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‘Sophie’s Choice’ on the high seas?

The Brooklyn Paper
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Some Williamsburg residents say that the New York Waterway has made it difficult for their families to use its service because its boats don’t carry enough life preservers to accommodate the community’s large families.

Since beginning its new service last month, the company placed a strict 15-child limit on all its boats. And captains have enforced that limitation, refusing to allow more than that number of children to board, according to several passengers at Schaefer Landing in Williamsburg.

That policy left many Hasidic families waiting for their ship to come in.

“If you don’t have enough life vests, you buy life vests,” said Williamsburg resident Oscar Sabel. “This is America. What is this? Russia? Lack of life vests is a lame excuse.”

The East River service launched last month to swelling crowds — 18,068 people rode the ferry in the first five days of paid service.

Rivky Stienberg and another mom friend were two such customers. Each woman brought four children to the Schaefer Landing pier off Kent Avenue to catch a ferry to Queens last week — only to be told that they’d have to wait for the next ferry because it was already full of children. The pair waited nearly two hours to finally board a boat.

“I would not try this again,” said Stienberg. “I was willing to pay the money, but I have to know that when I go with my children there’s a ferry I can board with my children.”

In response to criticism from Hasidic leaders, the company announced on Monday that it would add 10 more child-size life vests to its fleet to accommodate large families looking to commute by sea.

Many riders are still not impressed with the new policy, given that family sizes in Williamsburg are so large.

“That is an absolute joke,” said Williamsburg resident Isaac Abraham. “What is 25 vests in a community like this? Five mothers? God forbid something happens, which parents are going to fight for which vest?”

It is unlikely that a “Sophie’s Choice” moment would occur on open water, but it ultimately is up to the ferry captain’s discretion whether a child is able to board, according to a New York Waterway spokesman.

The ferry company put a limit on the number of passengers below the age of 13 based on a Coast Guard regulation recommending that ships set aside 10 percent of their life vests — about 15 on a typical 150-person boat — for children.

— with Haru Coryne

Updated 1:45 pm, July 14, 2011: Updated for more clarity.
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Reader Feedback

Cynthia from Clinton hill says:
Christ! Damn Jews always crying about something or someone being ant- semitic. Just ask for the friggen life jacket and stop whining.maybe. someone has to stay home so someone can use it.I mean theirs a lot of people traveling
just try off peak hours.
July 14, 2011, 1:10 am
Cynthia from Clinton hill says:
Just I wait ill be censerd just for saying that. What that's ant-semitic?
July 14, 2011, 1:17 am
Joe from Brooklyn Heights says:
I find it that whenever a the Jewish community sees something inconvenient they take it personal. What about fifteen hispanic children or black children? Are the parents of these children not allowed to complain also? Why is always about them and them alone? The holocaust is over! Get over it!
The boat unfortunately is not large enough for large families and thus you have to plan ahead the next time.
July 14, 2011, 1:59 am
Brian from Bensonhurst says:
Aaron, I find that the quotes in your article fail to support the notion that the Hasidic community finds the child life-preserver policy anti-Semitic. Rather, the quotes support the notion that they just find it stupid and frustrating on the grounds that the policy creates hardships for those traveling with families, unlike other modes of transportation in this city, which do not place limits on the number of children that may ride.

