NYC Parks continues initiative to remove derelict boats from Jamaica Bay

Councilman Eric Ulrich allocates funding to continue the efforts to remove abandoned boats from Jamaica Bay. (Photo courtesy of Ulrich’s office)

In the ongoing battle to clean up Jamaica Bay, Councilman Eric Ulrich announced his office has secured $65,000 in funding to remove derelict boats in the waters off Howard Beach and Broad Channel in the continuation of an initiative he started last year.

The funds were allocated to the city’s Parks Department through the NYC Cleanup Initiative to remove abandoned vessels from the bay.

“Though we made progress last year, many derelict boats remain in Jamaica Bay. They’re not only unsightly and dangerous — they pose a serious environmental hazard to the local ecosystem,” Ulrich said. “I’m proud that my final budget as a councilman includes this important funding to target the most problematic areas in this local treasure.”

Ulrich thanked NYC Parks and the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers for their commitment to restoring the pristine conditions on the bay and along its shoreline. Many vessel owners simply abandon their boats when they can no longer afford to maintain them, leaving them to drift into and throughout Jamaica Bay.

Over the past several years, NYC Parks has removed dozens of abandoned boats from the waters and marshland, but the agency estimates more than 100 vessels remain in the city’s waterways.

“These vessels present both environmental and public safety hazards,” NYC Parks Chief of Waterfront & Marine Operations Nate Grove said. “In the event of a heavy storm, they can also result in hazards to on-water navigation and damage personal property. We encourage all boaters to maintain current insurance on their vessels and to call 311 if they are seeking options on how to dispose of their vessel.”

Photo courtesy of Ulrich’s office

Currently, no agency at the federal, state or city level is tasked with addressing the problem of derelict boats, according to Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers President Dan Mundy.

“Councilman Ulrich has once again funded a targeted removal effort that will allow for these vessels to be hauled away, eliminating their impact to the bay — which can include oil and fuel spillages, destruction to the wetlands, and an aesthetic impact to the beautiful shorelines of this National Park,” Mundy said. “We need a funded citywide agency effort to address this in the long term, but for the immediate future, it is great to see this type of commitment from the councilman to address and act on this problem.”

Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Bratton applauded the initiative.

“The process to get such vessels removed is difficult and their removal is necessary in order to keep hazardous chemicals out of our waterways and to maintain safe navigation by other vessels, especially in narrow parts of our canals,” Bratton said.

NYC Parks identifies vessels for removal and prior to being towed by a tug boat, in many cases, the abandoned boat needs to be patched to ensure it doesn’t sink.

“Imagine driving along a highway littered with broken-down vehicles spread willy-nilly across the roadway, yet this is the situation around Jamaica Bay and its canals,” New Hamilton Beach Civic Association President Roger Gendron said. “While the abandoned and sunken boats throughout the area are an eyesore, the environmental impacts may not be measured for quite some time.”