Keeping up with its timeline to get the long-awaited commuter ferry up and running, Glen Cove city officials met with two ferry operators at the terminal on Garvies Point on April 17. The two companies — Hornblower, based in Manhattan, and Harbor Harvest, in Norwalk, Conn. — responded to a request for proposals issued by the city earlier this month.
Mayor Tim Tenke met with representatives of the companies to discuss a possible partnership, and said he hoped that two or three more operators would express interest soon. The deadline for responses to the city’s RFP is May 15.
According to Tenke, the meeting served to introduce Hornblower and Harbor Harvest to the terminal and its facilities, and to discuss the details of the RFP as well as potential responses to a “request for expressed interest” also issued this month. While the RFP focused on establishing ferry service for commuters to and from Manhattan, the RFEI was directed at vendors interested in organizing special events, such as dinner cruises or trips to concert venues.
In searching for an operating partner, Tenke explained, one of the most important factors to consider is whether a company can offer commuters reliable transportation from early in the morning to late at night. While he hopes the ferry could make as many stops as possible, he added, the two most important stops would be at Wall Street and 34th Street in Manhattan.
The city will continue to field responses to its requests until May 15. It plans to select a ferry operator on June 15 and draft a contract over the summer, which will be submitted to the City Council on Sept. 15. If the council approves it, the operator will finalize the details of its operations at the ferry terminal, such as the size and layout of the parking lot and the number of ferries that could be operating or docked at once. The deadline to have the ferry operational — imposed by the Federal Highway Administration when it gave the city a $16.6 million grant for the project— is May 22, 2020.
Adhering to that timeline is important to the city, Tenke said, because their pledge to do so helped city officials persuade the federal government to extend the operational deadline beyond Jan. 1, 2019.
If all goes according to schedule, a two-year pilot program will begin next May, during which the city and the operator will work out the kinks in ferry operations in order to make the service most beneficial for Glen Cove residents. “Over that two-year period we’ll work out all those details,” said Tenke, later adding, “We need to find out what the needs are.”
City Council members Kevin Maccarone and Marsha Silverman both said they were glad to see the ferry project moving forward. Maccarone explained that one of the biggest problems Glen Cove residents face is the difficult commute to Manhattan, with the Long Island Rail Road trip to Pennsylvania Station alone taking roughly 75 minutes. And the ferry needs to be up and running by its deadline, he said, or the city might have to pay back the $16.6 million grant from FHWA.
“At this point,” Maccarone said, “it’s pretty much get it going or we’re going to owe a lot of money.”
Silverman said she believed the ferry could strongly benefit Glen Cove’s commuters, but, she added, “My concern has been that it may not be financially viable in the long term.” She said she hoped the pilot program would ease that concern by proving that the ferry can be fiscally sound.
The price of a ride has yet to be addressed. Tenke said he thought a round-trip ticket would cost about $45, and that there would be discounts for weekly or monthly users. He explained that there are many things to account for when determining the ticket price that have not been worked out, such as how many people use the ferry and the subsidies the city can receive from RXR, the realty company that is developing Garvies Point, where the ferry terminal is located.