Complaint accuses NYC Ferry staffers of refusing Muslim families because of ‘security issue’

Ferry staff refused three Muslim mothers and their kids from boarding a Brooklyn-bound ferry on Sept. 21.
Economic Development Corporation

Crew aboard a city ferry forbid a group of Muslim families from boarding a Brooklyn-bound boat last month because they posed a “security issue,” according to an attorney for the jilted passengers.

“We believe that it was because of who they were and how they looked, there’s nothing else that explains that this group — three mothers and 11 children — were labelled a security issue,” said Ahmed Mohamed, an attorney with the the Muslim civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The families filed a complaint on Wednesday with the city’s Commission on Human Rights in an effort to spark an investigation into the incident.

The three mothers, two infants, four young boys, and two young girls — who remain anonymous in the complaint — were waiting to board a Kings County-bound watercraft from Manhattan’s Pier 11, when two crew members whispered something to each other, before informing the families that boat security had decided to deny their passage, according to the complaint.

The employees escorted the distraught mothers to security staffers, while the ferry’s passengers watched the scene unfold — but the head of the pier’s security was confused about his colleagues’ claims of security issues, according to the document.

The complaint goes on to accuse another ferryboat employee of raising her voice to the families in a “rude” and “unprofessional” way.

That employee informed the families that they were being denied service because their kids had allegedly stood on their seats aboard a previous ferry ride during a trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan earlier that day.

One of the women submitted a complaint to ferry operator Hornblower as well, and the company later explained the incident as a “misunderstanding” and offered to reimburse their fare.

But the families remain unsatisfied and filed the complaint to ensure that future passengers don’t experience the same type of discrimination, according to Mohamed, who demanded that the Economic Development Corporation — the city’s business boosting arm which manages the ferry system — better train its employees.

“The most important thing is that we want to empathize is to provide people of fair service that’s free of discrimination,” he said. “Any type of resolution requires some kind of training, and that the staff are not using their authority to traumatize or humiliate people.”

A spokesman for the agency said they are investigating the incident to make sure no rider is discriminated against based on their background.

“We are aware of the complaint and are currently investigating the incident. NYCEDC takes these matters seriously, and is committed to ensuring that no person is denied services based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, gender identity or disability,” said Christian Ficara in an emailed statement.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@schnepsmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.

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