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Letter: High Speed Ferry For Long Island

Recently, the City of New York did an extensive study on the implementation of ferry services for the metropolitan area. Many of the proposed routes pass by Hempstead Harbor. It has occurred to several government agencies, Long Island would benefit from a ferry service to New York City.

In my town, approximately 42,000 daily passengers take the Port Washington Railroad line (LIRR), and over 100,000 cars pass by driving into New York on the Long Island Expressway. Both the LIE and the LIRR are considered amongst the worst commuter routes in the country, costing hundreds of thousands of lost hours sitting in traffic or delays every year. This year New York will spend $7 billion dollars on roadwork and $3.1 billion dollars on the Long Island Rail Road maintenance. Although these repairs are needed, none of this money will bring long-term, sustainable jobs nor will it help in getting people to where they want to go any faster. In fact, count on long delays this spring, summer and fall.

I have proposed to the Town of North Hempstead a viable transportation alternative that answers so many issues we face: a high speed ferry service departing from Hempstead Harbor Park to New York City. The location is perfect with its easy, non-intrusive access on Shore Road, only 3.5 miles from the Long Island Expressway. Hempstead Harbor Park offers ample parking and deep-water piers while not disturbing beachgoers who typically visit the park on weekends. A ferry service here would offer a quick alternative to New York in 20 minutes. In maintaining the Bar Beach/Hempstead Harbor Park over the past 5 years, North Hempstead residents have lost almost millions of dollars as it takes in $1 for every $5 it spends and this is unsustainable. A ferry service would take in fees on parking and docking which could add several million a year to the town, something the town desperately needs to consider.

Our neighbors in Glen Cove have raised over $20 million in government funding to build a ferry service to New York. However, Glen Cove must first build road access, parking and bulkheads, i.e., all the parts we already have in Hempstead Harbor Beach. With the go-ahead, we could implement a ferry service within weeks. Keep in mind that Glen Cove has one-eighth the commuters of North Hempstead, meaning we would be eligible for substantially greater funds through various government organizations.

The reasons for developing are simple: With a high speed ferry, time to New York would be cut to 15 minutes versus the LIRR time of 50-plus minutes. For Wall Street the time would be 22 minutes versus one hour and 20 minutes. The other reasons are getting cars off the road, lowering our transit costs through competition, creating new jobs, increasing the property value of our community, receiving parking and docking revenue for the town while enhancing the quality of life for all of us who pay the highest taxes in the country. Perhaps the most important reason is we can do this for a fraction of the cost it takes to run and maintain our current transportation access to New York.

I have written to Town of North Hempstead Supervisor, Jon Kaiman, giving him a detailed study on why this makes sense and I urge all who are interested in making a ferry service a reality to call his office and persuade him to do what is best for North Hempstead.

James Warwick
James Warwick is a resident of Port Washington, former CEO of the Internet Press Association, intelligent transportation systems developer, and former freelance editor for Newsday.