The City of Glen Cove has granted Eastern Star Cruises, a yacht charter company based out of Huntington, a license to use the ferry terminal at Garvies Point to host special ferry events. The agreement states that the company’s license will last for one year, with three one-year options to renew the agreement moving forward.
Mayor Tim Tenke shared the details of the agreement at a City Council meeting on May 14. The yachts chartered by Eastern Star will be used exclusively for special events such as dinner cruises and will dock in front of the ferry terminal. They will not be used as consistent commuter ferries that would bring passengers to and from Manhattan on a regular basis. The deal struck between the city and Eastern Star will not go toward the $16.6 million granted to Glen Cove by the Federal Highway Administration. If the city does not have a commuter ferry operational by the FHWA-mandated deadline of May 22, 2020, taxpayers will be responsible for paying back the $16.6 million.
Eastern Star was the only entity to respond to the city’s request for expressed interest, which they sent out alongside requests for proposal in April. While the RFPs are meant to be filled by companies that would provide commuter ferry services from Glen Cove to Manhattan and back, the RFEI was designed specifically for companies that would cater to special cruise events.
The city has already met with the multiple companies that responded to the RFPs, and extended the deadline for further responses to May 20, from the initial May 15 deadline. The city’s deadline for a decision on a partner is June 15.
Tenke said that he hopes Eastern Star’s work out of the ferry terminal can also serve as a sort of advertisement for commuter operators to see what they could accomplish in Glen Cove. The company’s first dinner cruise is scheduled to set sail on Memorial Day.
To further the city’s pursuit in finding an optimal partner for a commuter ferry, Tenke said he has elected to take $120,000 out of the $1 million subsidy provided by RXR — the real estate developer operating at Garvies Point — to put toward the hiring of an advisor, Shea Thorvaldsen of TMS Waterfront. When this was announced at the meeting, councilmen Nicholas DiLeo and Kevin Maccarone both said they were hesitant in agreeing with the resolution. They said they would prefer to explore other avenues of hiring a consultant rather than taking money from the RXR subsidy.
“The most important thing right now is to get a ferry operator down there that’s willing to start this service,” Tenke said, “and in order to do that, we thought . . . having a consultant with us was the right way to go.”
DiLeo and Maccarone both voted “no” on drawing the money from the subsidy. All of the other members on the City Council and Tenke voted to pass it.
“My opposition isn’t necessarily to not pay the consultant $120,000,” DiLeo said after the meeting, “but if there’s a way that we can avoid taking that $120,000 out of our $1 million subsidy, I’d rather see that happen than us diminish that million dollars that we have to use once our ferry is up and running.”
Maccarone said that incoming ferry operators might base some of their willingness to operate in Glen Cove on that $1 million subsidy and worries that removing $120,000 could be cause for reluctance among some of the operators. “If we don’t have a subsidy and [ferry ticket] prices are going to be $45 [or] $50, it’s not feasible,” he said. “In order to keep it feasible, we need to have that money available.”
“In order for the subsidy to be worth anything, you have to have a ferry service,” Tenke said. “We as a city do not have the expertise on how to go about running or acquiring a ferry service. That’s why we hire an expert.”
Tenke also emphasized that the presence of Eastern Star will not affect the establishment or operation of a commuter ferry. A commuter ferry would take priority over pleasure cruises and a contract with Eastern Star can be terminated within 60 days of its signing if the city determines it interferes with the commuter ferry.