Residents of Glen Cove and surrounding municipalities were in and out of the Metropolitan on Monday, July 30, both for a look at the proposed Glen Cove Ferry Terminal and Boat Basin and for a public hearing with a presentation and a chance for public input.
Kevin Williams, project manager, describes the proposed ferry terminal and boat basin project to Marguerite and the Hon. Joseph Suozzi.
While physically located at the waterfront, the ferry terminal is in no way connected to the Glen Isle development, but a project of the City of Glen Cove.
After an extensive RFP (Request for Proposals) in 2004, the Urbitran Group was selected by the city to design and construct the terminal. Urbitran is known for providing comprehensive engineering, architectural and planning services to a wide range of private and public sector clients. The company serves clients nationwide and has a regional office in Glen Cove.
The foremost purpose of this inaugural open meeting was to report on an environmental review of the plans for the terminal and boat basin and show studies that indicate adequate demand for a ferry. While some very specific items were included, as were questions, the project is far from done. As of now, the timeline of the project states that the final design review is slated to run from October of 2007 through May of 2008; construction is due to begin in the summer of 2008, anticipated temporary facility opening is the fall of 2009 and final construction, with all projects complete, is planned for in 2012.
Displays of renderings and facts filled one room, and people milled around to study and discuss them, both among each other and with representatives from the City of Glen Cove and from Urbitran. At 7:30 p.m., the public hearing and presentation commenced, with Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi making introductions and giving the public a bit of history, including the efforts of Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton and Congressman Peter King in obtaining funding, and the fact that the project is a New York State DOT-funded project. He added that the project needs to be sustainable, the word most used by all speakers during the evening, conform to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building regulations, and incorporate green fuels in the operating ferries.
Before turning the meeting over to Urbitran, Mayor Suozzi reminded the public that "We are here to hear." Mac Ismail, COO and president of Urbitran, served as moderator for the evening. Mr. Ismail told attendees that all who wished to speak would be heard provided they filled out a card and he stated that anyone with a comment and/or opinion who did not care to speak could fill out a comment form that evening, visit www.glencoveferry.org and send an email, or mail comments to Cara Longworth, Executive Director of the Glen Cove IDA, Glen Cove City Hall, 9 Glen Street, Glen Cove, NY 11542. The city will be accepting comment until Aug. 30. Kevin Williams, Urbitran vice president of urban planning and landscape architecture, as well as project manager for the ferry terminal and boat basin, then took the podium. On the topic of the physical terminal itself, Mr. Williams said the terminal as proposed will encompass approximately 7,500 square feet and not be just "a place to buy a ticket and wait for the ferry." Plans are to create an "iconic" building that can be used for public events, perhaps incorporating a restaurant on the second tier, and serve as apiece of splendid city-owned property, with magnificent waterfront views. In speaking with Ms. Longworth after the meeting, this reporter found her to be enthusiastic about the prospect of the building. "It is being designed as an integral part of the waterfront with plenty of open space, public bathrooms, an extended esplanade and plenty of parking, all with fabulous water views," she said. While the hope is that ferry commuters will eventually fill the parking lot on workdays, Ms. Longworth pointed out that on weekends, there will be more than adequate parking for the public that just wants to come and enjoy one of Glen Cove's most beautiful natural assets. "Even if you never use the ferry, the building will be a beautiful place to have dinner overlooking the water," she said.
At the presentation, Mr. Williams went on to say that a preliminary study was performed to evaluate anticipated ferry use. The study expects demand to grow from approximately 250 riders to approximately 400 as the waterfront area develops and the service attracts riders as word spreads as to its quality and convenience. The need for a ferry service has been established by former ferry usage, continued congestion on the Long Island Expressway and competitive travel time compared with the Long Island Rail Road. The study estimates travel time to lower Manhattan (Pier 11) as being 46 minutes, with travel to East 34th Street being 41 minutes. Other anticipated destinations being considered are airports and both Shea and Yankee Stadiums.
The proposed cost of the entire project stands at approximately $15 million, but as yet, the amount which will be funded by grants has not been established.
As expected, the public comments section of the meeting included questions and remarks as diverse as the population itself. Questions were entertained, but not answered. All were recorded and will be made part of the proceedings' record.
Gabor Karsai, who said he was speaking as a private citizen and not as president of the Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce, said he was very enthusiastic about the project, but was concerned with the city's past "bad track record" with ferries. He also inquired as to whether the city is counting on the proposed residential component of the waterfront for part of its ridership. Paul Meli asked if the demand for service was figured in with the possibility of the Oyster Bay line of the Long Island Rail Road being closed, something the LIRR has said will not happen.
Many other residents expressed concerns about the prospect of the plan failing, or of a prohibitive price of a ticket, which has yet to be established and is dependent on negotiations with ferry operators.
Carol Pole-Basse, both a boater and commuter, expressed concern for the negative impact the project could have on the inhabitants of Hempstead Harbor itself, both birds and water creatures, not just from pollution from the ferry, but from cars as well.
Reggie Spinello, Republican candidate for mayor, commented that while "We all want to embrace this project, my concern is that it may be too large in scope. The devil is in the details," he said. He questioned why the city believes this will work now, when it has failed before, adding that in reading the Urbitran report, it seemed to him that the company had trouble justifying the number of prospective commuters. Referencing the Glen Isle proposed development, Mr. Spinello remarked that the developers are anticipating renting to many empty-nesters, and that he doesn't see them as commuting to Manhattan. He also questioned the idea that residents of places such as Port Washington would "want to drive to Glen Cove in the dead of winter to take the ferry to Manhattan when the train is just down the road from them."
Independent mayoral candidate Robert Benazzi said he is happy to see the city moving ahead and that he hopes "this is an honest push to start development of the waterfront because the time has come" and has not just been brought to the public eye because it is election season. He also complimented the meeting held by Glen Isle last week for IDA/CDA members, as he believes that coordination between the ferry project and the waterfront development is essential. "The development will provide the ferry with the commuter mass that is necessary for it to succeed and the ferry will provide the development with alternative means of transport, " said Mr. Benazzi.
He also said he was impressed by the thoughtful, informative and well-organized meeting, and encouraged by its openness. "I hope the process will stay this open so that citizens can monitor the progress. I hope all ideas will be put on the table and vetted, so that a decision can be reached which is palatable to all involved," Mr. Benazzi said. "This is the first step in a long process and it is important to recognize that it needs to be articulated and massaged."
Mayor Suozzi, Democratic and Glen Cove Voters Party candidate for mayor, was at the Metropolitan for the open house and presentation, and said he heard much positive feedback. He said he was very happy with the idea of "working from the bottom up" with a commuter ferry and anticipates a good amount of state and federal funds for the project. He added he was pleased to be working with Urbitran on the project, as the group is very well established and has great experience with such projects as this one.
The meeting, which was due to end at 9:30 p.m., was extended until 10, as the presentation took longer than anticipated. However, soon after 9 p.m., everyone who had submitted a card requesting to speak had had his or her turn at the microphone, and the meeting ended.
The next step will be for the city to seek an RFP from ferry operators. Plans are to accept proposals from a number of operators, as opposed to giving just one company exclusivity of the service; the more operators, the more alternatives the city can offer to riders. The City of Glen Cove will determine guidelines and restrictions, requests and requirements that must be provided by ferry operators to be considered for the contract.
For updates and further information, continue to visit www.glencoveferry.org.