Party pooper: Pol aims to ban booze boats from Sheepshead Bay

Party pooper: Pol aims to ban booze boats from Sheepshead Bay
Photo by Steven Schnibbe

The party may be over soon for Sheepshead Bay’s booze-cruise captains.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) is vowing to follow through on his campaign promise to push legislation in Albany that would ban the party boats from docking in Sheepshead Bay.

But a longtime local pointed out that the boozy boats, which have become staples of the waterfront district, are operating legally — and the assemblyman should broaden his focus to statewide issues instead of harping on hometown businesses.

“They’re licensed drinking establishments — it is not like you’re not allowed to do it,” said Cliff Bruckenstein, a member of Community Board 15. “It really isn’t even a reasonable concept to have the state come in and make a state rule for something that the city of New York regulates.”

The legislation seeks to ban party boats — defined as vessels longer than 14 feet and used for recreational events with more than six passengers at a time — within 750 feet of Sheepshead Bay’s shoreline and 100 feet from the neighborhood’s dock. The law also wants to ban horns or sirens, except in the event of an emergency, and sound systems that can be heard beyond 50 feet of the vessel.

Cymbrowitz said uncouth patrons of the party boats are destroying the neighborhood and keeping residents awake at night.

“People drink and get rowdy even before they board the party boats. They urinate and defecate on people’s property when they disembark,” said Cymbrowitz in a statement. “On top of that, you have loud music on the boats that drowns out neighbors’ TVs and keeps them up at night.”

When Cymbrowitz first floated the ban at a candidate forum last August, some party boat captains suggested a racial tinge to the proposal, since many of the patrons are black, and the neighborhood around the docks is predominantly white. But more recently, most booze-cruise skippers — even those who had previously spoken out against the ban — declined to be interviewed, stating that the bill was so specific to the neighborhood it was unlikely to pass, and they didn’t want to give it additional attention.

But one former assemblyman said it is not uncommon for Albany legislators to make laws specific to their districts — especially in this instance because the party boats in the bay, unlike the party boats operating from Manhattan, dock in a residential area.

“The argument that Steve makes is Sheepshead Bay is much more of a residential community than some of the ports that carry this in the city,” said Richard Brodsky, a former assemblyman from upstate. “He is on very solid legal ground.”

The captain of a Sheepshead Bay fishing boat — which would be exempt from the law — said Cymbrowitz shouldn’t ban these local businesses but instead increase security if he is concerned about rowdy partygoers.

“He’s doing it wrong, they should just have more security,” said Dave Pares, who has been in the fishing business for 54 years. “They should just guide the people off the boats — ‘Get in your cars.’ ”

Cymbrowitz said the police and the Parks Department, which controls the docks, wanted him to push this law.

“We’ve worked with the 61st Precinct and Parks Department for many years to deal with the quality-of-life issues and have been encouraged by them to introduce this legislation,” he said.

But Bruckenstein said the security has improved dramatically in the past four years and most of the issues are resolved. He admitted that the community still has a few problems with the boats, but said that ultimately, the captains are providing a service.

“I’m not saying it was good but it is a business,” he said.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Bye, boats: Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) said at a candidate forum on Aug. 27 that if he is reelected, he will ban booze cruises, which he said disrupt the neighborhood.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta