After months of community opposition, Community Board 7 voted at its May 15 meeting to allow excursion vessels, also known as party boats, to dock at Pier 4 at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, though board members attached a variety of stipulations to their approval.
A total of 28 members voted in favor, while two members were opposed and one abstained.
The vote followed a meeting between the board’s Economic Development/Waterfront Committee and representatives of the New York City Economic Development Corporation on May 1 at which EDC presented its new rules and regulations for excursion vessel activity at the pier.
It’s been choppy waters for the party boats seeking to dock in Sunset. Back in April, CB 7 was nearly unanimous in its opposition to giving a liquor license to Sherryll Princess, which wanted to use Pier 4 as its home port.
“If Sheepshead Bay doesn’t want them, why would we want them?” asked board member Pat Ruiz at that time.
The new rules cap the number of departures at six on Fridays, with three before 9 p.m. and three after. A maximum of nine departures would be allowed on Saturdays, with six before 9 p.m and three after. On Sundays, the number of departures would be capped at seven, all before 9 p.m. Currently, there are nine party boats docking at BAT, making a total of 22 trips each weekend, according to Dan Murphy, the Waterfront Committee chair.
In addition, EDC representatives told the committee that the boats — which were moved from Sheepshead Bay as a result of sustained objections on the part of area residents and their elected representatives — would have to have one private security guard for every 40 passengers, said Murphy.
According to Murphy, EDC reps also told the committee that the boats would have to depart on time, and boat owners would be “requir[ed] to promote public transportation to decrease the number of parking spots being taken on the 58th Street Pier,” as well as “add paid event parking for excursion customers and increase on-site private security from four to six and more as needed for peak events.”
Among the stipulations that CB7 attached to its approval were that EDC should provide CB7 with excursion boat ownership information, updated twice a year. In addition, the board stipulated that EDC should let the board know in a timely fashion if boat-owners commit any city, state or federal violations, and that it be notified within 24 hours if there are any incidents stemming from the party boats that require emergency responders to be called to the pier; the board also voted to require notification if a crime is committed on board one of the party boats.
As Public Safety Committee Chair Samuel Sierra said, “If something happens on the pier, it’s the responsibility of the NYPD, but if something occurs on vessel itself the people get involved is Coast Guard. We’d like to know that as well.”
The board also voted to stipulate that all boats docking at the pier be required to seek its approval when going for a liquor license.
Prior to the vote, Murphy pointed out that one of the boat operators, Empire Cruises, had sent representatives to the recent committee meeting. At that time, he said, they had told committee members that they would hire from within the Sunset Park community.
“They came in good faith and made a point to hire locally through OBT [Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow],” Murphy said.
The EDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.