The headline and opening paragraph seem as if they were written solely for the benefit of page views and for the attention of your site's anti-Jewish comment trolls. While not *entirely* surprising, given your organization's reputation for journalism that shares the same primary color as a typical school bus, it is still disappointing to see you sink to this low time and time again.
July 14, 2011, 5:36 am
Bruce from midwood says:
The point is the parents of the jewish kids are the ones complaining because they care about and take a hands on approach to raising their kids.
Hey Cynthia....when you write "damn jews" you are being anti semetic . Are you really that stupid? Can I guess your ethnic group?
July 14, 2011, 5:38 am
Bruce from midwood says:
Brian you are correct . Other than the authors own words in his introduction I see no evidence of Hasidic Jews calling the boat company anti Semetic?
This paper does have a habit of setting anti semetic tones in articles like the park slope food coop humis article and the Williamsburg falafel cart vs falafal store article. In the later example, the store owner who is a muslim , commented on the article and said there was no reason for the article to be written and there was space enough for both businesses to coexist happily .
What is this papers motivation for writing articles like this? Is it solely trolling for anti Semetic comments? If so ,then why?
July 14, 2011, 6:27 am
Hopper from LS says:
This must mean that all other businesses are PRO-SEMITIC!
Aaron needs a vacation.
July 14, 2011, 6:53 am
RissAlti from Midwood says:
I agree with Bruce. What's the purpose of the title of this article? Is this guy trying to find trouble for the Jews? It sounds more like the Jewish families are just concerned for everyone getting a lifevest. It doesn't sounds like they're calling them Jew haters. The article is more anti-semetic than anything. And cynthia, "damn Jews"?? Really? First off, blacks are the first ones to scream "racist" at any perceived slight. It's been old for a long time. And Jews, the most persecuted sect of people, really don't complain much. They do their thing, work hard, and keep surviving. Then they get criticized for doing their thing and "owning everything". People burn Israeli flags, and boycott Jewish products, and you never see a violent protest from them. Unlike other violent, savage ethnic groups. But I guess we'll just conveniently forget that here. Ridiculous article, as always.
July 14, 2011, 7:21 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Brooklyn Paper finds a non issue to create racial or religious animosity!

Take the bait! Take the Bait!!!
July 14, 2011, 7:25 am
min from new york says:
My parents bought us all life jackets when we were kids, in the event that any boat we were on didn't have life jackets our size. To be fair for the company, it's a Water Taxi, not intended as a tourist outing. They probably did research to see what percentage of passengers on ferries were kids. I think the response to buy 10 more child-size life jackets is fine.
July 14, 2011, 8:17 am
manhatposeur from manhat says:
It appears as usual that a community is trying to impose their will without any common sense...sigh
July 14, 2011, 8:28 am
Juniper from Greenpoint says:
Well we know Cynthia is most likely childless and brainless but so is the Brooklyn paper yet again.
Here is a real problem facing families that the ferry service failed to predict. There have unfortunately been fatal events in the past, on the east river, and life jackets are a priority.
It can be considered anti semitic when this group is being singled out for descrimination to the size of their families who live in the community where the ferry service is suppossed to serve.
If it was bikes being denied access the Brooklyn paper would demand a boycott. The BP seem to be in the business of making news rather than reporting it.
July 14, 2011, 8:41 am
anywho says:
Boo hoo. No sympathy from me.
July 14, 2011, 8:43 am
Ben from Greenpoint says:
Aaron short the king of crap news.......
July 14, 2011, 10:52 am
Abe from Clinton Hill says:
this is relay old news, i am surprise they are still covering,
BP sounds like a broken record player......
July 14, 2011, 10:55 am
Carl from Ridgewood says:
My God, these people are like rabbits.
July 14, 2011, 11:59 am
adamben from bedstuy says:
sounds like the company is run by idiots. the coast guard recommends, but does not mandate that at least 10% of the vests should be for children. use your brains, nyw, and make sure that all potential passengers have the appropriate vests. they are just bad, stupid business people, i hope.
July 14, 2011, 12:33 pm
jaded from BR says:
18000 riders when it was free. I remember with the ferry between Wall St. and 58th Street pier was free and during a Harvest Holiday boatloads of families rode the free ferry back and forth all day causing commuters to either find another way home or wait for 2 hours to be able to board. The situation was only rectified after coast guard was alerted and NYW was cited for allowing more children than life perservers available. The City was also contacted regarding the disturbance caused to commuters and the families were made to disembark and go to the back of the line if they wanted to re-board the ferry. So, maybe NYW was simply trying to avoid this same type of situation by having a limited number of child vests, given that future paying riders would have definitely been turned off if they couldn't board because the ferry was already crowded with cruisers instead of commuters.
July 14, 2011, 12:43 pm
AnnoyedAlways from Williamsburg says:
The boats are not that big to begin with. I think adding more life vests to appease the concerned parents is fair enough. Afterall, this IS America and not Russia, so you can CHOOSE whether or not you would like to use this service or another.
July 14, 2011, 1:01 pm
Sam from Williamsburg says:
Aron is not solely at fault here. He's having an attention seeker who is always ready to shell out red-faced outbursts. in exchange for being quoted in a paper. Just Google Issac Abraham's comments during the years. None of them serves the Jewish community, neither they represent the views of the Jewish community. Just check the numbers: In Hasidic South Williamsburg, as in other communities, he was overwhelmingly defeated by Steve Levin in the last city council primary

