Davis Park Ferry service resumes

Sherman family and town agrees to five-year lease


The Shermans are ready to ferry. Again.

A five-year lease with the option to extend for one additional 5-year term from Brookhaven Town was granted to the Davis Park Ferry Company for $64,800 annually in a March 11 town council 6-0 vote.

“We have everything set up and had a trial run on Wednesday and went there to check out the buoys,” said owner Stephanie Sherman with Matt Sherman, who added that they didn’t have the lease agreement in hand as of Friday, but were operating in good faith.

“The Sherman’s lawyer and the town have agreed on the numbers and will get the lease to the Shermans on Monday, but we already have a verbal agreement,” confirmed Councilman Neil Foley.

 “We’re looking forward to starting,” said Matt Sherman. “It’s been a long hard struggle.

Stephanie Sherman said there would be a captain, two deckhands and office crew on hand for the Saturday and Sunday weekend schedule, three boats out and back, into mid April before their enhanced schedule begins.

“There will be six of us down here,” said Matt Sherman.

It’s been a lengthy, nail-biting haul for the Shermans. They’ve had a lease agreement with Brookhaven Town since 1947. Last February, before their lease terms ended in December, talks began with Councilman Foley.

The Shermans paid $45,000 a year plus utilities.

Stephanie Sherman pointed out they lost $240,000 last year and 20,000 passengers because of COVID. Also, the death of her husband Charles, Matt Sherman’s brother, was a shock still being felt.

Foley had explained the town was trying to prepare for loss of revenue in 2025-26 when the landfill closed and had begun reviewing all town contracts two and a half years ago.

The end result was that the Shermans would have to bid and an RFP went out Dec. 24.

But there was a sticking point. If the Sherman got the bid, they could continue as usual. If another ferry company was awarded, they would need a new license and rate approval from Suffolk County’s Budget Review Office.

And that would mean a delayed starting season of mid April or May.

A Facebook petition in support of the Shermans popped up after news stories about the lease issue appeared in January.

“There were a lot,” said Stephanie Sherman, who also received numerous phone calls. “I never knew how many people appreciated us.”

“They did have support,” Foley said. “The town’s position and mine was `let’s get the best deal we can. They agreed to capital improvements at the terminal at Sandspit, credit card inclusion, and no interruption of service at Davis Park.”

The ferry company is admittedly a family affair. 

“My son-in-law Terry Kaller runs the ferry, my brother in law Matt runs the boat yard, two of my daughters Amelia Kummer and Emily Cordell help with bookkeeping, answering phones, and jobs on the freight boat and two grandchildren help,” said Stephanie Sherman.

“Davis Park is like Mayberry. We may not have the fanciest boat but we provide personal service.”

Betty Gallagher, a Great River resident who has a house on Davis Park, was happy about the continuity. Gallagher has worked for Islip Town and the county.

“I saw the issue on both sides and it was a head scratcher,” she said of the lease renewal.

 Gallagher has been taking the ferry for 30 years.

 “I grew up in Sayville and the Davis Park Ferry is part of our family,” she said. “They’re not just the ferry company, they are the community.”

She confirmed the company’s personal efforts, including putting a prescription needed for her mother on the ferry. “They gave it to the captain so it wouldn’t get lost,” she said. “I’ve also re-directed the Amazon driver to bring packages to Stephanie’s house because they don’t deliver at Davis Park. Who does that? And I’m not the only one.”

Gallagher will be on the ferry line Saturday. “Yep, I’m going tomorrow. Everybody talks about the first ferry,” she said. “You haven’t seen people all winter. You meet up with regulars and get to meet the new people. I haven’t missed one in 25 years.”


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