City Island residents and elected officials want changes on the water

Councilman Mark Gjonaj and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto want changes to the water in the Bronx.
File photo

With the recent deaths of two men on jet skis near City Island and another fatality in 2018, residents and elected officials are urging the city and NYPD for more enforcement.

On July 21, the Water Safety Committee of the City Island Civic Association submitted a letter to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea about the issues in the water near City Island. Chair of the committee John Sheridan spoke with the Bronx Times about the ongoing issues that have been affecting the community.

Sheridan explained that these aren’t new issues but rather ones that have been plaguing shorefront neighborhoods for years. The late night boat and jet ski activity has not only affected City Island, but also the nearby communities of Edgewater, Locust Point, Country Club and Spencer Estates. The Bronx is the only borough without a dedicated harbor patrol and after 8 p.m. there is no police presence in the area.

The letter pointed out a variety of illegal activities that usually take place in the waterway, including the operation of boats and jet skis with no registration numbers or names, lewd public behavior, underage drinking and the use and sale of drugs.

“This open defiance of the law and any semblance of acceptable, neighborly-like behavior has been going on for four years now,” the letter said. “We need that permanent station, Commissioner Shea.”

Sheridan commended Captain Fraser of the 45th Precinct, members of Community Board 10 and Councilmen Mark Gjonaj and Fernando Cabrera, who helped to make the case for the inclusion of funding for a permanent harbor patrol station in the Bronx as well as funding for additional NCO type positions for harbor patrol a part of this year’s annual budget. But with the recent arrival of COVID-19, that legislation has stalled.

Sheridan said that he hopes the letter, advocacy from the officials and the recent deaths will help change things.

“How many more people have to die before legislation that has been before the City Council for a year now is passed?” Sheridan said. “Do innocent swimmers have to die?  Do innocent children learning to sail have to die?”

On July 27, NYPD’s Harbor Patrol held a conference call that included members of the City Island Civic’s Water Safety Committee, representatives from Edgewater Civic Association as well as from Spencer Estates Civic Association and elected officials Gjonaj and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.

Reggie Johnson, chief of staff for Gjonaj, told the Bronx Times that the councilman is still trying to get the legislation passed but in the meantime, he is focused on making waterways safe for Bronx residents.

Gjonaj has asked the NYPD how many boats there are, the number of personnel on staff and what is their response time to an incident.

“Although there are clearly budget restrictions, I think there are things we can do,” Johnson said. “There is a responsibility of the city to protect the people when they’re using it [the water].”

Benedetto shared the councilman’s concerns. He said having a dedicated patrol in the Bronx isn’t necessary as long as the people who are supposed to patrol the area are doing their job.

He also stressed that people need “to be good citizens on the water.” Jet skis should not be flying at high speeds late at night. If people followed common sense laws, some of these accidents could be avoided.

The assemblyman noted people on the boats should not be throwing loud parties that disturb their neighbors.

“We might not have a dock in the Bronx, but there are patrols that take care of our area,” Benedetto said. “I’m more concerned with does NYC put enough money into maintaining adequate patrols.”

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