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The Nose

Water Fight

Posted 8/7/2002

On July 17, The Sun reported that Ed Kane, waterfront fixture and owner of Ed Kane's Water Taxis, was getting ready to dock his business for good. Kane, 72, whose craft have plied the harbor for 25 years, was "quietly negotiating a deal with the Living Classrooms Foundation, owner of the city's other short-haul water-transit service at the harbor, Seaport Taxi," according to Scott Calvert's story. Calvert reported that Kane was preparing to sell out to his rival for $2 million.This took the Nose rather by surprise. There's been bad blood on the harbor ever since the nonprofit Living Classrooms decided to get into the business of shuttling tourists, commuters, and partyers to harbor hot spots in 1999. The city gave the foundation a lease on a publicly owned pier near Fort McHenry for $1 a year for 10 years. Living Classrooms offered Kane use of the pier for his own service--at $1 per customer. Kane refused to pay the fee, which could have amounted to thousands of dollars per season, and instead taxied his customers to a not terribly scenic shipyard a mile from the fort's grassy knolls. The sightseers were then ushered aboard a trolley--actually, a school bus painted red to look like a trolley--and bused to the fort. The ensuing customer disgruntlement was duly reported upon by The Sun last year, in a story that mentioned only in passing the sweetheart docking deal Kane blames for pissing off his patrons and cutting into his business.

We weren't the only ones taken aback by the sale story; Kane says he heard from many patrons and supporters in the ensuing days. Their response, in his nutshell description: "'What the fuck are you doing?'" The answer, according to a letter he sent out July 19 to customers, friends, and advertisers, is nothing of the sort. The missive acknowledges talks about a merger of the two shuttle services but asserts, "No sale will take place. We are not for sale, period."

"There is no way I would sell my business to Living Classrooms," Kane tells us. "There are a a lot of people who would take great exception if I were to sell to Living Classrooms. We refer to it here as 'the evil empire.'"

The Sun reported--correctly, Kane says--on talks with Living Classrooms about creating a single water-taxi service. (Calvert wrote that Kane wants the city to buy out Seaport Taxis and give Water Taxis a three-year monopoly on the taxi business, after which Kane would give his boats and business to the city. Kane wouldn't confirm or deny details for us.) Where the paper may have jumped the gun, Kane suggests, is in reporting the matter as an imminent sale to Living Classrooms. Kane says he tried to make that clear during the interview, but "[Calvert] may not have picked up on my emphasis."

Apparently Living Classrooms President James Piper Bond didn't pick up on that emphasis either, at least not before he got wind of the July 19 letter. "Mr. Kane had approached us a while ago about potentially buying his business, so we've been in discussions with our team and him for months," he says. "It's interesting that Ed sent that letter out. So at this time, I guess I'd say [the deal] is on hold."

Bond isn't giving up entirely on cornering the water-shuttle market: "[T]here's always possibility for the future." For now, though, both parties acknowledge there will be no deal, and Kane is satisfied that his closest associates, at least, know the "rest of the story," as he puts it. All that's left is for The Sun to alert its readers that there are still two services plying the tourist-infested waters. We checked the paper's electronic archive going back to July 18, and as of press time there had been no follow-up story or correction.

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