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Flap over flotsam & jetsam

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The state is giving a Gerritsen Beach land owner just over two weeks to clean up the crumbling docks behind his property, this paper has learned.

As the splintered sections of the former wharf continue to break off from behind a vacant parcel of land on Lacon Court at Everett Avenue −− the former site of Danza’s Restaurant −− and float toward the center of Shell Bank Creek, boaters have voiced their displeasure about the navigation hazards the flotsam and jetsam has caused.

The complaints made their way to Assemblymember Alan Maisel, who got the New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) involved.

After confirming the complaints, the NYSDEC fired off a letter to Stephen Jemal, the owner of SSJ Development of Gerritsen Beach, on April 28, stating that they have 15 days to rectify the situation.

“[The deteriorated docks] are both non−functional and a hazard to navigation,” wrote NYSDEC Marine Biologist Andrew Walker. “The current deteriorated state of the waterfront structures present on the property will continue to allow fill and debris to enter the waterway, which constitutes a violation of Environmental Conservation Law,”

Jemal was warned that failure to comply with the NYSDEC notice would result in civil penalties “of up to $10,000 per day per violation and $5,000 per violation, respectively, and may also result in criminal prosecution and criminal penalties.”

Jemal had 15 days from the receipt of the letter to contact the NYSDEC Bureau of Marine Resources to discuss how to best remediate the damage the crumbling wharfs have caused.

THE NYSDEC wants Jemal to remove all of the debris created by the crumbling docks, as well as “all deteriorated floating docks, including sunken docks and watercraft associated with the overall site,” according to the letter.

Attempts to reach Jemal for comment was unsuccessful as this paper went to press.

The NYSDEC letter was hailed by local civic groups, who claim that crumbling docks along both Gerritsen Beach Creek and Shell Bank creek is an ongoing problem.

“Historically these old marinas fall into disrepair and the docks slowly break away begin to float around the creek,” said Michael Taylor of Gerritsen Beach Cares. “They become hazards to boaters and anyone that’s using the waterways.”

Taylor said that the situation just gets worse when garbage and other floatables get trapped by the floating docks or when the debris get stuck in the marshes.

“Over the last decade we’ve taken over 1 million pounds of everything from broken−off docks and pilings to plastic cups and cars from Gerritsen Creek,” Taylor said. “But we’re always hopeful that the property owner will maintain they’re property so it doesn’t pollute our environment.”

“These docks are a serious quality of life problem for the people of Gerritsen Beach,” said Maisel. “I’m looking for the day that they are cleaned up and removed and no longer cause a threat to navigation in the channel.”

City Councilmember Lew Fidler, who also fielded residential complaints about the crumbling dock, said that the forced clean−up was “long overdue.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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