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Montauk Ferry Battle Gets Day In Court

Originally Posted: January 28, 2009

Aaron Boyd

  |   6 Comments · Print Article

A lawsuit filed by Francarl Realty and the Viking Fleet in Montauk against the Town of East Hampton in 2005 seeks to reverse a local law that bans vehicle and fast ferries from operating out of Montauk. The case will be heard in Central Islip on Feb. 2. Image courtesy of the Viking Fleet

Montauk - The legal battle between the Town of East Hampton and Francarl Realty, owners of the Montauk terminal from which the passenger ferries of the Viking Fleet arrive and depart, rages on as the two parties debate the merits of making high-speed and vehicle transportation ferries available on the South Fork's eastern-most departure point.

The federal lawsuit brought by Francarl Realty and the Viking Fleet challenges East Hampton local law 40, established in 1997, which prohibits car ferries and fast ferries from operating out of Montauk Harbor. The Montauk ferry company filed suit against the town in 2005, though a large portion of the suit was dismissed according to attorney Richard Cahn, who is representing the town in the upcoming hearing in Central Islip on Monday, Feb. 2.

An appellate court found that there should be a hearing on whether the local benefit of the law outweighs any impact to interstate commerce that may result from the ban, primarily pertaining to fast ferries.

High speed ferries, such as the one pictured above heading for Block
Island, have not been as beneficial to the North Fork as the vehicle ferries,
according to Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. Fast ferries and vehicle
ferries are both currently restricted from docking in East Hampton by town law.

While conventional ferries operate out of Montauk, servicing Block Island, New London and Martha's Vineyard, the town maintains that fast ferries would attract "considerably more traffic," Cahn explained, and if allowed would overwhelm the hamlet's already strained infrastructure.

The law prohibits vehicle ferries or "fast" walk-on ferries from docking anywhere within the Town of East Hampton and is "absolutely needed," Cahn contended, citing the swell in congestion that resulted in Southold when high-speed ferries began operating out of Orient Point in 1994.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell claims the fast ferry "has presented some substantial problems" for the North Fork. "The issue is intensity of use," Russell explained, maintaining that while the vehicle ferry (in operation since the turn of the last century) has been a boom to both sides of Long Island Sound, the fast ferry has been detrimental to the town's infrastructure. "It's not traffic that's beneficial to the town," Russell contended, "Passenger ferries are generally bringing commuters to points north," such as Connecticut's casinos, Providence or Boston, leaving their vehicles behind to clutter the narrow entrance to Orient Point.

While the speed ferries can cut 20 to 30 minutes off the commute in either direction, the resultant surge in travelers moving through the once sleepy hamlet of Orient Point has been too high a price to pay according to Russell. "When you live on the East End of Long Island you don't have a lot of options," he reasoned, "I'm willing to sacrifice a faster commute to restore that hamlet to what it once was."

The previous Southold supervisor included the town in Francarl Realty's litigation against East Hampton in 2005, hoping that an additional fast ferry to Montauk would lighten the load on the North Fork, however upon entering office Russell withdrew the town's support. "It's our fight to fight, it's not my place to take them [East Hampton] to court," he claimed, adding that Southold was currently in pending litigation with Cross Sound Ferry to reduce traffic.

According to Cahn, Francarl Realty and the Viking Fleet claim that they have the right to upgrade their transportation business under federal law, however, as of Wednesday, Jan. 28, representatives of the corporations have declined to comment on the matter at this time.

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Guest (nofo guy) from southold says::
Apparently North Sea Citizen has never driven on the north roads during spring, summer and or fall. The ferry traffic along with tourists crowd our roads too. If your South Fork brethren didn't travel through our North Fork, it would be quieter for us. Also the South Fork does have backroads that I travel whenever I have to travel on the South Fork...
Feb 13, 2009 12:00 am

Guest (North Sea Citizen) from North Sea says::
I travel on the Corss Sound a few times a year and its fun. It would take me just as long to drive to Montauk for a longer ferry trip. I would rather go to Orient Pt. Also the South Fork doesnt need another ounce of traffic. I can just see a boatload of Connecticut and Mass plates creating even more gridlock. This is a service that is unneccessary and will harm the east end further. While I understand the SOuthold Supervisors comments, but the North Fork has less traffic than the South Fork and they have the bypass road we no one ever thought of down here.
Feb 3, 2009 7:09 am

Guest (jones) from montauk says::
as a life long resident of Montauk and as "local" as anyone out here, I would welcome the ferry with open arms, hell, I'd go down and help tie it to the dock and lower the bridge to allow the ferry to exist. Anyone who has an economic interest should be for this. It would help the shoulder months, i.e. November, April, March, etc. Most traffic would come from Southampton out. Folks from the West would still use the Greenport ferry, thereby reducing traffic in the Hamptons. Why are the self-appointed powers-to-be so anti-everything. Because most are transplants who have no economic interest in the town. They are not trying to raise families. They are not involved in civic groups, i.e. Fire Dep't., that enhance the community spirit. They have their little anti-everything groups...puhlease....Unfortunately, those with the loudest mouths are the ones not working and supporting the community. They are sitting in their retirement homes up on the hill or down on the Lake deciding how the future of Montauk will be. As a local, chew on this----develop the Harbor and downtown more. Leave residential zoning the same. We need and depend on tourism. A ferry would be such an asset to this town. As for it being a drive thru town, a) if people are headed elsewhere, I am sure they would still stop and drop some coin in this Town and b) many would make montauk a destination. People need to wake up and embrace anything that helps enhance Montauk's economic base.
Feb 3, 2009 12:00 am

Guest (NoWake) from Montauk, NY says::
I love the quaintness of Montauk, but seriously, the summers are what make or break business on the End. What else does Montauk have going for it at present if not tourism. Felony fishing has put Fishermen out of business. Accept the fact that congestion and traffic are what your neighbors are counting on so they can keep their homes and put food on the table. Embrace the Ferries fast or slow. Reverse the law and when times and the economy improve you can reverse it again. I don't love the crowds, lack of parking and rude visitors but they do bring money. I'd rather all that than a ghost town with aging For Rent signs, Foreclosure Notices stapled to doors and a flourishing drug trade.
Feb 2, 2009 1:56 pm

Guest (eastender) from southampton says::
You have enough traffic already....maybe if there was a way out some of the traffic would be alleviated. ferry traffic hasn't reuined greenport, or newport, or block island, or nantucket or the vineyard. It only makes sense to give people options...especially in this economy
Feb 2, 2009 11:39 am

Guest (jorene23) from Montauk, NY says::
As residents of Montauk we are not in favor of a high speed ferry. We love Montauk just the way it is, we have enough traffic and conjestion in the summer.
Feb 1, 2009 10:38 am


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