With abandoned boats and trash ruining Jamaica Bay coast, Queens lawmakers seek new agency to clean up mess

Courtesy of Councilman Constantinides via Flickr

A bill in City Council aims to establish an office that will take up the mantle of clearing trash and abandoned boats from the city’s coastlines, specifically Jamaica Bay.

Councilmen Costa Constantinides and Eric Ulrich gathered in Broad Channel on March 29 for a press conference urging the passage of legislation to create the Office of Marine Debris Disposal, claiming that unwanted vessels create an eyesore with nobody in particular tasked with removing them.

“There’s over 200 miles of shoreline in New York City, that means an ample opportunity for garbage, glass and other harmful materials to wash up on shore,” Constantinides said. “Too often they buy [a boat], it’s exciting. But when the real work comes and they get too expensive, in the middle of the night they scratch off the vin, they cut it loose and away it goes … It then becomes all of our problem.”

Ulrich noted that he had allocated $12,000 to $13,000 from his office to cleanup initiatives on Jamaica Bay where nonprofit organizations struggle for resources to keep the waterway clear of debris.

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

“I should not have to be using my discretionary money to clean up abandoned boats in the bay. The city and the state should be doing that on their own and this bill I think is definitely a step in the right direction,” Ulrich said. “[Boats] do irreparable harm to the environment; it takes years to undo the damage from petrochemicals.”

Broad Channel sits within Gateway National Recreation Area and Park Rangers have struggled with litter in the past surrounding not only abandoned watercraft, but with Hindu religious ceremonies, as one New York Times article put it.

QNS encountered people along the bay making offerings on Friday who said they were being made in prayer for safety. They used fruit such as bananas and coconuts, as well as aluminum containers. A walk along the beach also shows clay dishes used in prayer ceremonies, as well as empty incense packages.

Sadhana, a Hindu organization for social change, holds regular beach cleanups to address this issue.

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

“This bill will have a huge positive impact on Jamaica Bay as for years there was no agency that was willing to take on the responsibility for cleaning up marine debris that became deposited throughout the bay,” Dan Mundy of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers said. “Old boats, abandoned docks and large marine timbers could be found strewn along the shoreline, on the islands, and out on the wetlands. Often times it would destroy sensitive environmental areas such as  recently restored wetland islands.”

Though the city Department of Environmental Protection take responsibility for removing boats, the bill introduced on March 28 will only offer additional support.

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