Dead in the Water: Contract Negotiations Breakdown Between Fire Island Ferries and Ocean Beach Village – Service Suspension Looms on March 1st

BY SHOSHANNA McCOLLUM ~ Fire Island Ferries, Inc dropped a bombshell at 12:24 p.m. today in an email sent to thousands of recipients which read:

For over a year now, in good faith, we have operated under an expired agreement while continuing our efforts to negotiate with the Village of Ocean Beach board. Unfortunately, as of today, February 14, 2022, a new agreement has not been reached. For this reason, … we must inform you, our customers, and the public that as of March 1, 2022, all ferry, freight and water taxi services to and from Ocean Beach will be suspended until such a time that a new agreement has been finalized.

Fire Island community message boards on Facebook across the beach  lit up as various posts copied and pasted the information. However, reactions varied among the residency.

“WTF? This is insane,” wrote Marki Knopp on the popular Ocean Beach Bulletin Board. “I don’t even live in OB but to cut off their nose to spite their face is crazy, that’s what happens when there is a monopoly.”

However, on the Fair Harbor community Facebook page, people were concerned with what was going on with their neighbors to the east, but less panicked:

“Interesting, wrote Jean-Marie MaGuire. I wasn’t aware that the FI communities had ANY power in the ferry/freight service to their communities. It was my belief that this was between the NYS Dept of public transportation and the ferry company. Well, I’ve learned something new today!”

Group page administrator Judy Corcoran pointed out to Jean-Marie what the difference is that Ocean Beach Village owns their ferry dock and Fair Harbor does not. Every 10 years the largest community on Fire Island and the behemoth ferry company that services it enter into contract negotiations to cement an agreement into the next decade, and sometimes they can get ugly.

“We feel like the ferry company has a gun to our head,” said Ocean Beach Mayor James S. Mallott in a telephone interview. “They are asking for significant price reductions that we feel are untenable.”

Mayor Mallott detailed some of their demands, which included a reduction of rent for use of the Ocean Beach terminal by nearly 30 percent as well as a significant rate increases for Ocean Beach resident ferry tickets and parking fees. He further estimated such a package would total $300,000 – presenting a financial burden for the Ocean Beach taxpayers.In the meantime, stakeholders who live on Fire Island are anxious about what will happen if a settlement is not reached by the March 1 deadline.

“Well, our only recourse should that happen is to take this to the courts,” said Mallott. “Something we are presently exploring.”

Editor’s Note: This is still a developing story and will be updated as needed.