I'm glad that the Brooklyn Paper stopped calling him a Community Spokesman, and its time to point out his views, as reflecting the typical Williamsburg Jew, who wants to stay out of controversy.

And a mother complaining out being denied a ride is typical, and when she got home she probably forgot of it.
July 14, 2011, 1:55 pm
Sam from Williamsburg says:
Correction about Isaac Abraham

I'm glad that the Brooklyn Paper stopped calling him a Community Spokesman, and its time to point out his views, are not reflecting the typical Williamsburg Jew, who wants to stay out of controversy.
July 14, 2011, 1:57 pm
Keith from Greenpoint says:
wow! did somebody say Aaron short is gay?
July 14, 2011, 2:31 pm
Cynthia from Clinton hill says:
@Brian. I'm white,so I guess your wrong!!!!
July 14, 2011, 3:41 pm
Cynthia from Clinton hill says:
@Brian cry me a river.
July 14, 2011, 4:06 pm
Willi guy from Williamsburg says:
This boat is indeed ridiculous, you wait with 15 other families for a half hour (it doesn't even come on time like you would expect) and then they announce: "7 adults and 2 kids can go on the boat" what kind of ferry service is this????? It this where my tax money is going, go figure!
July 14, 2011, 4:38 pm
Zali from Williamsburg says:
Hello Sam, you must have time on your hands and are the same idiot you were when we look at your photo fighting for the Broadway Triangle.

You don't address the issue, you weren't there when these families were rejected from boarding the waterway, and the best part is they didn't come to you for help.

You must have a cucumber up your rearend on Isaac, but he doesn't give a rats ass about you and your friends from UJO.

Thank GOD that the budget cut off funds from them, if you want to look like a pro, respond to the story next time.

now its time for you to go threaten extort and blackmail developers not to rent to yuppies, hipsters or if they don't dress to your code.
July 14, 2011, 5:13 pm
K. from ArKady says:
Can't they just part the Hudson River like Moses and cross to and from Manhattan? Then collapse the part when the Billyburg hipsters try to bicycle it. Get it together, Hassidim!
July 14, 2011, 5:45 pm
Trevor Logan from Yonkers says:
Awww honey SIT DOWN!!! Are you kidding me, Anti-Semitic?!?!!! You might as well call them racist too because if a Black family or Hispanic family or Asian family or Middle eastern family roll up to the boat, the same rules apply.

Give me a break!
July 14, 2011, 7:49 pm
adamben from bestuy says:
k.fromarkady,

what are you talking about? it is the east river, nu?
July 15, 2011, 7:37 am
you're extremely unintelligent says:
Can someone please introduce Cynthia to spell check, and/or escort her to a grammar class at K-by-the-bay? And, for god sakes, we have something called the subway, people. If the boat is full take another mode of transportation. This isn't Venice.
July 15, 2011, 9:42 am
Sam from Williamsburg says:
Like you expletives... Characteristically Isaac...

