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'They Go For The Cheap Way And Abandon It': Babylon Seeks Federal Funds To Address 'Ghost Ships'

BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — They're floating eyesores on Long Island. Too many so called "ghost ships" are abandoned on the water. Officials say they need federal help to keep the problem from sinking local budgets.

Boats get left to rot on Long Island waterways after their owners abandoned ship.

"They try selling it, the boat is not worth anything, maybe the engine's blown and it costs money to get rid of, so... if they can't sell it they go for the cheap way and abandon it," said Brian Zitani, Babylon Waterways Management Supervisor, in an interview with CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

For years, Town of Babylon waterways, at times, could look like a dumping ground. Mariner Pascal Blotiau says he sees old abandoned boats in the marshes of the Great South Bay.

"They don't want to pay for another slip for the winterage, so they just abandon them. They can't afford it," said Blotiau.

Boats left adrift or grounded, stripped of their names and anything of value, left as junk by owners who give up on expensive upkeep.

The town created a Wall Of Shame to track down owners, but three large commercial fishing vessels abandoned after Superstorm Sandy are still going nowhere.

"It's not uncommon, when a big storm is coming, people will intentionally use that storm to abandon the boat and hope that it just drifts away," Zitani said.

The town is asking for federal funds, which Senator Chuck Schumer says is critical to protecting waterways.

"This is a navigational hazard. It's an environmental hazard because they leak oil and everything else, and it's a taxpayer hazard," said Schumer.

Babylon had to haul away 46 boats last year, each floating clunker costing thousands of taxpayer dollars.

"For the people dumping it, I think it's out of sight, out of mind. But, you don't dump your garbage on the street, you don't abandon stuff on your front lawn or other people's properties," said Zitani.

If the owner of an abandoned boat is ultimately identified, they'll be hit with the bill and hefty fines. Criminal charges are possible, too.

A spokesperson for NOAA said the agency looks forward to reviewing Schumer's letter requesting assistance and evaluating the next steps.

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