A local politician fighting for reelection is fishing for votes by proposing to ban the so-called “booze cruises” that depart from Sheepshead Bay, claiming the docks should be reserved for boats offering rods and reels, not drinking and dancing. But party-boat skippers suspect a darker motive.
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) said at a candidate forum on Aug. 27 that he is drafting legislation to outlaw nautical excursions that emphasize catching a buzz over catching bass, saying they disrupt life on the bay.
But one party-boat captain, who has been in the business for more than 40 years, said he thinks the real reason the mostly white waterfront community wants to lose the booze cruises is because of the race of much of his clientele.
“A lot the people that come here are black people — they’re from the Caribbean and inner city,” said Joe Lind, the captain of the party vessel Golden Sunshine.
But Cymbrowitz, who faces Ben Akselrod in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, insists that the partygoers’ race is not the issue — but rather it is the disturbances the visitors cause that is the problem.
“Before people get on the boat, they’re drinking in their cars, they’re urinating in the streets,” said Cymbrowitz.
According to one longtime local who is helping Cymbrowitz draft his legislation, when the pier was remodeled in the 1990s by the Economic Development Corporation, the pier was intended strictly for fishing charter boats.
“That was the intent of the pier and that was a deal that was made in a handshake,” said Steve Barrison, the president of the Bay Improvement Group. “This was never supposed to be for dinner boats, or party boats, or whatever you want to call them.”
But Lind said he is simply providing a sought-after service. He said many of his parties are subdued family affairs — and he said noise complaints about nighttime nautical voyages are nonsense.
“Right now I’m going down there for a Jewish 80th birthday,” said Lind. “My boat is completely encapsulated — the music doesn’t go out.”
Some locals say the partiers’ antics carry over to the shore, even if the music doesn’t.
In 2011, a man shot at another man on Emmons Avenue, after a tussle near the Golden Sunshine. No one was injured but Barrison said the incident upset locals.
But Lind maintains his parties are not rowdy and he said his boat, which he claims brings business into the neighborhood, is his life.
“I work very hard — very hard — to make the community proud,” said Lind. “If you take my boat away, what do I got?”