WOW... Got out the best of you. Keep ranting...
July 15, 2011, 2:32 pm
Publius from Bklyn says:
A new low for the already low so-called "Brooklyn Paper." Hey Gersh: tapping any phone lines for your dark lord and master, Darth Rupert? How does it feel to cash your meager paycheck involved in trash and yellow journalism and propping up the man behind Fox Newspeak and your "sister" publication the Post?
July 15, 2011, 3:31 pm
Rivkin Heisingoldbergstein from Bed-Stuy says:
@Cynthia You replied to Brian when it was in fact Bruce who derided you. We applaud you, however, for your pioneering innovations on alternative methods of human transport (i.e. off-peak hours). Moreover, one must be preposterous to even envisage utilizing the subway transport system of our fine metropolis. Once again, we applaud you for your courageous but futile efforts.
July 15, 2011, 7:58 pm
Chris from Billyburg says:
Being a father of an 18 month old boy, I have expressed my concern to others about the lack life vests provided. I've taken the ERF several times, and have done a head rough head count of children while on the ferry. I've counted more children on the ferry than they say they have vests for. Because I know that the route serves a large Jewish community, I realized that this would not only be a problem for them not being able to board, but also everyone with children down the line. It only makes sense for the company to provide riders with safety vests in abundance! I'd be okay with even purchasing one for my son and bringing it along when we commuted by ferry (which we plan on using quite a bit), if it meant we weree not prevented from boarding based on a vest shortage-- not sure if they'd allow that or not.

And to those they think, "Oh it's full, so just go to the subway"-- you have to realize that a) you've already been waiting 15-20 mins b) the subways are usually not so close to the East River c) one should be able to rely on service from a company that promotes itself as a viable and sustainable alternative to subways and buses.

I'm a fan of the ferry, and I really hope that they can adequately address the concerns of ALL parents who are willing to keep their business "afloat". They had to know that the communities that they are serving (attempting to serve) has a large number of children, and should be prepared to safely accommodate them.

And to all of the hateful people commenting-- I know of a short pier on which you can take a nice, long hate-filled walk.
July 16, 2011, 11:10 am
pete from park slope says:


Boat and Water Safety is no joke.
There is a reason for the child Limit.
The boats aren't big.
You want your kids to end up breathing bubbles?
listen to the Captain.
July 16, 2011, 1:47 pm
nancy from coney says:
i know this will be one big long sentence but here it goes. you know your all thinking this. birth control wonderful invention back in the old days all you had to amuse yourself with was sex and birth control rare and needed cheap labor for the farms whats the excuse now, how can a woman do that to their body i dont car what my religion tells me im not having 20 kids. this ferry not meant for sight seeing and amusment meant to get people back and forth from work or if have 2 go 2 otherside 2 shop not cause u wanna be cheap and shut the kids up for a bit. your taking away from the people that really need it also cant swim dont get onboard use the bus train cab etc.if u stock the boat with life vest no room 4 people so worried buy your own
July 16, 2011, 5:24 pm
Ralph from South Brooklyn says:
These breeders always use the Anti Semitic' card if they can't have things their way
July 16, 2011, 8:03 pm
Paul from Bensonhurst says:
This represents the very bottom of "journalistic" expression. Henceforth I will avoid viewing this paper in the future. I will also avoid patronizing any and all advertisers and encourage others do so in kind. Absolute rubbish.
July 17, 2011, 12:01 am
Joey from B'hurst says:
If a family with six children boards a ferry, who is going to watch after them..the mates, captain. Certainly not the parents, they will be watching over the children in the strollers.
July 18, 2011, 9:45 am
Tim from Williamsburg says:
Not reported in the article is the fact that each adult is allowed to bring 2 kids ( up to 15 kids) on the boat for no additional charge. This cuts into the profitability of the service itself. It isn't a sight seeing adventure for the whole family, its a means of commuter transportation.

Don't let more kids on. I need to get to work.
July 18, 2011, 12:57 pm
Mella from New York Harbor says:
Safety-wise, I wonder if the issue is more than the number of life jackets. How about adult to child ratio? How is 1 mom going to assist 5 kids donning their live vests in an emergency?
Aug. 4, 2011, 7:27 am

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