Eight abandoned vessels, marine debris lifted from City Island waters

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NYC Parks staff removed eight derelict boats from the City Island shoreline on April 21, 2023.
Photo courtesy Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez’s office, NYC Parks

The waters off the coast of City Island got a jump on spring cleaning. 

That’s because a crew of officials from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation removed what they said were the final eight derelict vessels and container loads of marine debris from the shoreline. 

“New York City is a city of water, with a shoreline that exceeds the length of Boston, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego combined,” NYC Parks Chief Nate Grove said in an April 21 statement. “Abandoned derelict vessels in our waterways and along our shorelines pose a serious risk to navigation and public safety while endangering our city’s sensitive marine ecology.”

The removed debris caused environmental hazards, navigational hazards for other mariners, and a property damage risk — particularly during heavy weather events, according to Parks officials. 

Bronx City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez, who represents City Island in District 13, also helped with the cleanup. According to her office, the last vessel that had been sunken near Catherine Scott Promenade for “several years” was fished out via inflatable lift bags. 

“Our waterways have been neglected for far too long, and it’s a shame that it’s taken so many  years for the debris to be cleared. I’m grateful that NYC Parks has been an active partner in organizing today’s vessel and debris removal,” Velázquez said in a statement. “These vessels pose incredible harm to our shores and to the public.” 

NYC Parks has been teaming up with politicos to remove abandoned vessels from waters all throughout the city in recent years.

In an interview with the New York Times last year, Grove said clearing New York City waters is one of his top priorities as the chief of waterfront and marine operations with NYC Parks. He told the Times he had overseen the removal of 300 vessels since around 2016.

The vessels and marine debris are the latest abandoned infrastructure to make its way off the City Island — a small enclave in the East Bronx that spans just about 1.5 miles long and a half-mile wide.

In February of this year, the New York City Department of Buildings ordered an emergency demolition at three addresses on City Island after determining the buildings on the properties had “deteriorated to a dangerous extent.”

One of the lots is privately owned, but community leaders had their eyes on the other two city-owned plots of land — one of them home to the famous boat and marine rental shop and bar Rosenberger’s Boat Livery, which went under in 2009 — hoping to turn the demo sites into something aesthetically pleasing and welcoming. The properties are directly adjacent to the City Island Bridge, the only way on and off the isle. 

Former Bronx City Councilmember Mark Gjonaj and Grove led a $10,000 effort to remove marine debris from City Island and allocated $20,000 to fish out three boats from Pelham Bay Park in 2021. 

City officials cleared marine debris from the shoreline of City Island on Friday, April 21, 2023.
City workers cleared marine debris from the shoreline of City Island on Friday, April 21, 2023. Photo courtesy Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez’s office, NYC Parks

Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes