A 53-passenger sea shuttle to operate between Mitchell Park in Greenport and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor is being considered by both villages and Suffolk County. The concept of ferry service between the forks is nothing new, but the players are, and there is a new twist. Jim Ryan, the principal of Response Marine of Mattituck, has joined forces with Geoffrey Lynch, president of Hampton Jitney of Southampton, for a pilot program that they hope to start on Memorial Day weekend. It would include ground shuttle service to take passengers to the ferry as walk-ons.
At Tuesday evening’s Sag Harbor Village Board meeting, Mayor Brian Gilbride said the board would review the submitted paperwork, collect comments, including those from Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the village attorney, and present questions and concerns at the next meeting, which is on March 13. The public will be able to weigh in then, too.
Complying with the village code will be one hurdle the companies need to jump, according to Tim Oliver, a board member. “A ferry is a forbidden use,” he told the applicants. “You would have to go through that process.” Approval would also be required from the county and the Village of Greenport.
Mr. Lynch said the shuttle service, potentially called the Water Jitney, would start on a trial basis with a limited schedule that would increase in frequency throughout the summer to every 45 minutes. The vessel would dock at a Greenport shipyard before and after its scheduled hours, which, according to the proposal, would begin at 7 a.m. and end at 8:45 p.m., or 11:45 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The proposed fares for the climate-controlled vessel with a topside viewing deck would be $11 one way and $20 round- trip.
It would initially be a single-vessel operation. The boat under consideration is available for lease from May to September from New York Water Taxi. Mr. Lynch said yesterday that there is only a short window in which the boat will be available.
Clifford Clark, owner of the South Ferry Company, which operates between Shelter Island and North Haven, had proposed a similar concept several years ago and was included in the discussion. He gave his blessing, according to Mr. Ryan, and the door has been left open for his further involvement.
Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch said they had also met with Bridgford Hunt of the North Ferry, based in Shelter Island Heights and serving Greenport, to plan for the backup use of a boat.
Mr. Lynch said it remains to be seen if daily commuters and locals would use the service or if it would be used primarily by seasonal tourists.
Recommendations from the harbor committee, though not unanimous, were drafted Monday evening and described by Bruce Tait, the committee chairman, at Tuesday’s board meeting. Concerns included what the financial gain would be, what expenses would be generated, the effect on traditional uses of the wharf, such as fishing, the structural support required to handle increased traffic and parking, and a worry that the wharf isn’t pedestrian-friendly.
“If these concerns can be addressed,” Mr. Tait said, “the village should give it serious thought.”
Not every committee member was so concerned. “We decided last year it was a good idea,” one of them, Tom Halton, said, “now it includes a partnering with Hampton Jitney to alleviate parking issues. It takes cars off the road. . . . I don’t think we can lose anything on it.”
Jon Christopher, another harbor committee member, added that if the Bay Street Theatre were to leave Sag Harbor, the village’s restaurants would lose evening business, which the shuttle could in part replace.
A specific place for the boat to dock was not settled on, although Bob Bori, the village harbormaster, said the north end of Long Wharf would be fitting, after a few repairs, because of its size and stable platform. He said the three-hour parking limit on the wharf would allow people to park and go to the North Fork for lunch.
Mr. Tait said he thinks the county, the present owner of Long Wharf, would look favorably on the ferry service because legislators are actively seeking ways to generate more income from the property.
Mr. Ryan said he sees the proposal “as a viable transportation component for the East End.” The addition of a ground shuttle to a satellite lot and neighboring villages and hamlets, in his opinion, would decrease automobile traffic and increase business for local retailers.
Mr. Lynch called the venture a good fit and the service a viable one for transit on the East End, which he described as “two masses separated by a body of water.” The Hampton Jitney resources to be applied include a call-and-reservation center and fare collection, he said. The trial ground shuttle would run a triangular route between Sag Harbor, East Hampton, and Bridgehampton.
“We are getting behind this with operational support, funds, and a marketing budget to promote this thing to see if we can get it off the ground,” Mr. Lynch said.