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The law of the sea: Mill Basin officials threaten lawsuit to sink plan for booze cruise invasion

Bad boats: More than 100 people protested the city’s decision to move the controversial party boats from Sheepshead Bay to Mill Baisn on April 29 at Nick’s Lobster House.
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Call it a dock block.

Local leaders in Mill Basin may go to court to halt the city’s surprise plan to move an armada of party boats from Sheepsshead bay to docks off Flatbush Avenue, because the city completely botched the process, according the local district manager.

“It’s so off base what they did,” said Community Board 18 district manager Dottie Turano.

She said elected officials are considering invoking Article 78 of the city’s civil practice laws, which allows people to challenge the rulings of public agencies. The causes for action include the community board not being consulted, its questions not being answered, and disregard for the boats’ possible environmental effects on wildlife in the narrow, shallow waterway set to host the booze cruises.

“What will happen to the waterways? And the shellfish?,” said Turano. “So many questions haven’t been answered.”

The mayor’s office set up a meeting with community leaders to discuss the boats on May 3. A letter CB18 sent to deBlasio on May 4 slammed the city for moving the boats without consulting Mill Basin and surrounding areas. CB18 next sent another letter to Hizzoner on May 14, reiterating why it opposes the boats’ arrival, and asking if the site would be reconsidered, and about arrangements for parking, the boats’ exact site, the cost of the relocation, and other questions. Turano said she has not received answers to these letters to the mayor’s office.

The Parks Department confirmed to this paper that three party boats from the Emmons Avenue pier will be coming to Mill Basin in May, where they will reportedly dock off of Flatbush Avenue. Further details, such as their exact location on the Basin, are still being finalized, according to the department.

The city said that the party boats will have to abide by noise restrictions, including no loud noise near residential areas, and that violators will have their docking rights taken away.

“The City is committed to ensuring that all late-night operating cruises are respectful to residents, no matter where they are, and that docking locations that will continue to be financially viable for cruise operators,” said a Parks Department spokeswoman.

CB18 will also have the chance to vote to approve or reject the boats’ applications for liquor licenses, but the State Liquor Authority has ultimate say over the decision. Turano said the state has sometimes gone against the board’s recommendations, but that she is sure the board will not vote to approve the licenses.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Nothing seems right. The conditions here are different than where they are currently docked.”

A spokesman for Assemblywoman Jaime Williams (D–Mill Basin) said he is confident there is enough support in the community to pursue a temporary injunction to prevent the boats from coming. But both he and Turano said no case has been filed yet.

Some Marine Park and Mill Basin residents want politicians to follow through on their pledges to stop the boats.

“I think they should be doing more,” said Marine Parker Barbara Wagner. “Politicians got them out of Sheepshead Bay, why can’t they get them off of Flatbush Avenue?”

A petition called “HEY, Hey, Ho, Ho the Party Boats Must Go” that is circulating on Marine Park Facebook pages currently has more than 450 signatures.

The city decided to move the so-called “booze cruises” from Sheepshead Bay in April, after residents there complained for years that they brought noise, public intoxication, parking issues and more to the neighborhood. Some party boat owners responded by accusing the boats’ opponents of racism against the heavily Caribbean-American clients.

In Mill Basin and nearby areas, locals have complained that they were not consulted before the decision, and have said the area is not suitable for the big boats. There was a protest against the move shortly after it was announced.

It’s unclear where in Mill Basin they will dock this month. DockNYC, a system of docks throughout the five boroughs, has a section on its website called “Mill Basin Wharf” that only reads “coming soon.” A DockNYC employee was not immediately available for comment.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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