Cross Sound Ferry Refloats
BY AMANDA STAR FRAZER
The East Hampton Star 11/01/01

    Plans for a Connecticut-South Fork ferry are brewing again, and like last time East Hampton Town appears to be the last to know.
 The proposal is being nurtured by the Citizens for a South Fork Ferry, a Shelter Island group peeved at the seasonal influx of ìbridge traffic,î which they say is diminishing their quality of life. ëTogether with a similar Southold organization and County Legislator Michael Caracciolo, whose district covers the North Fork and Shelter Island, the group has reopened discussions with Cross Sound Ferry, which has been seeking a South Fork terminal for years.
    The favored site now is the former Smith Meal fish factory in Napeague State Park, an abandoned facility on Gardinerís Bay at what is called Promised Land. The 22-mile trip from New London to Napeague would take one hour and 45 minutes, company officials say, only minutes longer than the normal run between Orient Point and New London.
    Locations in Montauk Harbor and Shoreham are also under investigation, said Bob Drake, who heads the Shelter Island group.
    According to surveys conducted by Cross Sound and Shelter Islandís North Ferry, one quarter of the ëriders passing through the island are going between Connecticut and areas east of the Shinnecock Canal, Mr. Drake said, and another quarter is traveling to west of the canal, between Hampton Bays and Quogue. Data showing how many cars are bound for East Hampton, Amagansett, or Montauk was not available.
    The East Hampton Town code has prohibited terminals for vehicle ferries since 1997, when a law was adopted allowing passenger ferries in waterfront zoning districts by special permit. The law was a compromise after an earlier draft drew negative response in Montauk on behalf of the passenger ferries of the Viking Fleet.

Feasibility Study
    The Napeague site, which is some four miles as the crow flies from downtown Montauk, is zoned for parks and conservation. However, since it is owned by the state, which has the right to override town zoning, proponents believe a terminal there is possible.
    Mr. Caracciolo, a Republican up for re-election next week, is the chairman of the countyís Shelter Island Ferry Advisory Committee. He has introduced a bill in the Legislature which, if passed, would ask the state to conduct a feasibility study for a ferry in East Hampton Town and suggests that the ferry service could be ìdeveloped with private dollars.î
    Summer traffic originating in New England and ending up on thíe South Fork creates congestion, pollution, and increased prices for ferries between the South and North Forks and Shelter Island, he said. ìItís not fair.î
    The Napeague site, which he called ìless than pristine,î is the focal point, although Mr. Caracciolo admitted never having visited it. ìCalling it parkland would be a stretch,î he said.
    Mr. Caraccioloís legislation requested that copies of the bill be forwarded to Gov. George E. Pataki and the majority and minority leaders of the State Senate and Assemblyó but not to East Hampton Town officials.
    Neither the legislator, nor the Southold group, nor any Town of Shelter Island officials, has made contact with the East Hampton or Southampton Town Boards or with the Southampton Transportation Advisory Task Force, which is, among other things, investigating marine possibilities.
    Stanley Mickus, the Cross Sound Ferryís director of marketing, has been talking to Mr. Caracciolo since the summer about a South Fork ferry, he said, but he declined to disclose the specifics, such as cost, number of trips, and the number of vehicles and passengers envisioned.
     The ferry companyís involvement is ìlimited to support of the concept,î said Richard E. MacMurray, Cross Sound Ferryís general manager. And, he said, he had no reason to think that a new South Fork ferry attempt would prove more successful than the last.
      Mr. MacMurray would not make available the results of surveys his company had conducted, although sign-up sheets have been noted in the companyís terminals over the years on which travelers have been asked to support a South Fork ferry.
    ìYouíre not going to get a ferry unless the local people want it,î  he said.
    After 20 years of thwarting numerous Montauk and Napeague attempts, few in East Hampton want or believe a ferry to be possible.
    ìItís insane,î said George 0. GuIdi, the South Forkís county legislator, a Democrat also up for election on Tuesday. ìI oppose the concept. I oppose the study. I oppose clouds of traffic to Montauk.î
    ìI would be astonished if the State Legislature would sell state parklandî for commercial use, said Rick Whelan, an East Hampton deputy town attorney. He expressed the that even if the state leased the land to a private company, legal action to change the siteís zoning would be necessary. That ìwouldnít be easy,î he said.
    The state acquired Napeague State Park, some 1,200 acres stretching from bay to ocean, because of its sensitivity, Mr. Whelan said. He also said no precedent existed in New York State for the State Legislature to override local legislation.
    ìThe town would certainly fight tooth and nail with the stateî if a turnover to a ferry company were contemplated, said East Hampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. ìThe impact would be untold, enormous. It would destroy us,î he said. A huge environmental impact study would have to be performed before any ferry proposed could receive approval, said Larry Penny, the director of the East Hampton Town Natural Resources Department. Mr. Penny noted that the waters in Gardinerís Bay are rich in shellfish, finfish, and contain eelgrass beds, all of which could be harmed. A ferry ìwould not be good,î he said.
    ìItís like a bad toothache that comes back every few years,î said Kevin McDonald, the vice president of the Group for the South Fork, who had helped stave off previous ferry proposals. ìThe solution of solving a social disease is not to give it to other people,î he said.
    State Senator Kenneth J. LaValle, who described himself as a strong supporter of home rule, said if the state were to supersede the wishes of any municipality, it would ìdestroy the stateís constitutional fabric.î Mr. LaValle, a Republican who represents both the North and South Forks, opposed a similar Connecticut-South Fork ferry push in 1993.
    ìThere would be an absolute human outcry,î said Sylvia Overby, the head of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee, who looked surprised upon hearing the news. ìItís time to get the state out of our business,î she said.
    ìUltimately the power lies in the Town of East Hampton,î said State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who predicted the ferry movement would ìdie the same type of death it has died in the past.î
    But Thor Hanson, a retired vice admiral who heads the Sourhold Citizens for Safe Roads, disagreed. Port Jefferson and Orient Point ìshould not carry the bruntî of Connecticut traffic, he said, adding that there should be ferries in both Montauk and Shoreham.
    ìThe Hamptons can say they wonít allow it, but weíre interested in getting support from higher up,î he said.