08/06/13 5:00pm

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Captain Jon Westervelt of South Ferry, at the controls during one of 30 round trips he makes in a nine hour shift.

When asked what a typical day working on the South Ferry entails, Captain Jon Westervelt summed it up in just a few words: “We go back and forth. That’s what we do.”

After 35 years on the job, it’s an easy summation for Captain Westervelt, but if you enquire further, you’ll discover his job is so much more than that.

Tuesday morning, with the sun shining but the air crisp, the Reporter went along for the ride at South Ferry. All was calm out on the water, so the approximately five-minute trip from Shelter Island to North Haven was “just another day” for the captain.

He skillfully maneuvered the ferryboat across his pilot-in-training, Liam Schulz, performed routine safety checks and closely observed his mentor. “Once a month, we service the boat, change the oil, and make sure everything — the radars, radios, devices, and man overboard rescue equipment — is all working properly,” the captain was saying.

Down below, two young deck hands loaded cars, trucks and people onto the boat, carefully balancing the vessel. Captain Westervelt is one of three instructor captains who teach newly licensed operators how to safely drive the boats.

What exactly does it take to drive one of these things? “Some instruction. But mostly common sense,” the captain said, with Mr. Schulz nodding in agreement. “It’s nerve-wracking, definitely, but also a rewarding experience.”

It’s drummed into trainees that timing is crucial, especially while docking adjusting constantly on the fly to wind, tides, and speed.

There’s a mandate of 60 hours of driving newly licensed operators must complete before they are able to go it alone, but Captain Westervelt said that everyone he’s trained has had “much more experience” on the boats than the required minimum.

The ferryboat he was driving Tuesday morning was commissioned in 1997 and was South Ferry’s first “big” boat. “The day it arrived, we put it right to work,” the captain recalled. “It was a game changer,” he added, referring to immediately helping alleviate an increase in ferry traffic.

Formerly known as the M/V Southern Cross, it was recommissioned by the company in 2010 to honor the memory and sacrifice made by 1st Lieutenant Joseph Theinert, a Shelter Island native killed on active duty in Afghanistan. Joey worked summers at the South Ferry as a deck hand from 2007 to 2009.

The Lt. Joseph Theinert can hold up to 18 vehicles, compared to the smaller boats that transport about 10. It’s one of three big boats the company operates, in addition to a fourth smaller boat. On busy days, or on days like last week when traffic was higher than usual due to road closures on Route 39 on the South Fork, all four boats are put out, transporting hundreds of people across the narrow channel.

The traffic, though, isn’t close to being the hardest part of the job. “It’s the elements,” explained Captain Westervelt. He takes a stoic approach. “Each winter seems to be getting a little bit longer, but it comes with the job.”

With so many years on the job, the man does have stories. One that he won’t ever forget is an emergency evacuation during Hurricane Sandy. Sandy’s record tides flooded roadways and the water between the ramp and boat deck was too much for an ambulance to navigate. So when an elderly woman had to be taken to Southampton Hospital, a Good Samaritan with a pickup truck, along with Island first responders and Captain Westervelt braved the storm to help safely transport the patient. It was at the height of the hurricane’s fury, but despite winds up to 90 mph and rising water, there was no question what had to be done.

“Getting everyone across safely was the only option,” Captain Westervelt said. “These challenges test your knowledge of the water.” But that day howling winds and record high tides weren’t the biggest dangers. It was all the debris — some of it massive — floating and surging in the wicked swells.

His stoicism is a method he uses approaching the future. “Sandy wasn’t the first hurricane, and it won’t be the last,” he said, not forgetting to add that he couldn’t have brought the woman safely across without the combined efforts of police and fire department personnel, EMTs, and his coworkers.

The Clark family’s connection to the South Ferry Company dates back to 1714. “This is a family-run business,” said President Cliff Clark. His nephew, Bill Clark, is the family historian, having researched everything from family lineage to the details of every boat ever used by the company.

Mr. Clark explained that in the 18th century, the method of crossing was a sailboat. In 1832 Samuel G. Clark introduced the first barge ferry and in the early 1900s Clifford Youngs Clark incorporated the company and brought in motorboat and “double-enders,” similar to today’s boats.

A native of New Jersey but graduate of Shelter Island High School, Captain. Westervelt started working for South Ferry after graduation, when Cliff Clark’s father was still the boss. “So I feel like I’m a part of the family here,” he said,

The captain recalled coming to Shelter Island on a whim, courtesy of his father. A family friend had a house here on the Island and suggested to his father, then a tugboat captain in New York City, that he “should come out here and drive the ferries,” he said. “It’s kind of funny where people end up.”

And so each day, Captain Westervelt and his crew set out to do more than go back and forth, but to safely get people to where they need to be. In one nine-hour shift, they make around 30 round trips. With 15-18 cars on a boat, and the tendency to fill them to capacity especially during the summer, they are always kept busy.

As Captain Westervelt joked, “You do the math.”

05/14/13 10:00am

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Stony Brook earlier this year.

Dear Fellow New Yorker,

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the Governor established the Moreland Commission to investigate utility companies’ storm preparation and response efforts, including the Long Island Power Authority. The Commission found that in addition to LIPA’s failure to perform during the storm, the organization’s structural dysfunction was responsible for poor customer service, high rates for customers, a large debt load, and an insufficient and antiquated infrastructure.

That’s why Governor Cuomo proposed legislation today to transform the utility service on Long Island into one that puts ratepayers first and focuses on ensuring better performance and accountability for customers. The Governor’s proposal privatizes the operations of the utility system, creating a structure that prioritizes customer service and emergency response, reduces the cost of LIPA’s debt, and puts in place real government oversight.

