Blogs > Ecology > Derelict barge removed from East River after pressure from Riverkeeper & community

Derelict barge removed from East River after pressure from Riverkeeper & community

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After nearly a year and a half of sustained pressure by Riverkeeper and the community, an illegally moored, Styrofoam-shedding barge was removed from the East River last month between the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges. This was the second time Riverkeeper supported local partners in seeking the removal of a derelict barge polluting New York City waters. We’re happy to report that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has followed through.

On July 23, 2017, under the cover of darkness, someone illegally moored a barge in the waters in front of the Tropicana and Pepsi distributor in Whitestone, Queens. Immediately, community members, including business owners, began demanding its removal. Community members called the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, DEC, Coast Guard, Harbor Police, Maritime Administration, State Senators and Assembly members, Queens Borough President, and anyone else they could think of. But the barge remained, full of construction and demolition debris, Styrofoam, and even trees and plants growing in the dirt that accumulated on it.

The worst problem was the Styrofoam flotation in the hull of the barge. The constant motion of the water and the barge made pieces of foam constantly break off and pollute the shoreline.

In early March, 2018, a local community member wrote to Riverkeeper to ask for help demanding removal of the barge. Riverkeeper patrolled the area by boat to see the damage it was causing firsthand, visited the area to see the shoreline and to talk with community members about the problems, and started researching who owned the barge.

After reaching out to a number of local elected officials, on July 19, Riverkeeper learned that the DEC was aware of the problem and had initiated litigation against the owner of the barge.

Since July 24, Riverkeeper has vigilantly followed up with the DEC – every 10 to 14 days – to ensure that not only were plans being made to remove the barge, but also to secure the Styrofoam while the process moved forward, and to provide an effective cleanup when the barge was finally removed.

Thanks to the strong relationships we built with local community members, and their careful observation of the situation, we were kept aware of ongoing problems in the process and were able to report back to the DEC when the barge owner provided inaccurate updates.

Sixteen and a half months after it appeared, on November 30, 2018, the barge was removed from the East River.

Reports from the community are that there is still a lot of Styrofoam cleanup needed. Riverkeeper will remain in regular contact with the DEC to ensure the cleanup happens promptly.

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