Deutsch, Cymbrowitz Clash Over How To Solve Party Boat Issue In Sheepshead Bay

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Residents gather to board a part boat in Sheepshead Bay. Photo courtesy of City Councilmember Chaim Deutsch’s office.

Party boats will have an 11 p.m. curfew come next spring, and will eventually be relocated away from Sheepshead Bay’s marina, announced Mayor Bill de Blasio to cheers from the crowd of 250 residents who had gathered for his community town hall last week. 

But while the declaration stood out in the long list of neighborhood-specific concerns on which de Blasio commented, City Councilman Chaim Deutsch and Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz are taking differing stands on how to deal with the large, escalating, and often drunken and disorderly crowds that spill off the party boats and onto Emmons Avenue in the wee morning hours.

According to Deutsch (D-Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay), who co-hosted the town hall, city action is the result of an emergency meeting held a few weeks ago at his district office, between city agencies (the Parks Department, NYPD, FDNY), marina officials, residents who have made complaints, and a boat owner. 

City Councilman Chaim Deutsch

“I basically said we need to figure out a way to bring back public safety without breaking a contract,” said Deutsch, who noted that the number of boats ballooned from three boats to seven boats, all leaving at about 7 p.m. and then again at midnight, returning at 4 a.m. 

Deutsch’s ask? 

“They [the city] must, for next season, reduce the amount of permits to maybe two or three boats. And also to not allow any boats to leave in the middle of the night and come back in the early morning hours. Because it’s not fair to the residents,” he said. 

Deutsch said to gear up for the new curfew, the Parks Department sent notices to boat owners and promised extra enforcement to monitor boat owners when they depart and arrive to ensure compliance.

But Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach) said while the mayor instituting a 11 p.m. is a good first step, he still believes getting the party boats relocated out of Sheepshead Bay entirely is the answer.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

“As long as we have thousands of people cramming onto our docks, spilling out into the streets, getting off the boats drunk and noisy, throwing litter around and causing a ruckus in the middle of a residential neighborhood, my opposition to the party boats will remain,” Cymbrowitz explained. “These are issues that come up every year, some years worse than others, and it’s likely that they won’t be solved even with an 11 p.m. curfew. This year’s party boat season clearly fell into the “worse” category.” 

 Cymbrowitz feels that warnings and increased police and traffic enforcement is not enough. To that end, he has introduced state legislation that would ban party boats from docking in Sheepshead Bay entirely, which would force the city to find alternative docking locations.

“There comes a point when you say, ‘enough.’ We have reached that point. There is just no place for these party boats in Sheepshead Bay, and that’s the goal we need to aim for,” Cymbrowitz said.

The bill (A5402) prohibits party boats within 750 feet of the shore of Sheepshead Bay or within 100 feet of the Sheepshead Bay docks, and restricts noise, but does not apply to fishing boats. However, questions remain how state legislation could overrule city ordinances as the Sheepshead Bay Marina, it’s docks and noise ordinances all fall under city jurisdiction.

At post time, Cymbrowitz did not respond as to how he sees the measure working under a shared jurisdiction.

For his part, Deutsch said he hopes a balance can be found between supporting business and protecting public safety. 

“I’m not looking to take away business from boat owners or to take away a good time from people, but not at the expense of public safety,” Deutsch explained. “Sheepshead Bay is open to everyone. I encourage people to come here, and to patronize businesses and boat owners along Emmons Avenue. But we want to bring back quality of life so everyone can enjoy themselves and the waterfront area.” 

If a new location is found, so be it, he added, but it would be up to the administration to do that. 

“I don’t care how they work it out with the boat owners, but nothing is going to happen at the expense of my constituents and the safety of the party-boat-goers,” said Deutsch.