Sandy refugees need a seaside escape, cruise line officials say

Sandy refugees need a seaside escape, cruise line officials say
File photo by Sidney Meyer

Displaced Hurricane Sandy victims have had a hard time over the past few weeks — so why shouldn’t they be given a chance to sip a mai tai on a cruise ship’s lido deck?

A Copenhagen boat broker wants Mayor Bloomberg and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to sign off on a proposal to convert two luxury liners berthed off the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook into floating hotels for super storm refugees.

John McCarthy, a marine consultant working with Frilow Ship Sales, says the amenities-heavy boats could easily house more than 2,400 Hurricane Sandy victims — and cost the federal government $100 per person, per day — but claims that Mayor Bloomberg has turned down the offer.

“These people deserve a break,” McCarthy said. “So what if its a little luxury for a few months?”

For about $3,000 a month, cruise ship refugees can enjoy catered meals, accommodations, and maid service to make the bed and clean up the room, according to McCarthy.

He wouldn’t identify the super ships expected to be used until Bloomberg approved the plan, but explained that one of the two vessels has an indoor and outdoor pool, seven bars, two restaurants, a video game room, a 500-seat theater, casino, nightclub, and a disco.

The two ships are currently docked in Europe and are ready to steam across the Atlantic since the cruise line industry always has a lull in business this time of year, he said.

“These would have everything you could mention. They carry bands, comedians, casinos — which wouldn’t be applicable in New York — but they will carry a full compliment of everything you’d find in a small town,” said McCarthy.

The feds would have to pay for the fuel needed to cross the Atlantic and the NYPD will have to provide security once the boats are docked, McCarthy explained.

The liners could drop anchor in Brooklyn in time for Christmas, and would be available until May, according to Frilow Ship Sales owner Knud Frilow.

“They could be in Brooklyn in a couple of weeks and stay for the next four, maybe five months,” Frilow explained. “The question is, we don’t know how long they’ll need these vessels, if they need them at all.”

Calls to the Mayor’s office about McCarthy’s cruise liner proposal were not returned, but the broker was told through an intermediary that Bloomberg feared the city would set sail onto a sea of criticism that drowned New Orleans politicians when the federal government spent $236 million to reserve 10,000 staterooms for Hurricane Katrina refugees on three Carnival cruise ships that were left mostly empty. Those who did live on the boats were allowed to run amuck, critics claim.

McCarthy said his cruise ships would be a lot cheaper than Carnival — about $16 million per boat, not including fuel and other travel costs.

But Brad Gair, who Bloomberg appointed housing recovery chief after Hurricane Sandy, has shot down the idea of putting super storm victims on cruise ships, according to Borough President Markowitz.

“He said he has gotten rid of the option completely,” said Markowitz, who attended a meeting with Gair on Wednesday morning. “He said he had experienced this in Katrina and he’d rather have it on land then on water.”

But even Markowitz said that housing Hurricane Sandy victims on cruise ships was currently unnecessary.

“The city feels that they have enough available hotels and apartments to cover the demand,” he said.

If the plan comes to pass, storm survivors wouldn’t be the only ones living on boats in the aftermath of the storm. More than 800 federal Hurricane Sandy recovery workers are living on three retrofitted cargo ship in New York harbor — one of which can be found docked off Staten Island.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4514.