New vessels won’t rock the boat, city says

Just because the city is entertaining permits for two new charter boats in Sheepshead Bay, that doesn’t mean it’s ready to throw the fishing fleet overboard.

Despite criticism that two new charter boats set to debut later this year might signal the city’s lack of commitment to the recreational fishing fleet, the Parks Department, which overseas the 10 slips along Emmons Avenue, says it isn’t so.

“Parks supports fishing charters and would happily review any requests for additional fishing charter operations,” spokesperson Phil Abramson said.“We have not had additional interest in fishing charter operations at this time, but would welcome it.”

The city will not reveal information about the two new boats while permits are pending, but Steve Zeltser, spokesperson for City Councilman Mike Nelson, says that the applicants are being encouraged to do “community outreach.”

“Bringing in commerce is obviously very important,” Zeltser said. “There are concerns about these kinds of boats. They need to be addressed on an individual basis.”

There are 19 vessels now docked at the Sheepshead Bay Piers ranging in length from 47 to 147 feet. Thirteen of those vessels are fishing boats, five are event boats, and one specializes in diving excursions.

Given the average size of boats docked at the Sheepshead Bay Piers, the Parks Department says that real capacity for the marina is about 25 vessels.

The two new charter boats are expected to be launched this spring, and the city doesn’t anticipate a big shake-up.

“The marina division has the option to move vessels within the piers to support overall marina operations,” Abramson said. “This is true of all our marinas and is clearly stated in the terms of agreement. We haven’t required anyone to change their previous slip location at this point for next season.We are discussing now potential locations for the new vessels and how that may impact the rest of the marina.”

Dave Paris operates the Captain Dave and Captain Dave II fishing boats at Piers 3 and 4.

He says what’s really hurting the fishing fleet is increasingly stringent federal restrictions on their catch and where boats can fish.

“I’m living on a shoestring,” Paris said. “When that string breaks, I’m out of it.”

There hasn’t been a casino boat in Sheepshead Bay in years, and according to the City of New York Business Integrity Commission [BIC], there are none operating citywide.

Still, wary Bay watchers say they are still keeping an eye out for slot machines along the piers.

“The vessel operators have not discussed any gambling related services with us and gambling is not allowed at the piers,” Abramson said. “In terms of gambling in general on the water, this would be overseen by the city’s Business Integrity Division.Parks is not involved.”

All businesses operating gambling “cruises to nowhere” beyond the three-mile territorial limit, as well as their employees and suppliers, must be licensed by the BIC.

As for Captain Dave, he says he and other members of the recreational fishing community will be in Washington, D.C. on February 24 to protest over-regulation.

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