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Siller goes to bat for ferry companies: Asks for financial aid from governments

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has hit the Shelter Island ferry companies hard.

So hard, that Supervisor Gerry Siller has called on the state and federal governments to come to the financial aid of the  North and South ferries.

In a statement, Mr. Siller said that, due to the pandemic, “All ridership is significantly down, and the full fares that generally subsidize the resident and commuter discounts have all but dried up. Although ferry business may appear to have rebounded, both ferry companies have been operating at a loss since April, and neither ferry company is operating at full capacity. This is the time of year that the ferries must generate enough revenue to carry them through the lean winter season. At current revenue levels, the ferry businesses are unsustainable.”

Mr. Siller added that all public transportation systems have suffered since the deadly pandemic struck the region in March, and that, “Publicly-owned ferry companies and mass transit carriers annually receive federal aid. However, privately-owned ferry companies have not been eligible for emergency grants from the Department of Transportation.”

He emphasized the ferries provide a “critical function” as the only way of transportation to and from the Island, and are the links to emergency services off-Island.

In a letter to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, and copied to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and all of the Island’s county and state representatives, Mr. Siller  wrote: “I implore you to consider the North and South Ferry companies for federal, New York State or local funding to keep public transportation viable. Both companies also pay a metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax (MCTMT) annually totaling approximately $50,000 in aggregate. Deferring or forgiving these funds would also be appreciated.”