer’s promised $1 million, two-year subsidy for the ferry, Tenke said. The city ferry terminal is next to RXR’s Garvies Point development, a housing, recreational and retail project under construction. RXR has touted Manhattan ferries as an amenity for future residents.

“RXR will not comment on ongoing discussions” with the city, RXR spokesman Robert Leonard said.

Glen Cove failed in its 2016 attempt to attract a ferry bidder. Two companies bid this year, but they want substantial subsidies, Tenke said.

The federal government contributed $16.6 million to help build the ferry terminal and dredge Glen Cove Creek on the condition that the city begin regular ferry service. The terminal has sat empty since its 2016 completion.

The highway administration’s deadline is unchanged, said agency spokeswoman Nancy Singer. That is despite pleas from the mayor and from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who wrote a top agency official in June, arguing for an extension.

Tenke argues that starting ferry service next year during bulkhead installation and other Garvies Point construction work would create hazards for passengers. He said a delay until the spring of 2020 also would increase the ferry’s potential passenger base, because about half of the 1,110 Garvies Point condos and apartments are scheduled to be completed by then.

This month, the highway administration facilitated a meeting between Glen Cove officials and the New York City Economic Development Corporation that “reaffirmed our belief that in order to make this work, we do need subsidies,” Tenke said. The corporation runs the city’s ferries.

New York City expects to pay a subsidy of $6.60 per passenger once all of its six interborough ferry routes are running by the end of the summer, said the development corporation’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Baez. A New York City ferry ticket costs the same as a subway fare: $2.75.

Tenke said Glen Cove wants the price of a ferry trip to be no more than slightly above the cost of a Long Island Rail Road ticket from Glen Cove, $13.50 one way during peak commuting hours, or $297 a month.

The mayor said a subsidy may only be needed in the early years and could either be phased out or greatly reduced as ridership builds.

“It makes it attractive to get an operator to take the risk to set up and run the service,” Tenke said. “The key to this is to get it up and running.”

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