Feds: Booze cruises won’t dock at Gateway next season

Bon Voyage! Party boats to leave Sheepshead Bay for good
Community News Group / Adam Lucente

The “Gate-” is still open, but there’s no “-way” that Sheepshead Bay’s party boats can move to the national park by next spring.

Two booze cruises that are supposed to shove off from the Emmons Avenue pier once and for all will not find berths at the Gateway National Recreation Area in time for the beginning of next year’s season, according to the local honcho of the National Parks Service, which controls the harbor near Floyd Bennett Field.

Federal parks commissioner for New York Harbor, Joshua Laird, said in the letter to Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park) that the operators of the local marina, Moonbeam Leasing and Management LLC, would not be able to expand its limited parking facilities in time to accommodate the booze cruises next year, but he added that the parks service is open to future discussions about the issue.

“The marina does not currently have available parking to accommodate these boats,” said Laird in the letter dated Oct. 5. “A parking expansion of this extent would require in-depth planning, facility improvements, and could not be completed by Memorial Day 2019.”

Laird’s letter was in response to an inquiry by the councilman about whether the marina — located on federal land far removed from residential areas — could be a viable alternative for the controversial party boats, which the city had been aiming to relocate to docks right off of Flatbush Avenue earlier this summer.

But the parks commissioner said that the party boats would go against the objectives of the marina’s new managers, who took over the property last April as part of a push to improve the harbor.

“The marina has a new operator who has arrived with a mandate to focus on improving basic infrastructure and enhancing the overall marina experience for our current boat owners and with the goal of attracting new customers,” Laird said. “We fear the presence of commercial entertainment vessels would be at odds with these immediate objectives.”

The mayor’s office originally proposed moving the two boats from Sheepshead Bay to Mill Basin last May, but that plan was stymied by community leaders who said they were blindsided by the city.

The resistance of the local community — as well as the need for prior public engagement — were also among the reasons for rejecting the proposal to move the boats to Gateway, according to Laird.

“There have been mixed reactions from Gateway’s surrounding community when we’ve asked about entertainment boats at our marina, so if this were to be considered in the future, we would require a longer time period to ensure appropriate planning and sufficient public engagement,” he said.

Maisel passed Laird’s letter on to one of the mayor’s staff in the early afternoon of Oct. 17, and later that day, a spokeswoman for Hizzoner fielded feedback from Community Board 18 at its monthly meeting.

The CB18 members and residents vehemently rejected the idea of bringing the booze cruises to Gateway — and for reasons beyond the lack of parking. One Georgetown resident said that the lack of public transit options for Gateway Marina would invite more drunk driving.

“A lot of the people on the party boats come from the Bronx, so for them to get back at 2 am, you’re setting yourself up for drunk driving,” said Shelomo Alfassa, adding that the boats docking at the Emmons Avenue pier are relatively close to the subway. “I used to live in Sheepshead Bay and the subway is only a $3 taxi ride away from the harbor,” he said.

CB18’s district manager told mayoral spokeswoman Jamila Fynes that she could never be convinced that moving the party boats to either Gateway or Mill Basin would be a good idea.

“There are no answers that you could give me that would satisfy me,” said Dottie Turano.

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