The salty old sailors of Southern Brooklyn say that the city’s plan to remove an important landmark from just outside Sheepshead Bay will make it difficult for them to find their way home — forcing them to rely on fancy electronic devices instead of their God-given eyes.
The 77-year-old concrete roundhouse would come down as part of a city plan to update a sewage treatment plant in the area that will make it expendable, but captains think such a move could make their jobs more dangerous.
“It’s a reliable landmark for when I’m sailing from the West End of Coney Island,” said Stan Kaplan, who sails a 24-foot boat that he takes out at least five times a week. “It’s especially useful at night because it lights up.”
The roundhouse, which extends about 10 feet above the Rockaway Inlet off the Southeast corner of Manhattan Beach, is part of the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment plant’s system that discharges treated sewer water into Jamaica Bay. The Department of Environmental Protection’s plan to upgrade the system would make itobsolete, and the city says it has to come down because it is not ship-shape and would be very expensive to maintain.
“The roundhouse is being removed because it is deteriorating,” said Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Michael Saucier.
But sailors say the loss of the roundhouse will force them to rely on technology to guide them to shore, and some say that technology is not perfect.
“I’d rather rely on a fixed landmark than an electronic device that occasionally gives me misreads,” said Kaplan. “I like to know I’m in exactly the right place.”
For that reason, sailors are requesting the city replace the landmark with something else.
“They should at least put some kind of a buoy there in its place,” said Bay Improvement Group member Richard Arneman.
The city did would not comment on that request.
Some mariners, of course, aren’t too worried about the finding their way without the roundhouse.
“Our maritime students have electronic navigation systems and compasses,” said Anthony DiLernia, director of Kingsborough Community College’s maritime program. “They don’t have to rely on a structure for directions.”
Sheepshead Bay has six marinas used by a combination of chartered fishing vessels and party boats, according to Bay Improvement Group president Steve Barrison.
This isn’t the first time that Southern Brooklynites have protested how the government shifts its weight around their waters. Earlier this month, locals blasted the Army Corps of Engineers for not dredging the sand-clogged mouth of Sheepshead Bay.