Park Service Decides To Close Pier Overnight For Cleaning
By Dara Mormile
Following months of controversy over whether Canarsie Pier should be closed overnight, Gateway National Park Service (NPS) officials decided that, beginning May 23, it will be closed to the public from 2-5 a.m. and to vehicular traffic from 2 to 8 a.m.
According to an NPS press release, the new schedule will allow maintenance crews to clean the pier and address ongoing community concerns that "the pier is sometimes used by transients who sleep in their cars for days or even weeks," although park officials could not be reached to confirm the reports.
Assemblyman Alan Maisel, who opposed the plan since it was first announced last summer, has spoken to NPS representatives about alternatives to closing the pier at night.
"I got them to fix the lighting - that was one of the improvements I felt needed to be addressed," said Maisel. "I honestly haven't heard residents complaining about suspicious activity at the pier. I visited the site a couple of times over the past month and, yes, the water fountains were broken and there are some things that haven't been kept up, but as far as the presence of vandalism and people sleeping in their car - I haven't seen it. Gateway has not made their case and this was not their original proposal."
Last August, residents met with Gateway representative Pete McCarthy, who said the pier would not actually be closed, but a gate - that was already in place - would prevent visitors from parking there.
Maisel is disappointed with the new decision, although it will likely only impact fishermen.
"The nighttime is the best time for fishing," he said. " Now, fishermen are going to have to worry about their cars being stuck at the parking lot if they don't leave by a certain time."
Others were concerned they'd have to park their cars near the BayView Houses and carry cumbersome fishing equipment to the pier.
Former 69th Precinct commanding officer Deputy Inspector Ralph Monteforte told residents during a recent meeting that he had not heard reports of excessive illegal activity at the pier.
"Other than traffic problems at the adjacent Veterans Circle, there hasn't been much criminal activity reported. But my officers will definitely meet with Gateway officials and National Park Police to discuss ways of reducing potential crime and what's going to be done to keep visitors safe. They'll be patrolling if they're needed."
Vice president of the United Canarsie South Civic Association Lenny Fogel frequents the pier a few times during the week, but said he hasn't witnessed any activity that warrants closing the site.
"Last year I attended the first meeting Gateway held on the issue. At that time, their only reason for closing it was the litter, but," Fogel said, "they have made headway with some repairs in the last week. The water fountains are now working and the lights have been fixed. It's a work in progress, but very slow."
Gateway spokesman Brian Feeny said NPS police will enforce the change by conducting nightly sweeps.
"We want to create a clean and safe environment," he said. "We've closed Plumb Beach from dusk to dawn due to a number of incidents and it's improved the park's conditions. When Canarsiens see the changes at the pier, they'll enjoy it more."
Feeny said crews will start cleaning at 5:30 a.m. daily. He could not confirm if closing hours will change in the fall, but specified that this is not a trial. While most Gateway sites are open from sunrise to sunset, the pier has always remained open 24 hours to visitors and vehicles.
Furthermore, NPS said it would make additional changes during the summer and fall, including a ban on glass bottles and the prohibition of portable barbecues (use of the area's fixed grills will be encouraged). New fish cleaning tables are also scheduled to be installed.