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Give Glen Cove more time to develop ferry service

Commuters get on a ferry at Glen Cove

Commuters get on a ferry at Glen Cove during temporary service in the summer of 2017. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

A reliable Glen Cove ferry could become a critical part of the region’s public transportation puzzle — and a model for other possible commutes on the region’s waterways.

But it makes no sense to force the start of the ferry service too quickly, especially when the Garvies Point project is still under construction, and parking and navigating the area remain challenging.

So, the Federal Highway Administration should extend its Jan. 1, 2019, deadline for the start of service. The city has $16.6 million in federal grants for building the terminal and dredging Glen Cove Creek, part of the environmental improvements for the area. Glen Cove might have to repay those grants if it doesn’t meet the federal deadline.

But there should be no hold on the efforts of Mayor Timothy Tenke and Glen Cove’s City Council to plan and create a desirable ferry system. City officials have to choose an operator and address scheduling, pricing and logistics. And cost will be critical. Attracting commuters will require a ticket price not too different from a Long Island Rail Road fare, meaning subsidies are needed. The $1 million, two-year subsidy promised by Garvies Point developer RXR Realty can get the city started, but a long-term financing plan is needed.

The city also should consider partnerships with ride-sharing companies, shuttle services and others to help passengers get to and from the ferry both in Glen Cove and at ports in Manhattan.

With a federal extension, and the possibility of the new residents of Garvies Point as a core group of future riders, Glen Cove could be on the way to establishing Nassau County’s first successful ferry system. That could make smoother sailing for all of us.