Maybe they should’ve stuck to the subways and buses!
A pair of transit workers with little to no seafaring experience crashed the only MTA boat — aptly named “Perfect Storm” — into the rocks of the southern Brooklyn coast last year, jumping ship and wrecking the vessel in the process, according to a newly-released investigation by the agency’s Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny.
“Thank goodness no one was hurt in this accident,” said Pokorny in a statement Monday, Dec. 20. “But I cannot fathom how MTA management would allow these unqualified employees to set sail in the first place and sometimes even collect overtime while underway. Clearly this lack of oversight is ultimately responsible for turning the Perfect Storm into a total wreck.”
The two Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees were returning from a job on overtime in the East River on Oct. 15, 2020, when their motor went on the fritz off the shores of Coney Island, and they abandoned the watercraft fearing for their lives near Kingsborough Community College in Manhattan Beach.
The Fire Department helped them tie the boat to the rocks and left it there for the night, but it kept smashing into the boulders and capsized, causing severe damage to the bottom of its hull and rendering it no longer seaworthy.
The investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was prompted by an anonymous tip to the internal watchdog’s complaint hotline.
The two New York City Transit employees, a hydraulics maintainer and a supervisor, work at the Hydraulics Department on Sands Street, Brooklyn, and are responsible for subway pumping equipment.
The hydraulics maintainer commandeered the ship, while his supervisor acted as first mate, despite neither of them having substantial boating experience and the latter not being a strong swimmer!
The self-proclaimed captain initially told investigators in an interview that he doesn’t own a boat and had no prior boating experience, but his colleagues remembered him talking about owning a vessel in Jamaica and that he had been boating since being a teenager.
He also took a New York State online boating safety exam in September 2020 and was taken out twice on the Perfect Storm before, but never piloted it.
Regardless, they answered the call to set sail in the 25-foot Steiger Craft boat from a marina near Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn to assist with repairs of the 63rd Street F train tunnel near Roosevelt Island, a task that offered lucrative overtime in return.
MTA workers were doing repair work on the underwater tube while hanging in harnesses over the river and a supervisor requested the water-borne support in case the laborers fell into the water.
After a while on site, the two novice seamen headed back, but the motor suddenly died near Coney Island and they unsuccessfully tried to drop the boat’s mechanical anchor amid increasingly choppy waters.
The Perfect Storm drifted ever closer to the rocks and they decided to jump onto land near the community college because they were scared they would be hurt or drown.
The amateur sailors couldn’t get control of the boat and a line they tried to tie snapped due to the rough seas, until the Fire Department arrived and was able to help them secure the vessel to the shore.
A towing company told them the waters were too turbulent to tow the boat that day, so they left it overnight where it crashed against the rocks and capsized.
The firm charged $7,000 to bring the battered boat to the Bronx, where MTA requested it be disposed of a few weeks later.
The agency bought the Perfect Storm in 2000, but it is unclear for what purpose or how much it cost, and the boat’s responsibility was passed down through different managers over time without consistent guidance, training, or standards, according to the Inspector General.
The OIG found the cost for a new ship of that type at $150,000, or about $35,000-$40,000 for a used model.
Some managers had never heard of the boat while others had never seen it, according to the report, and employees claimed that logs detailing maintenance schedules and past trips were destroyed in the incident.
Employees interviewed said the Perfect Storm was for search and rescue purposes, while another supervisor countered that seaborne emergency services were the US Coast Guard’s responsibility and that the boat was instead used to ship engineers for bridge inspections.
The MTA did not end up replacing the boat, calling into question whether it was needed in the first place, according to the OIG.
An MTA spokesman declined to clarify why they got the boat 21 years ago or whether either of the two employees faced any discipline, but admitted that the agency is better at transportation on land.
“Thankfully, no one was injured during this incident,” said Michael Cortez in a statement. “NYC Transit’s expertise is in trains, buses and paratransit vehicles, not boats. Therefore, NYC Transit has no plans to replace this boat or purchase any other boats in the future.”