To track down people who abandon their boats in the Town of Babylon, officials are trying a new tack: Shame.
Pat Farrell, the town’s head of public safety, said he gets calls every year about boats abandoned on public streets, in waterways or tied to town docks.
“In the past, people would just dump a boat in a marina,” Farrell said. “Now they’re getting more creative and dumping it in an industrial park.”
Or on a dead-end street, tied to a utility pole, he added.
Some boat owners get in over their heads when they purchase the vessel, underestimating the cost of repairs and upkeep, and simply dump it instead of paying costly disposal fees, Farrell said.
Although boats built in the mid-1970s or later come with a hull identification number, known as a HIN, most owners grind them down or cut them out of the boat so there’s no way to identify the vessel or its owner once it’s dumped, Farrell said. About 10 boats were abandoned on town property in recent years, but last year there were 15, and this year is on pace to match that number, town officials said.
Farrell and his staff are hoping a new Abandoned Boat Wall of Shame will stem the tide.
The wall of shame is posted on the town website and features photos of the boats, the dates they were found and where. The town will continue posting the boats on Facebook. If officials can find the owner, they’re assessed dumping fees plus the costs associated with properly disposing of the boat, which Farrell estimated is about $5,000.
“People now will know we’re aware that they dumped the boat and it might make people think twice about dumping it,” he said.
The town is also increasing surveillance at its boat ramps, adding and relocating cameras at Venetian Shores Park in Lindenhurst and Tanner Park in Copiague
This isn’t just a Babylon issue, Farrell noted.
“It’s a big thing for everybody," he said. "If they did a count countywide, I think they’d be astonished at how much it happens.”
The Town of Brookhaven handled 11 abandoned boats last year and seven so far this year, a town spokesman said. The town board is considering increasing its maximum fines for illegal dumping to $10,000 from $3,000
In the Town of Islip, about five boats are found on town property every year, spokeswoman Caroline Smith said.
Ron Alcus, a marine surveyor and investigator for insurance companies, said boats get abandoned in boatyards all over Long Island, leaving the yard operator to deal with the expense of disposal.
“Almost every marina that you go into tries to take precautions to not get stuck with boats, but they do,” Alcus said. “I think it happens pretty consistently.”
Boats being dumped should be a cautionary tale for potential buyers, Farrell said:
“The thing they say about a boat is the two best days of a boat owner’s life is the day you buy it and the day you sell it.”
Paying up in Babylon Town
$250-$1,000: Fine for dumping a boat in a town street or marina
$5,000: Average cost to town to properly dispose of a boat, which includes pumping water from the vessel; removing it from the water, if needed; towing it to the landfill; removing oil, gas and sometimes the engine; and crushing the boat. Burning the fiberglass costs $150 per ton.
10: Number of days an owner has to remove an abandoned/unseaworthy boat after receiving an order to do so before the town removes it and bills the owner. The town can remove it before 10 days if the vessel poses an immediate threat or the owner is unknown.