April 12, 2006
A rally and fundraiser organized by Take Back Our Roads and slated to take place this Saturday has the Cross Sound Ferry seeing red.
Advertisements in an area publication for the event state: "The Southold Town Board is doing the right thing in its suit to limit Cross Sound Ferry traffic that makes our roads unsafe, damages our environment, and threatens our quality of life."
The advertisement goes on to state that "Southold cannot match the casino-enriched bankroll CSF has invested in its propaganda campaign to convince people that the town wants to shut down the ferry."
That's a lie, say representatives of Take Back Our Roads, a coalition of Southold Citizens for Safe Roads, the North Fork Environmental Coalition, and the Orient Association.
"What we want to do is to control it. And we support the town in exercising its responsibility to control unregulated ferry traffic, something the recent East Hampton court decision upholds as a town's absolute right," the advertisement states.
Stan Mickus, marketing director for the Cross Sound Ferry, said while he is not sure what the purpose of the fundraiser/rally is, there is one fact of which he's certain: "They want to control our business. Upon reading this propaganda-enriched ad, it's clear."
Freddie Wachsberger, president of the Southold Citizens for Safe Roads, said the goal of the event is part fundraising, part rally "to prepare ourselves for the coming summer's impact on ferry traffic."
She said: "The Cross Sound Ferry has deep pockets, and has been using the media very extensively. We can't compete with all that. All we can do is get out and show that we care a lot about this issue."
Mickus warns that the business community in Southold should take heed. "Who's to say that this group, or other civic groups, won't try to control other businesses in Southold Town because they're not happy with the flow of traffic to or through that business?"
Mickus said that group's actions are "alarming," and that ultimately, "what they're asking to do is to control the economy. They want to control commerce in town."
The contention between the CSF and the Take Back Our Roads coalition is long-simmering: Last Labor Day, the group took to Route 25 in Orient to protest traffic they say is generated by the CSF.
Mickus said that CSF was forced to fight back. "Instead of hearing their side of the story all the time, we had to protect ourselves, our employees, and those residents in town who use our service and see it as a vital lifeline between the East End and New England, by getting the facts out there."
To that end, the CSF set up a website, www.yourhometownferry.com, where the public can gather information.
"We're very encouraged by the fact that we've received hundreds of positive comments from Southold Town residents supporting our cause," said Mickus.
The Town of Southold is in litigation with the CSF as a result of the CSF's alleged failure to comply with an approved site plan that expired last August 1. The town is seeking an injunction to curtail the CSF's operating service to what it was back in 1995, something the CSF said would have severe impacts with a profound loss of revenue.
Of the rally, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said: "People have the right to assemble regardless of the cause," and despite claims by some, he doubts the "rally will result in any more noise, traffic or unsafe conditions then what goes on there regularly."
Russell is uncertain if he will attend. "I prefer dialogue to protest and am happy to listen to any group regarding their concerns."
Russell did not attend last year's rally, held during the political campaign, but believes the Save Our Roads organization has legitimate concerns and those concerns need to be addressed by the town, the ferry, and others.