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Mill Basinites protest party boats off of Flatbush Avenue

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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They don’t want to end up in the same boat as Sheepshead Bay.

Mill Basinites demanded the city change course at a protest on Sunday against the plan to move three party boats there from the Emmons Avenue dock where they’ve been blamed for long-standing quality-of-life complaints. The demonstrators say the city’s decision to move the infamous “booze cruises” is not solving the problem, but instead dumping Sheepshead Bay’s issues on to Mill Basin.

“I don’t know how they can say it’s definitely not permissible in one neighborhood, but okay in an other,” said Mill Basinite Bill DeStefano.

More than 150 people showed up to the protest on April 29 at Nick’s Lobster House — a seafood restaurant along the waterfront off of Flatbush Avenue, where the boats are reported to be heading this month. In April, politicians from Sheepshead Bay announced that three of the boats would move to Mill Basin in May, with the rest going to Brooklyn Army Terminal in September. Sheepshead Bay residents who are tired of the boats celebrated the long-sought move.

But elected leaders in and around Mill Basin immediately complained that they were neither consulted nor informed ahead of the move, as did pols near the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park.

The Parks Department and the mayor’s office have not responded to multiple requests for comment on whether the community was informed ahead of the decision. The local leaders who organized the protest maintain that they were kept in the dark.

“We couldn’t have been told because we were completely unaware,” said Community Board 18 chairman Saul Needle. “Given the opportunity, we would’ve let the city know that what’s not good for Sheepshead Bay is not good for Mill Basin.”

The protesters held signs reading “This Won’t Float in This Town,” and “No Booze Cruise Welcome” at the event.

DeStefano says he has no clue where big boats like those in question will go in Mill Basin, and that the area is actually a worse place for them than Sheepshead Bay.

“In Sheepshead Bay you can get right to the ocean,” said DeStefano. “You don’t have people on small boats or leisure crafts. This is more common in Mill Basin.”

The city has not confirmed an exact location where the boats will dock, and the nearby Kings Plaza Marina, where many small craft are moored, did not respond to a request for comment.

One Bergen Beach protester agrees that the area isn’t suited for large party boats.

“The Mill Basin waterways aren’t made for these type of boats,” said Joe Dai. “The channel isn’t wide enough, and there’s no adequate dockage, bathroom facilities or parking.”

Dai says he is happy with the large turnout at the protest, and is confident the city will back down given all the outrage.

“We’re not gonna stop,” he said. “This isn’t the right place for them.”

The boats proved controversial for years in Sheepshead Bay, with their critics saying they brought public intoxication, loud noise, and parking woes to their neighborhood. Some captains of the boats responded to this by accusing the boat critics of racism, since many of the customers are Caribbean-American, but DeStefano says it’s the nature of the boats, not the race of the people on them, that bothers him.

“That’s insane,” he said of the racism charge. “There are more minorities here now [in Mill Basin], and this is putting them at risk too.”

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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