Two MTA Employees Wreck The MTA's Only Boat

It turns out the MTA used to own a boat, right up until two of its employees wrecked it off Coney Island

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Two photos of the wrecked MTA boat with the caption "Ship Happens"
Photo: MTA

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) handles the city’s public transport, such as subway trains, buses and railways. But, one area it doesn’t handle is the city ferries. So why then does the MTA need a boat, what happened to that boat, and what were two people that know nothing about sailing piloting it?

So many questions, so little time.

Let’s start with the latter two, since those questions can be answered, right now.

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What happened to it? Well, sadly, this plucky little fishing boat found its time in the limelight on the day of its demise. That’s because two MTA workers that had no “experience piloting watercraft, and limited ability to swim” crashed and wrecked the vessel off the coast of Coney Island.

The demise of the MTA’s boat, which was fittingly named the Perfect Storm, sounds like an almighty palaver.

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According to a new report published by the MTA inspector general, the 25-foot Steiger Craft set sail from its moorings to assist in maintenance work near Roosevelt Island in the East River. The ship’s captain believed their assignment was to observe fellow MTA employees working on a bridge near the island, and to perform search and rescue if needed.

A photo of the damaged bow of the MTA's boat
The Perfect Storm was far from perfect in a storm.
Photo: MTA
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However, both the captain and the other crew member on board had again “virtually no training or experience in piloting a boat or water rescue. On top of that, the MTA said the crewmate was also a “poor swimmer.

As for the assignment itself, that seemingly went off without a hitch. The boat was on hand at Roosevelt Island to monitor the work being done there. And, no search and rescue techniques were called for.

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However, on the way back to the boat’s base near Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, things went a little awry as the water became choppy and the wind picked up.

The report said:

“Suddenly, the engine failed. After the engine failed, the employees attempted to drop the mechanical anchor, but the anchor also failed. The employees tried to arrange a tow of the boat but were not able to do so. They also tried calling the United States Coast Guard, which redirected them to the New York City Fire Department.”

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While the duo were trying to call for help, the boat continued drifting closer and closer to shore. And as the vessel drew near Coney Island, the employees became “petrified for their safety” and jumped out of the boat, swimming ashore.

Overnight, the New York Fire Department arrived and helped the two employees tie the boat to the rocks. While tied up, the boat crashed against the rock, damaging its hull, bow and cab area.

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Carolyn Pokorny, MTA Inspector General, said:

“Thank goodness no one was hurt in this accident.

“I cannot fathom how MTA management would allow these unqualified employees to set sail in the first place. Clearly this lack of oversight is ultimately responsible for turning the Perfect Storm into a total wreck.”

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The damaged cab of the MTA's boat.
I’ve seen worse things heading back from a trip to Coney Island.
Photo: MTA

The report added that due to the damage, the boat was no longer seaworthy. It also added that NYC Transit would not seek to fix the vessel, nor would it be replaced – “calling into question whether it was even needed to begin with.

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So, back to my original question, why does the MTA need a boat?

It appears the MTA itself might struggle to answer that. Despite having had the boat on its roster since 2000, the report into the crash failed to reach a consensus “as to the general purpose of the boat”. Weird.

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There has also been little word on who was responsible for the vessel, how it was maintained and what personnel were trained to pilot the boat. It’s an intriguing mystery, for sure.

We’ll definitely do some digging to find out why the MTA had the boat, if just for my own curiosity. But, until then, let’s spare a moment for the Perfect Storm, a vessel we never knew we needed until it was cruelly taken away from us.