The city is finally scuttling late-night party-boat cruises in Sheepshead Bay, banning so-called “booze cruises” from casting off after 11 pm, according to a Parks Department.
The decision comes five months after Mayor DeBlasio vowed to remove late-night party boats from the Emmons Avenue pier at a Sept. 14 town hall with Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay).
Locals’ concern over the party boats goes back years, with residents complaining the late-night crowds — which often return to the docks, thoroughly soused, in the early hours of the morning — bring noise, trash, alcohol-fueled antics, and traffic congestion to the normally quiet neighborhood. Deutsch said that it’s not only a quality-of-life problem, but a public-safety issue.
“I’ve seen first-hand the alcohol, trash, cars, and drinking in the streets,” Deutsch said. “It’s a safety risk.”
Deutsch, who introduced legislation last year to require party boat operators to provide parking for their customers, said the city’s decision will go a long way towards reducing the summertime nuisance.
“It’s problematic to have thousands of people in the Bay at the same time,” he said. “It’s an issue of public safety, quality of life, and not having enough bathrooms.”
But some of the boat owners say that the opposition is rooted in racism, with the largely white seaside community mainly objecting to having the largely Caribbean-Americans clientele coming into their neighborhood.
“The decision to me is absolutely based in racism’” said Dan Lind, who owns the party boats Golden Enterprise and Star of New York. “Our customers have as much a right to be there as anyone.”
Lind defended his customers, saying that many of the events are church meetings or family reunions.
Deutsch dismissed the allegation of racism, and that the safety of the people on the boats is also a concern.
“It has nothing to do with race,” he said. “It’s about the boatgoers’ safety, too.”
The party boats operating out of Sheepshead Bay will need to be back to their docks by 11 pm starting in May, and the city is working on finding a pier in a less residential area where late-night booze cruises can operate, according to a Parks Department spokeswoman.
“The city is now working to identify new docking locations that will be financially viable for cruise operators without disturbing the quality of life in Sheepshead Bay,” she said.
Lind, who has operated party boats from the Emmons Avenue pier for more than 23 years, said the accusation that the boats bring trouble and are widely disliked are unfair.
“Crime is at its lowest point in 25 years. And the community board loves us,” he said.
Lind said boat owners have offered to fund and maintain portable toilets at the dock, and asked for more trash cans in the area at meetings with local residents and politicians on the issue.
What’s next for the longtime boat captains and their clientele is unclear, and Lind said he worries the city will ratchet up its campaign against the party boats.
“This year they say not after 11 pm, why not after 7 pm too?” he said.