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Abandoned boats to be fished out of Jamaica Bay

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The Port Authority has gone fishing in Jamaica Bay this summer and can’t wait to dispose of its haul.

Maintenance crews from Kennedy Airport have joined the National Park Service and other agencies in Operation Clean Sweep, aimed at clearing abandoned boats from the bay, said Al Graser, general manager of the airport.

The project began last weekend and was expected to continue through the summer, ending in a major one-day effort on Sept. 21, New York Beach Cleanup Day, he said.

“We’re just trying to clean up the bay and keep it safe,” Graser said. “It helps out the bay now and in the future.”

Two boats have already been pulled out of the water, and another dozen have been located. By the end of the summer, Graser estimates the project may retrieve as many as 30 boats which have become partially or totally submerged or washed ashore.

Abandoned boats can cause safety concerns for recreational boaters and jet-skiers and wreak havoc on the bay’s ecosystem.

“If a passing pleasure craft collides with a partially sunken speedboat, the results could be disastrous,” Graser said. “Abandoned boats often leak oil, causing environmental problems. Others collect rainwater — a possible breeding area for disease-carrying mosquitoes.”

The project collaboration includes the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the city Department of Environmental Protection, Sanitation, and the Police Department Harbor Division, and federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Gateway National Park Service, which manages Jamaica Bay. Community groups like the Jamaica Bay Eco-Watch, the American Littoral Society, and the Friends of Marine Park are also involved.

Agencies that have boats will scour the bay to locate the sunken vessels and drag them closer to shore. Port Authority crews and other workers will then haul the boats onshore using cables, trucks, and construction equipment.

The PA will be responsible for emptying oil and gas from the boats, crushing them into smaller pieces and disposing of the debris, Graser said. He estimated the Port Authority will have donated less than $10,000 in labor and machinery costs.

This is the second year the PA has worked with the National Park Service to clean up Jamaica Bay. Since Kennedy Airport is located on Jamaica Bay, Graser said he believes it is the Port Authority’s civic duty to help maintain the waterway.

“Jamaica Bay is a community effort and we are part of the community,” Graser said. “Removing these potentially hazardous materials from the bay is a great opportunity for the airport to be a good neighbor to the surrounding communities.”

For more information on how to become involved with the Jamaica Bay cleanup, visit www.alsnyc.org, or call 1-800-449-0790.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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