Several crumbling boats were recently removed from Jamaica Bay, as part of an initiative to clean up the waterway.
Councilman Eric Ulrich and NYC Parks Department Senior Manager of Citywide Marinas Nate Grove were joined by Councilwoman-elect Joann Ariola and community volunteers in Howard Beach on Friday, Dec. 10, where a barge held three derelict boats that were recently retrieved from Jamaica Bay.
The most recent removal is part of an ongoing battle to clean up Jamaica Bay and New York City’s waterways. Term-limited Ulrich helped fund the initiative in the last three fiscal years, with $65,000 secured this year to remove abandoned boats in the Howard Beach and Broad Channel waters.
“We all have a responsibility at every level of government to keep our environment clean, to clean our waterways and to improve the quality of life in our communities, and that’s exactly what this funding is paying for,” Ulrich said.
He noted the current contract is cleaning up five boats in the area, with three of those on a barge behind the officials during the press conference on Friday.
The last boat located in Hamilton Beach will be removed on Dec. 20 of this year.
Abandoned boats are considered among the biggest problems in the city’s waterways, which present a multitude of ecological, transportation and safety hazards. Vessels are usually abandoned when owners can no longer afford to maintain them, leaving them to drift into Jamaica Bay instead of properly removing them.
Dan Mundy, vice president of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, said that while they at times find derelict boats and report them, there “isn’t someone tasked with the job” in the city government.
“We need to make this somebody’s job. It’s well worth it. It needs to be done,” Mundy said. “This is just a great success story that we’re getting it done right before Christmas.”
Ariola pledged to continue funding the effort when she takes office next year.
“We all talk about quality of life. When we think about quality of life, we think about garbage and graffiti and such, but we have a quality of life in the integrity of Jamaica Bay,” Ariola said. “We are a coastal community and we have to continue this program so that we can remove derelict boats from our bay.”
She said she plans to introduce legislation to increase fines for anyone who dumps a boat in the water of Jamaica Bay or surrounding areas.
“Only until it starts to hit them in the pocket will it end,” Ariola said.
Ariola also said she’s considering having sanctioned dumping events where people can responsibly and legally get rid of their boats.
Roger Gendron, president of New Hamilton Beach Civic Association, noted that the boat that will be removed on Dec. 20 has been in Hamilton Beach since Superstorm Sandy hit the area.
“It’s been nothing but an eyesore and a concern because should it break free from where it’s tied off on, it would now block the northern end of Hawtree Basin,” Gendron said. “It’s a huge, huge relief to know that this is going to be remedied and after 10 years, I know the folks who live on the water … cannot wait for this day to see that boat out of there.”