The people of Long Island deserve more value for the rates they pay, which is why the new utility company is seeking to freeze rates for three years. This will be welcome relief for a region still in recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

Click here to read more about the Governor’s detailed proposal for a new Long Island utility company.

Together, we are making government work for the people once again.

Sincerely,

The Office of the Governor

05/14/13 10:00am

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Stony Brook earlier this year.

Dear Fellow New Yorker,

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the Governor established the Moreland Commission to investigate utility companies’ storm preparation and response efforts, including the Long Island Power Authority. The Commission found that in addition to LIPA’s failure to perform during the storm, the organization’s structural dysfunction was responsible for poor customer service, high rates for customers, a large debt load, and an insufficient and antiquated infrastructure.

That’s why Governor Cuomo proposed legislation today to transform the utility service on Long Island into one that puts ratepayers first and focuses on ensuring better performance and accountability for customers. The Governor’s proposal privatizes the operations of the utility system, creating a structure that prioritizes customer service and emergency response, reduces the cost of LIPA’s debt, and puts in place real government oversight.

The people of Long Island deserve more value for the rates they pay, which is why the new utility company is seeking to freeze rates for three years. This will be welcome relief for a region still in recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

Click here to read more about the Governor’s detailed proposal for a new Long Island utility company.

Together, we are making government work for the people once again.

Sincerely,

The Office of the Governor

05/01/13 11:15am

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Shelter Island Town Hall.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, members  discussed an application from Van Wormer International, a German production company with offices in Poughkeepsie, New York and Florida, to film here for several days beginning May 22.

The company wants to use locations in the Heights, Ram Island Drive and use the Hay Beach Parking lot. Councilman Ed Brown suggested forming a working committee of himself, Councilman Peter Reich, Chief Jim Read and Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. to meet later this week to expedite the request. Chief Read said this was the first he’d heard of the application, adding, “I don’t know what the rush is.”

Mr. Brown noted time was short and the company deserved an answer.

The board tuned to its ongoing discussion of its watershed management plan. Last September there was a review of existing conditions, laws and practices. Now the board is looking to prioritize recommendations to improve conditions. With a plan in place and recommendations made, the funding process can begin.

Mr. Card gave a report on the fencing project at Crescent Beach, severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Two bids were received to fix the fence, which runs about 675 feet, with the low bid to complete the project at about $35,000.

Using FEMA funds, the town would be on the hook for only 10 percent or less of the cost.

A discussion ensued on where the money would be found, and where the refunded money would be deposited. Most members and Mr. Card agreed the buildings fund would supply the town’s share and the FEMA refund would go into the general fund.

Chief Read weighed in on where the money would go, and Mr. Brown interrupted him, saying, “Chief, we’re not making a decision today.”

After members decided to look into the matter further, Mr. Brown said, “Just get it approved by Chief Read,” which produced laughter.

The chief came back saying, “You missed my point. If you want to argue about it, I’m willing to do it.”

“Let’s rock,” Mr. Brown said.

“Scolding me is not answering the question,” the chief said.

“Sitting in the back taking shots isn’t either,” Mr. Brown said.

Chief Read said he wasn’t taking shots, just seeking clarification, and the board moved on to other business.

Bids have been received for buying and installing emergency generators in the Justice Court, the police headquarters and Town Hall, and moving the current generator at police headquarters to the American Legion Hall. The cost will be about $113,000 and FEMA will pick up 75 percent of the cost, Mr. Card said.

05/01/13 11:15am

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Shelter Island Town Hall.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, members  discussed an application from Van Wormer International, a German production company with offices in Poughkeepsie, New York and Florida, to film here for several days beginning May 22.

The company wants to use locations in the Heights, Ram Island Drive and use the Hay Beach Parking lot. Councilman Ed Brown suggested forming a working committee of himself, Councilman Peter Reich, Chief Jim Read and Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. to meet later this week to expedite the request. Chief Read said this was the first he’d heard of the application, adding, “I don’t know what the rush is.”

Mr. Brown noted time was short and the company deserved an answer.

The board tuned to its ongoing discussion of its watershed management plan. Last September there was a review of existing conditions, laws and practices. Now the board is looking to prioritize recommendations to improve conditions. With a plan in place and recommendations made, the funding process can begin.

Mr. Card gave a report on the fencing project at Crescent Beach, severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Two bids were received to fix the fence, which runs about 675 feet, with the low bid to complete the project at about $35,000.

Using FEMA funds, the town would be on the hook for only 10 percent or less of the cost.

A discussion ensued on where the money would be found, and where the refunded money would be deposited. Most members and Mr. Card agreed the buildings fund would supply the town’s share and the FEMA refund would go into the general fund.

Chief Read weighed in on where the money would go, and Mr. Brown interrupted him, saying, “Chief, we’re not making a decision today.”

After members decided to look into the matter further, Mr. Brown said, “Just get it approved by Chief Read,” which produced laughter.

The chief came back saying, “You missed my point. If you want to argue about it, I’m willing to do it.”

“Let’s rock,” Mr. Brown said.

“Scolding me is not answering the question,” the chief said.

“Sitting in the back taking shots isn’t either,” Mr. Brown said.

Chief Read said he wasn’t taking shots, just seeking clarification, and the board moved on to other business.

Bids have been received for buying and installing emergency generators in the Justice Court, the police headquarters and Town Hall, and moving the current generator at police headquarters to the American Legion Hall. The cost will be about $113,000 and FEMA will pick up 75 percent of the cost, Mr. Card said.