Pier 36 Becomes Party Boat, Cruise Ship Destination

Queen of Hearts tour boat awaits passengers Aug. 20, 2017.

Queen of Hearts tour boat awaits passengers Aug. 20, 2017.

While you weren’t looking, Pier 36 at the end of Montgomery Street became a bustling tour boat/cruise ship port.

At a meeting of Community Board 3 earlier this summer, residents sounded off about congestion along South Street and loud music from the boats. Officials with the city’s Economic Development Corp. and BillyBey, the company that operates the Lower East Side dock, have been working to resolve some of the issues.

They will be returning to CB3’s parks committee in the fall with a progress report. In advance of that meeting, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how Pier 36 is now being used and by whom.

Back in 2013, we reported that the city had signed a contract with BillyBey to operate 10 berthing sites under an umbrella entity known as Dock NYC. At Pier 36, also home to Basketball City, there was at that time fairly minimal boat activity. Four years later, it’s become a widely used maritime site.

Based on the August schedule for Pier 36, here’s a snapshot of some of the different operators using the pier:

Queen of Hearts: A tour boat company offering multiple daily departures from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The $25 trip takes sightseers up and down the East River and over to the Statue of Liberty. When we arrived at the pier Sunday morning, a large tour bus had delivered passengers to the dock for boarding.

NY Party Cruise: According to its website, this firm handles “event coordination and private charter cruises” aboard the Liberty Belle and Cabana tour boats. There are daytime, evening and a midnight departure from Pier 36 on weekends only.

Cornucopia Majesty Yacht: “The largest luxury party ship in the Northeast” runs weekend evening cruises from Pier 36.

American Cruise Lines: This operator plans three departures in September and October, from boats named the American Star (205 feet), Independence (215 feet) and Constellation (216 feet).

State of Maine: This former Navy ship was used this past weekend at Pier 36 for training exercises by the Maine Maritime Academy.

"State of Maine" at Pier 36 this past weekend. Photo: Two Bridges Tower Resident Association.

“State of Maine” at Pier 36 this past weekend. Photo: Two Bridges Tower Resident Association.

At the community board meeting, residents complained that passengers are leaving the boats drunk, making a lot of noise and sometimes even passing out in the neighborhood.  Locals have been grousing for a few years about congestion created by Basketball City, which has become a large-scale events center. The community won a battle decades ago to use the pier for local residents. Many of them today see it as an empty victory, with tourists overtaking the area.

BillyBey executive Donald Liloia said he was hearing the complaints for the first time. He promised to address the concerns, and even to provide free boat rides to members of the local community. 

There was no response when we emailed BillyBey for a status report.

As we reported last week, NYC Ferry service is scheduled to begin next summer from a location near Corlears Hook Park, just a short distance to the north of Pier 36. There will obviously be concerns voiced at the community board about the combined impacts of East River docking operations in these two areas.

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