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Sag Harbor ferry service to begin trial run

A file photo of a New York City

A file photo of a New York City water taxi. Credit: Robert Mecea, 2003

A 53-passenger ferry is expected to begin a 100-day trial run next month, operating seven days a week between Sag Harbor and Greenport -- the first new passenger ferry service on Long Island in decades.

Sag Harbor's village board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to approve the ferry application, and the Greenport Village Board -- which had been waiting to see what Sag Harbor would do -- has scheduled a special meeting Thursday to discuss a similar application.

Unlike Sag Harbor -- which banned all ferries years ago when Connecticut-based Cross-Sound Ferry was looking for a new, direct route to the South Fork for its auto ferries -- Greenport is already a busy transit hub, with the North Ferry running to Shelter Island every few minutes, and both the Long Island Rail Road and county and private bus services stopping near the terminal as well.

Plans call for the ferry to provide seven round-trips a day Mondays to Thursdays, and nine round-trips Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The cost will be $11 one-way and $20 round-trip, and passengers will be able to reserve tickets through the Hampton Jitney office.

Jim Ryan, one of the partners in the ferry service, said it should begin operating around June 19.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," he said. "There's still a lot to do. The next time I'll relax will be in October."

Village opinion in Sag Harbor about the proposed ferry was split at earlier public hearings, with some people saying it would bring in new business while others feared the impact of traffic and the loss of parking -- always hard to find as thousands of people flood into the popular village on sunny summer weekends.

"A lot of people . . . had very good and valid concerns with regard to parking," Ryan said. "That's why we're working with the Hampton Jitney."

His firm, Response Marine, and the Jitney will jointly run the ferry service. Arrangements have been worked out with the Sag Harbor school district to let ferry passengers use a school parking lot away from downtown, and have a shuttle bus bring them to the waterfront. A similar agreement is being negotiated with Greenport school officials, Ryan said.

A one-way ferry ride will take about 40 minutes, and much of the municipal parking in Sag Harbor's business district has a two-hour limit.

The ferry route will go through the channel on the west side of Shelter Island, although wind and weather conditions could occasionally change the route to the east. There are no plans for the ferry to stop at Shelter Island, although Ryan said that option could be explored after the ferry operation is completed later this year.

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