Queens councilman funds Jamaica Bay cleanup initiative targeting derelict vessels

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Photos courtesy of Ulrich’s office

In the ongoing battle to clean up Jamaica Bay, Councilman Eric Ulrich joined members of the city’s Parks Department and the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers for a demonstration that removed a derelict boat from its waters.

Earlier this year, Ulrich secured $55,000 in funding for a cleanup initiative that will remove abandoned vessels from the bay.

“Most people are not aware of just how widespread this problem is, especially in Jamaica Bay. Abandoned boats are one of the biggest problems in New YorkCity’s waterways,” Ulrich said. “Not only are they an eyesore, they present multiple ecological, transportation and safety hazards. I am proud to fund this cleanup initiative, which will target the most problematic areas in Jamaica Bay, a local treasure.”

Many vessels are abandoned when an owner can no longer afford to maintain them, and leave them adrift into Jamaica Bay instead of performing proper removal. Despite having removed about two dozen of these abandoned vessels from the waters and marshlands of Jamaica Bay over the past several years, the Parks Department estimates more than 100 abandoned boats remain in the city’s waterways.

“A lot of work goes into this. We finally have a standing contract, so as these needs arise, we can respond,” NYC Parks Chief of Waterfront and Marine Operations Nate Grove said. “We knew exactly what it was going to cost, what kind of boats we could remove with the funding available. We work with the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers to identify where we get the most bang for that buck.”

During the boat tour, Ulrich was given the opportunity to see the Parks Department team remove an abandoned houseboat from the bay. Prior to being towed by a tug boat, the abandoned vessel needed to be patched to ensure it wouldn’t sink. The cleanup effort was contracted out to Custom Marine, as part of a multi-year contract through the city’s Department of Administrative Services.

“These derelict vessels cause a lot of environmental problems, as well as aesthetic problems when you look at the shoreline,” said Dan Mundy, vice president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and president of the Broad Channel Civic Association. “There is no city, state or federal agency designated to address this, so if the councilman hadn’t stepped up, these abandoned boats would stay here forever and just continue to harm the environment.”

Joann Ariola, a Howard Beach civic leader and the Republican candidate for Queens borough president in the Nov. 3 general election, added her support for the cleanup initiative.

“The dangerous debris and abandoned vessels harm the delicate ecosystem in Jamaica Bay, it’s also hazardous to boats trying to enjoy the outdoors,” Ariola said. “I applaud Council member Ulrich for this much-needed funding and commitment to making the continued restoration of our waterways a priority.”

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