Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

September 08, 2006

For Release: Immediate
Press Contact:
George Gorman
Wendy Gibson

New York State Highlights Recreational Boating Safety

State Parks Receives Award from the National Safe Boating Council

Boating Law Enforcement Officer Honored; Patrol Vessels Presented to Nassau County

(Albany, New York, September 8, 2006...) New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Bernadette Castro today joined with State Senator John J. Flanagan, State Assemblyman Thomas P. DiNapoli and representatives from the United States Coast Guard, National Safe Boating Council, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, New York State Power Squadron, and Nassau County Police and Marine Unit to highlight safe boating efforts in New York. The event was held at the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Jones Beach State Park, in Wantagh, New York.

Commissioner, Bernadette Castro

"From the ocean waters off Jones Beach to the Erie Canal and Great Lakes, New York boasts an extensive network of pristine waterways that are enjoyed by more than one million recreational boaters each year," said Commissioner Castro. "With Governor Pataki's support, we are strongly committed to ensuring safe waters, through education and enforcement, for recreational boaters in the Empire State. Together with our many partners, we are encouraging operators of all watercraft to take every precaution to develop and practice safe habits for the safest boating season ever."

Since 1995, Governor Pataki has signed legislation to require personal watercraft education, toughen boating-while-intoxicated laws, strengthen vessel emission statutes, improve mandatory lifejacket wear requirements, and provided increased state assistance for boating navigation enforcement. New York ranks among the leaders nationally in the number of registered vessels, with more than 510,000.

State Parks' Marine Services Unit is responsible for the general coordination of boating safety programs and marine law enforcement efforts across the state including patrols, training, and funding for local marine enforcement activities. The Marine Services Unit has developed a nationally recognized boating safety program that has educated more than 171,000 boaters since 1989.

New York is a national leader in recreational boating safety, dramatically reducing the number of accidents and fatalities over the last decade. In 2005, there were 219 reported accidents and 15 fatalities compared to 1995 with 291 accidents and 31 fatalities. While the national boating fatality rate has fallen to 5.4 fatalities per 100,000 registered boats, New York has dropped to 2.9 fatalities per 100,000.

Recent safe boating measures include the new Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) law signed by Governor Pataki and sponsored by Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman DiNapoli which raises the current penalties for BWI up to the level of penalties faced by those convicted of drunk driving. And January 1, 2006, a new law took effect which raised the minimum age of personal watercraft operators to fourteen.

"Boating while intoxicated infringes on the rights of law abiding boaters, puts innocent lives at risk and now it will be treated as the serious crime it is. The simple message is that if you operate a boat after drinking in New York State, you will be held accountable and you will face real penalties," stated Senator Flanagan. "Be smart, designate a driver whether in your car or on the water and be safe."

"I commend the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Nassau County for their outstanding efforts regarding boating safety," said Assemblyman DiNapoli. "Their combined work and our legislative initiatives, including the recently-passed stiffer penalties for boating while intoxicated, ensure safer boating on New York's waterways."

"The Coast Guard enjoys excellent working relationships with local, county, state and other federal agencies," said Peter Boynton, Captain of the Port Long Island Sound, United States Coast Guard. "But keeping the water safe and secure also includes working with our volunteer members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadrons, and private sector businesses such as sporting and boating retailers as well as boating and paddling organizations, and individual members of the boating public. It is vital that we all work together to keep the water safe and secure. State Parks and the Nassau County Marine patrol are great examples of agencies working together with the Coast Guard to promote boating safety."

As part of the day's events, Virgil Chambers, Executive Director of the National Safe Boating Council presented Commissioner Castro and State Parks with the Council's Pillar of Support Award for the state's efforts in promoting safe boating with public education campaigns during National Safe Boating Week in May.

"Together, the National Safe Boating Council and the United States Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety join in honoring New York State with the Pillar of Support Award," said Virgil Chambers, Executive Director of the National Safe Boating Council. "This award recognizes organizations that have contributed to the foundation of our national campaign encouraging lifejacket use. The support that we have received from New York and its public outreach efforts has been instrumental in promoting awareness of this important safety message."

Commissioner Castro also presented two new marine patrol vessels to the Nassau County Marine Bureau supported through the federal Boating Safety Grant. The two Zodiac center console models are equipped with clean Mercury Marine four-stroke technology which will produce less emissions and provider greater fuel economy. Funding for the two vessels is in addition to the state's local assistance program which provides ongoing financial support to participating counties within the Marine Law Enforcement financial assistance program administered by State Parks.

The State Boating Law Enforcement Officer of the Year honor was awarded to Sergeant Timothy McGuire of the Ulster County Sheriff's office. The National Association of Boating Administrators and Northern Association of Boating Administrators select the award recipient in each state based on nominations of individuals who have distinguished themselves in marine law enforcement. Sergeant McGuire's accomplishments include oversight of the Ulster County marine law enforcement unit, covering a 55-mile stretch of the Hudson River, participation in the Hudson River Marine Task Force, instruction for nearly 300 boaters in the county and assistance to State Parks as an instructor within the Basic Marine Law Enforcement Program, Marine Patrol Vessel Operator Course, Personal Watercraft Operator Course for Law Enforcement Personnel and the Impaired Boater Recognition Program.

The Coast Guard at Station Jones Beach conducts search and rescue and engages in law enforcement and environmental protection activities as well. The station's area of responsibility extends from East Rockaway Inlet to Gilgo Beach, including Jones Inlet and the associated back-bay waters of southern Nassau County. Station Jones Beach continually ranks among the top twenty-five units nationally, conducting approximately 500 Search and Rescue cases annually.

For more information about boating safety and marine recreation in New York State, visit or call 518.474.0445.