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Removing abandoned vessels from Jamaica Bay will be expedited under legislation passed by City Council

Mar. 17, 2023 By Bill Parry

The City Council voted unanimously to approve legislation sponsored by Councilwomen Joann Arola and Selvena Brooks-Powers to amend the city charter to create a marine debris disposal and vessel surrendering office. This will make it easier to clear the city’s shores of derelict boats often abandoned in the outer boroughs, and environmental justice communities like Jamaica Bay, Coney Island, the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull.

Intro 210 is vital toward enhancing the health and well-being of New York City’s waterways,” Ariola said. “By creating an office specifically for marine debris disposal and vessel surrendering, we can better streamline the services necessary for beautifying our waters while offering boat owners viable alternatives to abandonment for their old or unwanted vessels.”

Brooks-Powers said the city has a responsibility to preserve the safety and beauty of its waterfronts.

“Abandoned vessels present ecological, recreational and safety risks to residents in communities like mine,” Brooks-Powers said. “An Office of Marine Disposal and Vessel Surrendering will empower the administration to address this problem and remove dangerous debris from our shores. I thank my colleague Councilwoman Ariola for her partnership on this important piece of legislation.”

The removal of derelict vessels from Jamaica Bay and other waterways in the outer boroughs will be streamlined under legislation passed by the City Council on Thursday, March 16. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Since taking office last year, Ariola has made cleaning up Jamaica Bay one of her top priorities. On March 9, crews from NYC Parks removed a number of abandoned boats from the bay.

“Those boats were in the marsh, and one literally had a tree growing out of it. They were removed using funding from our discretionary budget to keep these derelict vessels — vessels which often leak oil and other chemicals into the water — out of our bay,” Ariola said. “This was done in partnership with our great partners at the parks department, private contractors and the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers.”

Derelict vessels and other marine debris are environmental hazards and create navigational and property damage risks, particularly when they become dislodged during heavy coastal weather events. Parks sent crews out after the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and American Littoral Society helped identify the abandoned boats for removal.

“This month, we will be removing several abandoned vessels and other large marine debris in Jamaica Bay, thanks to a $100,000 allocation provided by Council member Ariola,” NYC Parks spokesman Dan Kastanis said. “We thank the council member for her support and for joining the effort to remove these hazardous abandoned vessels from our waters.”

Currently, no agency at the federal, state or city level is tasked with addressing the problem of abandoned boats, but the measure that passed March 16 will address that.

“Intro 210 passed unanimously through the City Council, highlighting the bipartisan support behind cleaning up New York City’s waterways,” Ariola said following the vote. “With the creation of an Office of Marine Debris Disposal and Vessel Surrendering, we are taking a tremendous step forward toward improving the health of our waters, and we are streamlining the often confusing and complicated process of removing marine debris from our shores. Additionally, this office will also provide boat owners with disposal points, offering them an economically viable alternative to abandonment when their vessels get old or unwanted.”

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