Talk about troubled waters.
Officials must float buoys off the shores of Coney Island and Brighton Beach to help law enforcement crackdown on scofflaw jet skiers terrorizing swimmers, demand locals who say the wave-ripping thrill seekers endanger bathers by cruising too close to the shore, and the bright-red buoys would give seafaring lawmen more fodder to catch the slippery culprits.
“Some people rent jet skis and they may not know you can’t go close to the beach,” said Brighton Beacher Capri Djatiasmoro, who launched an online petition for the buoys that has garnered more than 260 signatures. “There needs to be a visual aide, because right now it’s not a comfortable way to swim in the water — always being fearful of jet skis.”
State law prohibits all personal watercraft within-500 feet — or the length of nearly two football fields — off the shore, according to a rep with the New York Police Department’s harbor unit, who issues $50 fines for those who flout the law.
Lawbreakers regularly skirt the shore and some locals blame nearby jet ski rental companies for doing a poor job of communicating sea doos and sea don’ts to their customers, thus making swimmers speed bumps in the water, said another beachgoer.
“I think the rental companies need to have better communication about the law with the people who rent the jet skis,” said Hsi-Ling Chang, who frequents Coney Island and Brighton beaches year-round. “I saw a jet ski go over one guy who had his head down when he was swimming, but if he had his head up he would have been decapitated.” But management from the two nearby jet ski rental companies, Empire Jet Ski, Inc. in Gravesend and Rockaway Jet Ski in Queens, point the finger at rogue owners, and say they closely watch their renters to keep funny business to a minimum.
“Our renters don’t go anywhere near Coney Island,” said Robert Kaskel the owner of Rockaway Jet Ski. “The shorelines are inherently dangerous, people can get caught in fishing lines, there’s shallows, you could hit rocks.”
The Queens company does offer tours to Coney where two guides, one at the head of the pack called the “lead” and someone who mans the rear known as the “sweeper,” ensure three to six jet skiers stay on course, according to Kaskel. And those who rent from Empire Jet Ski rarely even venture over to Coney Island, according the company’s manager.
But it isn’t hard for lone riders to purchase a jet ski and run amuck, said Kaskel.
“It’s like there’s something magnetic that pulls them to the shore,” he said. “And it’s unfortunately really easy for people to buy a jet ski, so it’s definitely a problem.”
A personal watercraft operator must be at least 14-years-old and have proof of completing a New York Safe Boating Course or other approved safety courses, according to state Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation records. The crafts can cost between $5,000 and $15,000.
The lack for training required to man a jet ski troubles locals, but feel plopping buoys off the coast of Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and Seagate could at least alert wave runners to off-limit areas.
But the city’s Parks Department won’t bite, because buoys actually endanger weak swimmer by enticing them to wade out too far, according to Parks Department officials who could not provide studies citing the trend. Now, frustrated residents and local pols are joining forces to craft legislation that would amend state law to mandate the buoys at the 500-foot mark.
“My office has received dozens of calls from constituents who are concerned that boats and jet skis are operating within swimming zones,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Harris (D-Coney Island), who plans on introducing legislation that would mark the swim zone with navigational aids such as buoys. “It’s imperative that we address this issue before tragedy strikes.”