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Fire Island Ferries: 1 a.m. service cut due to ‘undesirables’

A ferry serving Ocean Beach, Fire Island, is

A ferry serving Ocean Beach, Fire Island, is seen in 2009. The 1 a.m. ferry out of Ocean Beach has been discontinued and water taxi services will be restricted, according to a letter sent Wednesday, May 31, 2017, to village trustees by the mayor and president of Fire Island Ferries. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

In an effort to handle what the Fire Island Ferries company called “undesirables with no morals,” the company has discontinued its 1 a.m. weekend ferry out of Ocean Beach and water taxi services will be restricted, officials said.

A letter sent Wednesday to village trustees from Mayor James S. Mallott and Fire Island Ferries president Tim Mooney says the decisions were made following a “lengthy meeting” they had with each other on Monday. The changes — on the cusp of the busy summer season — are effective immediately.

In a Facebook post, the ferry company said it approached village officials with the plan to discontinue the ferry because continuing to operate it “is being done so with enormous risk.”

“The 1 a.m. ferry has now morphed into a 1 a.m. of undesirables with no morals,” the company said in the post.

Fire Island Ferries general manager Dave Anderson said in a phone interview that, over the years, intoxicated late-night summer ferry passengers have become “more aggressive.”

He said the late-night crowd was especially prone to creating problems after leaving bars and heading home on the night ferries. “You’re taking these people in a very small confined space on the ferry, and we can’t kick them off,” Anderson said. “Problems break out on the boat and we have to deal with it.”

“We sat back after this Memorial Day weekend and realized we’re reaching a point where we’re putting our crew members in jeopardy,” he added.

Efforts to reach Mallott were unsuccessful yesterday.

The last boat to leave Bay Shore on Friday evenings will be at 10:30 p.m. and the final boat to depart Ocean Beach on Friday evenings will be at 11:15 p.m., according to Mallott’s letter. The last boat to leave Bay Shore on Saturday evenings will be the 10:15 p.m. ferry and the final departing boat from Ocean Beach on Saturday evenings will be the 11 p.m. ferry.

The letter adds that water taxi services will be restricted, with the final boat arriving at 11 p.m., and the last water taxi leaving Ocean Beach at midnight.

Suffolk County police plan to adjust to the new schedule as well. “We will be closely monitoring the new flow of passengers and we will deploy our assets appropriately,” Assistant Police Commissioner Justin Meyers said in a statement.

One Ocean Beach bartender said he worried about the schedule change affecting the incomes of the village’s seasonal staff. “They could have planned to work at the Nautical Mile or out in the Hamptons for the summer. But they came out here to work. And now that’s being taken from them without any warning,” said Mark Woletsky, 29, who works at Castaway Bar & Grill.

But a Lonelyville resident said she was pleased at the prospect of a tamer nightlife.

“People want to preserve the tranquility of Fire Island,” said Karen Weiss, 62, who regularly takes the Fire Island Ferry. “To have that kind of rowdiness is contrary to the philosophy of Fire Island.”

Anderson said the company will monitor incoming passenger loads to determine whether extra ferries will be needed for the last boat service on weekends.

“That’s a situational decision. That will all be dependent on how the day goes,” Anderson said. “It depends on the crowd going over.”

Anderson acknowledged that the schedule change will not necessarily change visitor behavior. “It’s not going to change the behavior at all,” but moves the problems to a “more manageable part of the day.”

“We know there are going to be hiccups and growing pains with this. We’re prepared for this,” he added. “It is clear this was a collective decision for not only Fire Island Ferries but also the mayor of Ocean Beach and the police department.”

With Christopher Cameron

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