A historical fireboat, "Firefighter," currently berthed at Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport, has sparked ire for at least one individual who does not believe the vessel should ultimately be sited at the village's railroad dock.
In January, a contract was signed by Greenport Village allowing the Fireboat Firefighter Museum to berth at Mitchell Marina, where it's currently docked at the East Pier, for $200 per month through June.
The boat, which was commissioned by the Fire Department of New York and designed in 1937 by William Francis Gibbs, was originally created to combat vessel, structure, and pier fires.
Today, the purpose of the museum is to protect the fire boat "Firefighter" as a living and fully functional example of martime history, and to train youth, as well as provide free educational sails for veterans, Wounded Warrior groups, and others.
At last week's Greenport Village Board meeting, commercial fisherman Sidney Smith, who utilizes the village's railroad dock, said he had a number of concerns.
The dock, he said, has "a lot of problems," including live electric wires "everywhere" and in the water, something he said leaves the village open to "lawsuit and liability."
In addition, Smith said, the bulkhead has holes and is "caving in."
Smith said he was told that during a hurricane warning, he was asked to leave the railroad dock and did not receive an answer about whether he could move to Mitchell Park Marina. Smith said he left and went to Rhode Island only to find that others did not leave during the storm.
Smith said he felt like the working fishermen were being forced out of the village in favor of large yachts and party boats.
And he questioned whether the fireboat should be able to dock at the railroad dock in June.
The purpose of the railroad dock, he said, was originally to bring in fishing boats -- but now, the dock is in dire need of repairs. "The village does nothing for fishermen," he said, adding that he believed siting the fireboat at the railroad dock would spark safety concerns as well.
"The village got the dock in good faith and it's not being used for what it was supposed to be used for," Smith said. "It's turning into a circus," with party boats. "It should be a working dock and you're mixing it with the public. And the live wires pose more liabilities than you can shake a stick at."
Greenport Village Mayor David Nyce said Suffolk County would have to agree to allow the fireboat to be sited at the railroad dock. "If the county doesn't agree it won't go," he said. "The county regulates and rebuilt that dock to encourage commercial fishing boats."
Nyce added that the county has allowed other charter boats at the dock. "Anything we do there county has to sign off on," he said.
The railroad dock, Nyce said, needs repairs; when he took office, Nyce said, there was nothing in the village budget to allow for repairs. Today, however, such funds will be available for repairs at the railroad dock.
"Anything that's done will be done properly," he said.
Nyce added that the village has no ownership of the fireboat and "has an iron-clad agreement," that it will not be held responsible for the boat.
The mayor also said he would look into Smith's sub-license to see whether or not he is required to leave during a storm.
Commenting on the fireboat situation, Greenport resident John Saladino said while there has been recent renewed controversy about the railroad dock in Greenport, including who should be allowed, who has first preference, and what authority the county has, the lease between the Long Island Railroad and Suffolk County, and the sub-lease between Suffolk County and the Village states that the "lessee desires to obtain this real property to be used for docking of fishing and pleasure boats, fishing dock, museum, parking, and roadway purposes."
"If the fire boat is something the visitors would be interested in seeing, and would be a draw for the village it should stay," Saladino said. "If the taxpayers receive something, such as rent, to have it here, and, in addition, if it goes to the railroad dock," the vessel will not take up "valuable rental space in the marina."
Saladino said if fishermen such as Smith that dock their boats at the railroad dock for a "ridiculously low sum" are "that unhappy with the conditions of the dock, they should just move their boats elsewhere. They decline to do that because it would cost them eight or nine hundred percent more to do so."
He added, "The bottom line here is the dock is a valuable village asset and should be used to benefit all residents, not a select few from a special interest group, especially since that mentality it is contrary to the intention of the lease."