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New rules restrict College Point fishers

New federal rules outlining what boaters can and cannot do in the waters around Queens have placed restrictions on where Baysiders sail, in what areas people from College Point fish and how Howard Beach boat owners navigate around potential terrorist targets such as Kennedy Airport.

There have been, however, varying degrees of enforcement by federal, state and city agencies of increased security measures aimed at Queens boaters put into place in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

The new rules, drafted by the U.S. Coast Guard, advise boaters sailing in Long Island Sound and Jamaica Bay to keep safe distances from airports, bridges, tunnels and other tourist sites. A Coast Guard manual tells Queens boaters not to fish near Kennedy or LaGuardia Airports, and not to anchor near or under the Queensboro, Whitestone, or Throgs Neck bridges.

“If you linger or sail too close, you will draw the sharp attention of the authorities,” the manual says. “Reckless boat operation and dangerous maneuvers that used to be tolerated may not be interpreted as suspicious behavior.”

Boaters in Bayside and College Point said they have noticed a significant increase in the number of Coast Guard harbor patrols and inspection by federal officials of suspicious boats.

The Coast Guard “stops boats constantly from our marina,” Marty Munch, co-owner of the Bayside Marina said. “It makes the people more safe, and it’s protecting everyone. It’s benefiting the community.”

The Coast Guard, New York Police Department and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey all patrol city waters.

Munch said the Coast Guard and NYPD check the registrations of boaters they stop. He said people who use the Bayside Marina have not complained about the increased presence of law enforcement in borough waters.

Tony Tondo, commodore at the College Point Yacht Club, said security in Queens waters is at its highest level ever. He said the new rules now prevent people from doing what they have done for years, such as fishing near runways at LaGuardia Airport or borough bridges.

“If you are a stranger in the area, they (authorities) will pull you over and board you,” he said. “We have more security now than we ever did.”

Coast Guard rules also call for boaters to become an extra set of eyes and ears for law enforcement, Coast Guard spokesman Tom Sperduto said. He said the agency has the responsibility for water search and rescue, aiding in navigation, enforcing the law and monitoring homeland security, and it needs the public’s help.

“We are on the waters 24 hours a day, making sure the waters are safe,” Sperduto said. “We’re a many mission organization.”

But Sperduto said he could not describe most of the federal, state and city safety measures in effect for borough waters because he did not want to jeopardize security operations.

Tony Ciavolella, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was unable to discuss the security measures in place because such measures are still taking place.

Community members and elected officials from northwest Queens have expressed their concern because the East River provides easy access to LaGuardia Airport and several of the city’s critical power plants.     State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) has been fighting to put the state in control of patrolling Queens’ western waters where there power plants constitute potential terrorist targets.

Despite the stepped-up security patrols sighted in northeast Queens waters, borough residents who use Jamaica Bay said they had not seen an increase even though boaters from Howard Beach and other waterfront sections are similarly restricted from approaching nearby Kennedy Airport.

Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe, who is overseeing a two-year pilot program focused on the restoration of bay marshlands, said he had not noticed a stepped-up security presence in the waters he frequents around Kennedy Airport.

“I do not see a lot more patrols out there,” he said. “I rarely see the Coast Guard.”

Riepe, who sails the waters around Kennedy Airport and the Rockaway Peninsula daily, said neither he nor other boaters he is in touch with has been approached or boarded as a result of the new regulations.

Bob Moravek, vice president of the Douglaston Yacht Club, agreed, saying the new rules had not really affected private boaters in Little Neck Bay in northeast Queens. He said there has not been a noticeable increase in the number of patrols or authorities in the waters around Douglaston.

But Moravek and Riepe did say that the apparent lack of policing agents could instead be a tactic and not mean that there are fewer authorities patrolling Queens waters.

“They (authorities) are having a lower profile this year, but they are around,” Moravek said.

Reporters Ayala Ben-Yehuda and Alex Dworkowitz contributed to this article.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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