Glen Cove Ferry Making A Comeback

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What’s Old Is New Again

Steamer Idlewild

Travel to and from the North Shore across the Long Island Sound used to be popular. This summer, the ferry is back in use. See the story below.

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Smooth Start For Ferry

Ferry service began smoothly on the sunny morning of Monday, July 10. (Photo by Tab Hauser)

Summer service offers commuters alternative mode of travel

A hundred years ago, mass travel by sea was on its way out, with trains and automobiles beginning to dominate. Prior to the demise, steamboat travel was incredibly popular and in fact helped spur the growth of Glen Cove and Sea Cliff. This summer, with the track work being done at Penn Station, the necessity of travel by water versus land could be the dawn of a new era of ferry service on the North Shore.

“It’s a great opportunity for us as a trial run,” said Glen Cove Mayor Reggie Spinello.

The service, operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Long Island Rail Road, began on July 10 and will run through Sept. 1, with ferries departing at 6:35 a.m. traveling to West 34th Street in Manhattan and at 6:10 a.m. traveling to Wall Street. The LIRR is honoring monthly and weekly pass holders and offers an alternative mode of transport, with each ride taking about one hour and 15 minutes.

The City of Glen Cove completed construction of its ferry terminal last year and held off on its search for a ferry operator until after construction of the first phase of the waterfront development commences. However, officials see this as the perfect opportunity to gauge rider interest, work out kinks and find a permanent operator for service.

“The city intends to re-release a Request For Proposal (RFP) for a ferry service operator this year, with the intent to have start-up of service no later than early 2019,” said deputy mayor Barbara A. Peebles, who is also the executive director of the Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency.

A painting of the Seawanhaka steamer by James Bard.

For the time being, the service is being brought back by the LIRR, which interestingly, is partly responsible for the initial demise of ferry travel to the North Shore.

“In 1835, Long Island was characterized by woodlands, meadows and farms,” said Dave Nieri of the Glen Cove History Committee. “Travel along the Island’s few roads was on foot, horseback or horse-drawn carriage. Vessels moved both people and freight along the water highway that is Long Island Sound. By the early 1800s, in addition to farming, the village was producing lumber from its sawmill and mining clay along its shores, for export to New York City.”

In 1829, local entrepreneur William Weeks and other businessmen formed a company to build and operate a steamboat wharf further north of the Garvie wharf, which became known as “The Landing” (located near where the breakwater meets the beach in today’s Morgan Park).

“This wharf soon became Musquito Cove’s primary destination for passengers and freight,” said Nieri. “Passenger service to and from Manhattan greatly expanded throughout the years preceding the Civil War. Other steamboat landings were established at Sea Cliff, Glenwood and Roslyn, and New York City residents took excursions to rural Long Island to escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.”

The Long Island Railroad was formed in 1834, but tracks for the Oyster Bay branch of the line didn’t reach Glen Cove until 1867.

According to Nieri, Weeks opened the Pavilion Hotel in 1829 adjacent to the steamboat wharf to provide lodging for these many visitors. It eventually became a resort hotel accommodating up to 300 guests. At 50 cents for a round trip ticket, New York City residents filled the steamers to journey to Long Island. Other hotels, inns and boarding houses sprang up just blocks away from the Pavilion Hotel, and the entire area later became known as “The Landing” because of the steamboat landing’s influence on the economic life of Glen Cove.

“The community of Glen Cove grew significantly in the latter half of the 19th century as a result of regular Long Island Sound steamboat service,” said Nieri. “The Creek became a hub of manufacturing in 1855 when the Duryea Starch Works (the world’s largest cornstarch manufacturing plant) was established here. The passenger steamers grew larger and become more numerous until after the Civil War, when the arrival of the Long Island Railroad to Glen Cove in 1867 provided a second reliable method of travel. Several major steamboat disasters around the end of the 19th century and the opening of the East River railroad tunnels in 1905 ultimately made the railroad supreme and led to the eventual demise of the great Long Island Sound steamboats.”

In 1932, 101 years after the steamboat wharf was constructed, Morgan Memorial Park opened to the public, encompassing the former sites of the steamer landing and the Pavilion Hotel. Dedicated to the memory of Jane Norton Grew Morgan, the wife of banker J.P. Morgan, Jr., the park also memorializes the century of the steamboats that grew Glen Cove.

For a short time, the Millennium, owned by Fox Navigation, served commuters traveling to Manhattan. The island’s first high-speed ferry service took 45 minutes from the Garvies Point Road terminal in Glen Cove to Pier 11, a block from the New York Stock Exchange. This ferry service was instrumental in helping to save lives during 9/11, but the service stopped a year after the tragedy, in November 2002.

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