Sail la vie! New ban prohibits party boats from operating at Sheepshead Bay pier starting in May

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

They’re lost at sea!

Party boats will officially be banned from operating out of Sheepshead Bay piers starting this summer, a local pol announced.

Starting May 1, the boats will be prohibited from picking up and dropping off passengers at the neighborhood’s Emmons Avenue pier, where they will only be allowed to dock while not in use, according to Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay), who said the ban will alleviate quality-of-life issues caused by the controversial vessels.

“This is a fair and reasonable resolution that will help restore Sheepshead Bay’s quality of life during the summer months, and bring in weekend visitors who were reluctant to come here because of the crowds and backed-up traffic on Emmons Avenue,” Cymbrowitz said in a Tuesday statement. “I’ve said all along that you can’t have thousands of people boarding and disembarking from party boats in the middle of a residential community.”

For years, several booze cruises set sail from the Emmons Avenue pier, with some boats welcoming as many as 600 passengers at a time — some of whom would return drunk, leading residents to complain of noise, littering, and fights in the otherwise sleepy seaside community.

Last April, Mayor DeBlasio ordered the party boats to ship off to Mill Basin after Cymbrowitz and Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D-Sheepshead Bay) called for their removal.

But Mill Basinites erupted over Hizzoner’s decree, staging protests that stalled that plan and left officials searching for alternative docks ever since, most recently at the Gateway National Recreation Area — where the Feds that operate the park’s marina in October said they wouldn’t be able to accommodate the boats by the time sailing season begins this year, making their recent banishment from the Emmons Avenue pier a huge relief to locals who worried they might return with nowhere else to go.

But one local cruise operator, who agreed the booze boats’ noise and crowding issues needed addressing, said the new ban is too broad, because it unfairly punishes smaller tours like his — which was not among the vessels DeBlasio banished last year, because it only hosts events for no more than 150 passengers, and only offers booze with larger catering packages, unlike other vessels that pour it more liberally, he said.

“The city has to react because of the problems that go with it, so I’m not faulting anybody, but there are ways of going about that without having collateral damage,” said Fred Ardolino, whose New York Cruises company offers tours and events on his vessel, The Atlantis. “The last time they did this they separated The Atlantis from the rest, because they knew that we didn’t do booze cruises.”

The veteran skipper said there is another smaller boat that runs similar tours from the Emmons Avenue pier, but described the rest of the cruise operators that dock there as booze boats. This newspaper contacted many of those companies, reps for which did not respond or declined to comment.

And Ardolino hopes the city will again spare his ship, claiming he already booked several events for this summer.

“I have three weddings, and I have half a dozen schools and nursing homes. I hardly think that it’s fair, people who booked it more than a year ago,” the Gerritsen Beach resident said.

Whether or not Ardolino and similar operations are exempt from the ban is up to officials with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which owns and operates the Sheepshead Bay marina, and Economic Development Cooperation, which oversees other docking locations in the five boroughs, according to a rep for Cymbrowitz.

“Parks and EDC are responsible for the regulations, and any questions can only be answered by them,” said Adrienne Knoll.

A Parks Department spokeswoman confirmed that only fishing boats can operate at the Emmons Avenue pier under the ban, suggesting charter-boat owners contact the economic agency to find other ports through its so-called Dock NYC program.

“Event charters will not be permitted to operate out of Sheepshead Bay piers, with the exception of fishing vessels. Boaters can reach out to DockNYC for information on alternative operating sites,” said Maeri Ferguson.

Still, the booze-boat prohibition came as good news to a local civic leader, who said making exemptions for certain charters would be unfair.

“How could we say, ‘We’re asking for all boats to leave except boat A and B,’ ” said Community Board 15 Chairwoman Theresa Scavo. “How can you pick and choose? If it’s good for one it’s got to be good for everyone.”

And Ardolino — who said his family has operated boats from the Emmons Avenue pier since 1947, first as fishers then as cruise captains starting in 1990 — remains optimistic that officials will revise the ban, so locals who responsibly set sail won’t lose a beloved form of recreation.

“I think that the city will reassess what they’ve done,” he said. “It not only hurts me but it hurts the community. The seniors and the kids are not going to go on any other boat, this boat does a community service.”

A spokeswoman for Deutsch did not respond when asked if the councilman thinks the boat ban is too broad, or if there can be exceptions to it.

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