In a historic operation lasting more than five hours, three New York City agencies coordinated to remove a sunken boat from frigid Sheepshead Bay waters.
Department of Sanitation’s Derelict Vehicles Operations Unit, NYPD’s Harbor Unit and Scuba Team, and the Parks Department converged near the Ocean Avenue footbridge at 8 a.m. today, marking the first time any of these city agencies were involved in the removal of a submerged boat.
The 30-foot sailboat had sat in Sheepshead Bay’s waters for two months, since the March 13 storm that ripped nearly a dozen vessels from their moorings. All but three of the other boats have been removed by private towing companies. The Sanitation Department and NYPD units will return to remove the other two boats, which are near the Holocaust Memorial Park.
Previous removal operations – like the Coast Guard vessel that was once a fixture of the Sheepshead Bay marina – were removed by more experienced state and federal crews.
For those that think removing a boat is as easy as tying a cable to it and dragging it out, this morning’s operation gave a glimpse into the logistical difficulties. The boat weighed approximately 4,000 pounds before being filled with water. Two months sleeping with the fishes weakened the structure. On the crew’s first attempt to remove the boat, the rear lifted first and began to tear under stress. The front of the boat was stuck in the bay floor’s muck, creating a suction that threatened to rip the boat in two.
The NYPD’s scuba team entered the water – which was at a wintry 50 degrees or so – and secured new chains around the sailboat to distribute the stress. After removing it from the muck, the Department of Sanitation took over to safely pull the boat out of the water, onto the sidewalk, and ultimately onto a flatbed truck.
The boat was then taken to Floyd Bennett Field, where the Department of Sanitation has a training facility and equipment to dismantle the boat for disposal.
The price of the operation, which required more than a dozen city workers, two NYPD boats (plus a raft), a Sanitation Department tow truck, a flatbed truck, and several police units to direct traffic – is paid for by taxpayers. Though the city intends to seek reimbursement from the boat owners, as well as levy heavy fines, letters of notice to the owner have so far been returned as “addressee unknown,” according to a representative for Assemblyman Cymbrowitz.
Cymbrowitz, along with Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo, were the driving forces that pressured the city into action, and are responsible for coordinating the agencies involved.