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North Fork Ferry Company: Raising Ramps To Accommodate Changing Tides

Numerous residents and visitors use the ferry service in Greenport and Shelter Island on a daily basis. (Photo: Eileen Casey)

Faced with the unfortunate reality of addressing climate change and the effects on low and high tides in recent years, particularly during or following storms, an issue has arisen requiring the attention of the North Ferry Company (NFC).

With predicted rising sea levels and high tide marks only increasing each year in Long Island waters, the existing ferry ramps are simply unable to connect and secure the NFC ferries following relatively minor storms. Given that the ferry is only one of two means to vacate Greenport (the other being by road vehicles), as well as being the only link between Greenport and Shelter Island, and tide projections are only slated to increase in the future, NFC is committed to addressing the issue now.

The not-for-profit NFC plans to undertake a construction project in early 2020 in Greenport that will raise the heel of the ramps by 16 inches, and lengthen two ramps thus allowing for easier embarking and disembarking vehicles to use the ferry during both low and high tides. Presently, the project is projected to exceed more than $550,000.

According to Bridg Hunt, General Manager of NFC, who just returned from Maine where a new ferry is being built, "We want to be able to get ferry users on and off the ferries to work or home as expeditiously and smoothly as possible. In addition, emergency services rely on us so we are trying to be as proactive here as possible. The rising tides have been noted over the past few years, but last year (2018) we were forced to suspend our service on two occasions following very minor weather conditions. This interruption to service has usually only occurred during severe or hurricane storm situations."

Most of the project will be handled by Costello Marine Contracting of Greenport according to Hunt. "Strategizing has been very important to formulate a schedule that keeps the amount of construction time to a minimum. Costello Marine has already begun work on the bulkheads as we just received permits from the DEC.

It is our goal to complete what work can be done now without having to close one of our two slips during the season, and beginning January 2020 through the winter we will close one slip and then the other to complete the work as quickly and safely as possible."

Numerous residents and visitors use the ferry service on a daily basis, and Hunt indicated that after a listening session with the public, changes will be made to better accommodate all ferry users, and in particular commuters, who are trying to make connections with both the Hampton Jitney and the LIRR.

"Effective July 1st, the 5:10 a.m. boat will now depart at 5:00 a.m., Monday through Friday to more easily connect to the train, and the 5:40 a.m. boat will now depart at 5:30 a.m., year-round, to more easily connect to the Hampton Jitney. On Saturdays and Sundays the 5:30 a.m. will be the first boat," Hunt advised. These changes will allow commuters to have a bit more time to connect with the 5:25 a.m. LIRR train and the 5:55 a.m. Hampton Jitney.

The South Ferry Co., which operates the Shelter Island Ferry terminal, owned by Shelter Island Heights Property Owner's Corp., is also facing similar issues as a result of rising sea levels.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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