Officials Offer Hope for Turning Down Volume on BPC Ferry Horns

Throughout the day, ferries go in and out of the Battery Park City ferry terminal, located near the New York Mercantile Exchange building. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Sep. 05, 2014

For years, blaring ferry horns have been an annoyance for some Battery Park City residents whose apartments are within earshot of those blasts as the boats leave the World Financial Center terminal.

The U.S. Coast Guard-mandated honking, officials told Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee last month, are here to stay. Ending them––a lengthy process that would require the Coast Guard to change nationwide regulations––is out of the question, according to Celine Mizrahi, a staffer for Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose office has been in discussions with Coast Guard officials about the noise.

But it might be possible to turn down the volume.

“[The Coast Guard] really felt strongly that their hands were tied because of the nature of these regulations,” said Mizrahi. But there may be a way to minimize the noise “while still being in compliance with the regulations as they currently stand.”

One solution may be a possible waiver to a Coast Guard regulation that allows the horns on boats shorter than 65 feet to be half as loud as longer boats—like those that dock at the terminal. Paul Goodman, the CEO of BillyBey Ferry Co., which operates most of the ferries, told the committee that he is proposing an exemption to the rule that would allow the ferries to be heard for half a mile rather than a full mile.

“We don’t think that we really are proposing any risk to any other marine traffic,” Goodman said.

Coast Guard regulations require boats to sound their horns––one long blast followed by three shorter ones––whenever they leave a stationary position.

Mizrahi said the Coast Guard, which was not represented at the meeting, called Goodman’s proposal “an interesting idea,” but said she was told that officials would have to determine the safety of the rule exemption, and whether it would significantly reduce the noise heard in apartments.

Each boat and its route would be looked at on a case by case basis, she said. “It would be a conversation with the Coast Guard in each decision.”