New York Sets Up Dedicated Office for Removing Derelict Vessels

NYC Parks boat recovery
Courtesy NYC Parks

Published Apr 21, 2024 11:02 PM by The Maritime Executive


New York City is tackling the perennial problem of abandoned vessels with the establishment of an office that will be tasked with keeping waterfronts clear of marine hazards, which are becoming a threat to health, safety and the environment. 

New York's Parks Department says that over 800 derelict boats are located along the city’s 520 miles of shoreline. These deteriorating hulls pose a serious risk to navigation and public safety. They are also a threat to marine habitats and ecosystems in the event of oil and fuel leaks, and their fiberglass hulls leach large amounts of microplastics into the waters.

Since 2006, the Parks Department has removed 350 boats and 5,000 cubic yards of marine debris from the city’s shores, but the menace of abandoned boats remains prevalent.

To deal with the problem more effectively, the city has established a new Office of Marine Debris Disposal and Vessel Surrendering that will not only oversee the removal of derelict boats but also oversee a vessel turn-in program. This will allow New Yorkers to directly surrender their unwanted boats instead of abandoning them.

The city says that giving up vessels before they end up as floating risks or sunken hazards is one of the most effective measures for protecting the public and the natural environment.

The new office, the first of its kind in New York State, has been given $1 million by Mayor Eric Adams to begin clearing the derelict boats from the city’s shores. It is estimated that removing and safely disposing of one boat costs roughly $7,000.

“With this new office and innovative vessel turn-in program, we are protecting our shoreline from floating risks and sunken hazards, benefiting the people, flora, and fauna that rely on a healthy and clean waterfront,” said Sue Donoghue, NYC Parks Commissioner.

New York City Councilmember Joann Ariola, who has been pushing for the program, said that having an agency solely dedicated to abandoned boats will remove red tape for addressing the problem.

The new office will also recommend policies to bring enforcement action against people who abandon boats on the city’s shores. Other mandates will be to recommend programs to track and monitor vessels in order to prevent abandonment and work with volunteer groups involved in removing marine debris. CUNY Kingsborough Community College's marine technology program - the only one of its kind in the five boroughs - will be partnering with the boat-removal initiative.