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Far Rockaway Residents Fed Up With Graveyard Of Sunken Boats, Rusted Barges Filled With Garbage

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Queens residents say they've asked the state and city to clean up a graveyard of sunken boats and barges for years.

Now, it's even preventing a business from opening up.

It's a disgusting sight that residents in the Arverne section of Far Rockaway are fed up with -- rusted barges filled with garbage, slowly sinking year after year.

One is way under with the crane sticking out.

"For 15 years, I've seen these cranes in the water, and me and my wife used to joke that they're probably landmarked," said Edwin Williams, president of the Heart of Rockaway Civic Association. "There's a huge East Coast Resiliency Project, but it's mainly focused on Manhattan. We're like the forgotten part of New York City."

Lifelong resident Johann Smiley and his son bought land that sits on the bay on Amstel Boulevard a year ago. They wanted to revitalize the area with a dock and restaurant, but the barges are in the way.

He says it's been a bunch of finger-pointing and broken promises from different state and city agencies.

"They absolutely don't care what's going on here," Johann Smiley told CBS2's Lisa Rozner.

He says the barges belong to Anthony Rivara Jr. of Anthony Rivara Contracting, formerly also known as the Pile Foundation, which allegedly owns the neighboring property.

The Smileys say he is a contractor for the Macombs Dam Bridge.

"That garbage that's on this barge came off of the barges that he took up to the Macombs Dam Bridge," Smiley said.

Sources confirm they do belong to Anthony Rivara and it's not the first time he's had this problem.

Rivara has previously been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the state for "unseaworthy barges" in other parts of the city.

He did not return CBS2's calls.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation says it has limited jurisdiction, but there could be enforcement.

It's also working with the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers to get the barges out, but like what's happened over the last year, a spokesperson could not give us any timeline.

"They are destroying life. We're destroying the water, and this is unacceptable," one woman said.

CBS2 reached out to the Queens Borough President. A spokesperson said, "Borough President Richards is aware of the situation and our office has made several inquiries with different City and State agencies in an effort to get this problem resolved. We will continue to pursue this matter until the barges are removed. These barges are an eyesore for the community and an impediment to economic development, so we will not rest until a solution is figured out."

The removal of the barges costs millions of dollars. Federal law does give the Coast Guard authority to remove a barge in an emergency, but a spokesperson told us a survey of the area in October found no pollution.

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