The Glen Cove City Council kicked off a fierce debate about safety issues and fishing after it debated whether or not to issue a new ordinance that would prohibit fishing off the Morgan Park jetty at the start of a city council meeting on July 23.
Mayor Timothy Tenke, who introduced the proposed ordinance, said fishing at the jetty has caused dozens of complaints from city police and firefighters as fishermen often get stranded at the jetty and require saving. “This is a public safety issue and it’s about the safety of our first responders,” Tenke said.
Drew Lawrence, a Glen Cove resident, said he once made a call to the police when he saw a fisherman head down to the jetty during a storm, where he was eventually left stranded during a change in the tide. Glen Cove Deputy Police Chief Chris Ortiz said these rescues were not rare occurrences. One of the largest rescues happened last fall as the Glen Cove Harbor Patrol, the Volunteer Fire Department and Nassau County Police Department mounted a large rescue of about 24 fishermen who were stuck on the jetty.
Although city officials said the majority of those who get stuck on the jetty are not Glen Cove residents, Ortiz said this was not an issue of residents vs. non-residents. He added that the jetty was designed to handle beach erosion, not for people to traverse on and fish off of. “It is inherently dangerous,” Ortiz said. “People have died on these jetties.”
But local residents don’t want to see their access to the jetty banned. Frank Peña, who’s fished off the jetty for years, said it wasn’t right to take away the fishing spot as it would leave residents with the Prybil Beach pier as one of the few alternatives to use. John Schepanski, of the Hempstead Harbor Club, said that members of the club have fished their for 25 years and added on Facebook that members of the club will advocate to keep the jetty open during the next city council meeting.
“You can’t tell everyone from Glen Cove that we can’t fish there,” Peña said. “If it’s mostly people from out of town, then why should the people of Glen Cove have to pay for that?”
While some residents argued that the city could not do anything unless they get approval from New York State, State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesperson Bill Fonda said that the jetty was within the city’s jurisdiction, not the state’s. Fonda said the city was free to put up any signs around the jetty to warn any would-be trespassers, and that the state would only intervene if any major construction or structural changes would be made to the jetty.
Although Tenke decided to table the ordinance until more research could be done, Vincent Martinez, of the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department, said now that the city council has been made aware of the problems at the jetty, it stands on them to do something about it.
“I’ve gone down there to rescue people,” Martinez said. “And you’re putting my life and others at risk because someone wants to catch a fish? Something needs to be done.”