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Letter: Criticizing Glen Cove Ferry

Please raise your hand if you think that the ferry is being built by a developer at no cost to Glen Cove taxpayers. If you raised your hand, you’d be wrong. It’s being built by the City of Glen Cove. When the project was announced in September, 2007, Cara Longworth, then the executive director of the Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency, said (see the Media section on the Ferry link on the City’s website) the project was expected to cost $16.9 million, that the federal government will finance most of it with some matching grants from the city “but we hope to cover any outlays with rent” from a restaurant planned for the second floor of the terminal. Ms. Longworth’s prediction about restaurant rent covering the city’s outlays is laughable on its face. You and I both know that the taxpayers are going to get whacked. How much will our taxes have to absorb? We don’t know because Mayor Suozzi hasn’t told us. Oh, did I mention the $85,000 per year in maintenance costs to be borne by the City (pg 4-27 of the Final Design Report on the same Ferry link)? Who are we building this ferry for?

According to the September, 2007 announcement “about 250 commuters are expected to ride it initially.” The Final Design Report shows that the Ridership Demand Analysis report (Appendix C) was done in July, 2008. Tell me, can you think of anything that has happened since July, 2008? How about Lehman Brothers declaring bankruptcy in September, 2008 and the bottom falling out of the economy and thousands losing their jobs? Now that the Waterfront project is 65 percent rentals, do you think that these renters are going to use an expensive ferry? Do you know anyone who works in Manhattan who’s interested in renting in Glen Cove? When I was a renter, I lived in an apartment in Flushing and took the #7 Subway to work. I’ve been an LIRR commuter into Manhattan for 34 years. The Ferry didn’t work when the economy was booming and it won’t work now. I pay $254 per month for my LIRR ticket. According to page 3-18 of the Final Design Report, a Ferry ticket is assumed to be $25 one-way (the LIRR peak one-way is $11.50). With 20 workdays per month and two trips each day, that comes to $1,000 per month. If the $1,000 is discounted by the same percentage as the LIRR, the monthly ferry ticket would be $552 or over TWICE the cost of the LIRR. Who are the highrollers in this economy who are going to pay that kind of money when you can take the LIRR or even the Long Island Transit bus from St. Patrick’s parking lot for $249 per month. LIRR trains run seven days a week, and overall the service is good. Depending on my ultimate destination, I can take the train to Penn Station, Brooklyn or Hunters Point. Most LIRR commuters work in Midtown and go to Penn Station. The Ferry dropoff for Midtown would be on the East River at 34th Street near the heliport. At that location there are no subway connections and it would be like being dropped in the desert. The Ferry would have few trips compared to the LIRR so if you stayed late at work or went out to dinner you’d end up on-you guessed it – the good old LIRR but your car will be down at the Waterfront. There is an interesting tidbit on page 2-55 of the Final Design Report; “In severe winters, ice has been known to close navigation in Glen Cove Creek for periods up to six weeks in January and February” so “planning must anticipate lengthy interruptions of ferry service.” When that happens once again you’ll be riding the LIRR. No LIRR commuter I know plans to ride the expensive and inconvenient Ferry yet when I read press releases about the Ferry, I wonder why no one has asked us. The Mayor said he received a number of expressions of interest from potential ferry operators but he won’t release the letters so we can all read them. Could it be because these operators know that the proposed ferry service for only a few hundred people isn’t viable without a hefty subsidy or financial guarantee from Glen Cove taxpayers? Let’s not continue along this route of planned failure. Unless and until we have the Waterfront built and have a contractually committed ferry operator who doesn’t require a taxpayer subsidy, we shouldn’t build Phase II, the ferry terminal building, and waste even more of the taxpayers’ money.

Joseph Renaghan