Featured Story

North Ferry gets rate hike; South Ferry pending

Installation of new ramps at South Ferry between 2015 and 2017 are higher than original ramps by 12 inches.

South Ferry is submitting a request to the Suffolk County Legislature for fare raises it hopes will be approved by early summer.

North Ferry has just received word that the Suffolk County Legislature approved its fare hike request.

South Ferry is seeking increases to offset the cost of adding a new boat to its fleet and for infrastructure changes. Both companies have said higher tides require adjustments to ramps to load and unload boats in heavy weather.
North Ferry’s new 130-foot boat is about to join the fleet.

The new South Ferry boat — expected by year’s end — will enable the Captain Bill Clark, the oldest boat in the fleet, to become a backup, according to South Ferry officials.

If the South Ferry fare hike is approved, residents would buy a 10-round trip car pass for $65 instead of the $60 they have been paying. But those books could be used for 20 one-way trips, meaning residents wouldn’t have to be returning the same day to use one of those tickets. It’s expected to provide more flexibility, particularly for second homeowners who may come out on a Friday but not leave until Sunday or Monday, according to Chief Operating Officer Nicholas Morehead.

Commuter passes that were $25 for five days would increase to $27 while the six-day commuter pass would increase from $30 to $33. Cars and four-wheel trucks under 22 feet would see their fares go from $14 to $15 for a one-way trip and from $17 to $20 for a round trip.

As for the non-residents, a 10 trip one-way booklet that has cost $80 would cost $90, while a 10 round-trip book would cost $120, up from $98.

The new North Ferry boat will replace the smaller Islander, which carries 12 to 13 vehicles instead of the 25 the larger boat will handle. North Ferry’s rate hike, outlined by General Manager Bridg Hunt at an April Town Board meeting, would, if approved, cost cash-paying customers $1 more one way and $2 more round trip. Passenger fares on all trips would remain the same.

For residents, there would be a 30 cents increase for each round trip and 20 cents for one way.
Island and non-resident commuters would pay $2 more each week.

South Ferry’s proposal was submitted to the Suffolk County Legislature last week with dates to be set for public hearings. It’s expected that those could occur in Hauppauge on June 14 at 2 p.m. and then at 6:30 p.m. June 18 in Riverhead. The full legislature could vote to approve the hikes following the June 18 hearing.

If passage of the rates happens that day, County Executive Steve Bellone would have two weeks to sign or veto the rate hike or to take no action, in which case the hikes would go into effect without his action.

A hearing on Shelter Island before the Town Board is being scheduled and that date will be made public as soon as it’s set.

North Ferry has had one Suffolk County Legislature hearing in Riverhead with another upcoming in Hauppauge.

A full list of rate change requests for South Ferry appears on the company’s website at southferry.com.

South Ferry has spent more than $4 million since 2012, according to company President Cliff Clark and Mr. Morehead, between paying down its fleet mortgage debt and making infrastructure changes.

Superstorm Sandy took its toll on South Ferry seven years ago. Because of its location, the company was not eligible for flood insurance and Mr. Morehead estimated payment of $147,460 to deal with multiple problems the storm left in its wake.

Other expenses have been the replacement of vehicle ramps with more durable materials, which cost $450,000. Another $180,000 was spent on new engines — two purchased new and two that were rebuilt by the in-house company crew.

Both ferry services — although independently owned — use the same engines so they can share parts with one another should a need arise.

In 2015, South Ferry purchased a 38-kilowatt generator, propane tank, new electrical panel and a small shed to house the generator along with a slab on which the propane tank sits since the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation required that underground tanks had to be removed.

Looking ahead, South Ferry will need to expand its east loading dock to accommodate the 101-foot Southern Cross when it joins the fleet. That’s expected to cost $280,000. Improvements to bulkheads in the next several years are expected to cost $430,000.

A new centralized maintenance building will take the place of an old cow barn in use for many years and there’s the issue of affordable housing for South Ferry crew members. One structure on the property has provided housing for a ferry captain who, thanks to paying a low rent, has been able to accumulate money to build a new house.

But the structure in which he’s been living now needs major renovations. In addition, the company is looking ahead to try to provide more affordable housing for crew members.