The New York Times called it, “yet another symbol of reckless socializing during the pandemic.” Last Saturday night, August 1, a party boat known as “The Liberty Belle” departed Pier 36 on the Lower East Side in violation of city and state COVID-19 regulations. Alerted by a local tenant leader, authorities arrested two promoters when the boat came back ashore, and issued a summons to the captain.
At around 8:20 p.m., Trever Holland of the Two Bridges Tower resident association tweeted, “So a packed Liberty Belle party boat just departed from Pier 36 on the LES waterfront with no apparent social distancing or mask requirement. Who has jurisdiction over these floating nightclubs?” He tagged local elected officials and the 7th Precinct.
8/1/2020: Deputy Sheriffs intercept the Liberty Belle at Pier 36 & arrest owners and captain for illegal party: violation of social distancing provisions of the Mayor’s and Governor’s Emergency Orders, Alcohol Beverage Control Law: unlicensed bar & bottle club & Navigation Law. pic.twitter.com/zXZheHdH9O
— NYC SHERIFF (@NYCSHERIFF) August 2, 2020
According to New York’s Sheriff’s Office, about 170 people were on board. Officers took two promoters, Ronny Vargas and Alex Suazo, into custody, accusing them of violating city and state social distancing orders as well as operating an illegal bar on board.
There’s an undated notice on the website of Empire Cruises, which operates The Liberty belle, which reads, “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the Emergency Executive Order by the City of New York, as of March 16, 2020, we have been forced to cease our operations until further notice.” The company has not commented publicly about the August 1 incident. Gothamist reported that the boat allegedly did not have a permit to serve alcohol. Deputy sheriffs all of the alcohol on board. The captain was cited for failing to display a proper id number for the vessel.
The Saturday night episode was widely reported and caught the attention of Governor Cuomo, who said “How a charter boat could put together a crowd on deck and leave. It’s disrespectful, it’s illegal, it not only violates public health, it violates common decency.”
Abuses at Pier 36 are nothing new. Back in 2017, we reported about this issue when residents went to Community Board 3 to complain about rowdy party boats using the pier behind Basketball City.