Coast Guard responds to letter about boat horn noise

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Chief Kinnear,

I live 100 yards from the World Financial Center terminal. I complained to my Community Board about ferries at the terminal blasting their horns, and the Board forwarded to me your email of May 31 to New York Waterway.

I respect that you have a duty to enforce Inland Navigation Rule 34. On behalf of myself and my neighbors, I sincerely ask that you do so judiciously. Lower Manhattan is different from other places. Hundreds of hard-working families live within just a few blocks of the terminal, many of us with young children. Dozens of ferry boats visit the terminal every hour, starting at 6 a.m. sharp every weekday. When every one of those boats blasts their foghorn, four times each on every visit, the situation becomes ridiculous.

Perhaps you could get comfortable that the WFC terminal slips are not a "dock or berth," as that phrase is used in Rule 34, because the boats are not tied or secured in any way.  Instead, they stay in place solely by continuously gunning their engines (which itself is a lively topic of conversation in the community, by the way).  That is a real distinction.

Nobody is surprised when those ferries pull out.  They are in their respective slips for just a minute or two each.  That traffic pattern is clear for all to see.  On top of that, just from the way they keep their engines gunning, it would be obvious even to a total novice that something big has to change very soon.

We have a lot of everything in lower Manhattan, but early on a weekday morning, even in mid-summer, it is extremely rare to see a single kayaker or sailboat under way anywhere near the terminal.  Frankly the ferries are, without any horns, already so noisy and smoky that they are incapable of surprising anybody.  In any case a person who takes it upon himself to get into a kayak at 6 in the morning and paddle around lower Manhattan knows exactly what he is doing.  He is seeking fun and excitement in an inherently dangerous sport, and the thrill and glory of being among the "big fish" is a big part of that.  The theoretical risk of somehow surprising this non-existent, thrill-seeking novice insomniac kayaker someday -- that is not nearly worth waking up hundreds of hard-working families every single morning.

Please throttle back.

Respectfully, (Name withheld, lives on River Terrace)


Reply from Captain Kinnear. Note his references to fears of lawsuit.

I feel your pain. When I was growing up. I lived in an apartment in Brooklyn over a Chinese laundry a block away from the overhead trains.  I would love to help you, but the ferry captains are following the Rules of the Road. The Rules of the Road is the international law of all navigational waters. If the captains do not sound the proper signals as required, they are putting their livelihood and Merchant Mariners License in serious jeopardy as well as for the safety of the people using the waterways. Just like there are driving rules for driving cars, either you follow them, and if you don't, your license can be taken away.

God forbid that a ferry ever hit a kayaker, a sailboat, swimmers, another ferry, and someone dies and it is found out through investigation that this person was killed because the ferry failed to sound the proper signals as required by law. Guess what happens to the captain. I don't think theres a court in the world that would not try and hang the captain, because the captain failed to sound his sound signal which is no more than 6 seconds.

I'm sorry again to say this, but until the International Maritime Organization and the US Congress change the rules, there is nothing I can do.

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9 Responses to Coast Guard responds to letter about boat horn noise

  1. Wolfgang says:

    I really don’t like it, when people are lying.

    The last 25 years there was no problem without honking- and now they can loose everything… this is just a cynical bad joke.

    In Germany exists something like a “usual practice”. This “usual practice” can not be changed after such a long period of time without a new legal regulation.

    If it’s the same here in the U.S., we should hire an attorney and file a lawsuit.

  2. BPBlues says:

    Due to hotel guest complaints about the incredibly obnoxious horns from the Battery Park City ferry boats, management has allowed free transfers to the Millenium Hotel on Church Street. What this means is, even rooms on the back side of the hotel in the Goldman Sachs-owned building are impacted by the noise pollution caused by the Coast Guard and kayaker Nancy Brous. The fight against the horns rages on….Please sign the petition!

  3. fran says:

    trying to get more people involved here now ..this is insane …perhaps a new kayak route would be the answer….as they never worried about SWIMMERS? before and i have lived here for 32 yrs and never heard of anything ….hopefully the citi bikers will not have to blow there horns when entering or leaving…such nonsense…..also maybe the real estate agents can mention this when showing those expensive apts……..

  4. BPBlues says:

    It’s not just about the expensive apartments. Poor people hate horns too!

    Do you enjoy a stroll, jog, or a park picnic with horns blowing? So many want to castigate the condo owners for being successful enough to afford to live here and never think about all of the neighborhood visitors and overall quality of life issues. Not to mention common sense!

  5. BPC dweller says:

    It is truly unbelievable that one complaining meddler – NANCY BROUS – has had such a negative impact on the lives of thousands of people, hour after hour, day after day. For 25 years (25 years!), there was never any incident with any kayaker or swimmer or anyone else as a result of the ferries not blowing their horns. There are so few kayakers to begin with and I have yet to see one on a weekday. Where are our government representatives in all this?

    I was planning on staying at the Conrad Hotel for an extended stay during a renovation of my apartment, but I am certainly not going to stay there now knowing that the noise from the ferry horns reach even the back of the building. Nor will I recommend the hotel, as I have in the past, to out-of-town visitors.

  6. Editor says:

    To BPC Dweller, since Coast Guard is federal, contact Rep. Nadler and Sen Schumer.

    The hotel GM is Robert Rechterman. You can call him too and urge the Hilton corporation to complain to Goldman Sachs.

    Brookfield purchased the adjacent NYMEX building and will be upset soon too.

  7. BPBlues says:

    Battery Park City’s Solaire rental building on River Terrace touts itself as GREEN – the first residential building in USA. Gov. Pataki and Gov. Schwarzenegger held a PR event at the site. Big sign on front of building says Leed certified – Wow! Well fast forward with ferries and guess what? It’s NOT green when it abuts a massive ferry terminal and one of the biggest and most egregious sources of noise pollution in NYC.

    Can someone post a master contact/distribution list here and on the petition site?

  8. Allison says:


    In your blog you mentioned that Hilton should complain to Goldman about the situation with the ferry honking? You might want to explain the relationship between the two because some, including me, don’t understand it.

    Does Goldman own NY waterway? I knew that they own some boats for their employees, but thought the relationship ended there. It might be bad PR for them to intervene, lest they look like they are helping the wealthy northern BPC residents at the expense of the scores of “poor” kayakers that are at risk of death from being run over by ferries.

    Supporters of this thing like to turn it in to a rich vs poor issue which it is not.

    Please keep posting updates on this issue – the neighborhood needs to get collectively more involved in stopping this unnecessary disruption to our lives.

    If you could get an on the record interview with the GM of the Hilton hotel, that would be interesting. I didn’t realize it was impacting them.

  9. Editor says:

    To Allison

    Goldman Sachs owns the property in which the Hilton Conrad uses, and also owns a big chunk of the private Hilton corporation, soon to go public again.

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