NORWALK, Conn. – A Mississippi-river style sternwheeler didn’t make its expected trip into Long Island Sound from a Norwalk park Sunday, but it appears poised for an extended trip to Rye, N.Y.
The Island Belle is looking for permission to dock at Playland Pier in Rye from June 1 to Jan. 2, according to a memo, attached below, written by Westchester Recreation, Parks and Conservation Commissioner Kathleen O’Connor.
Sound Charter Group LLC, which operates the Island Belle, wants to use the pier, dock, ramp and moorings at Playland Pier, according to an agenda for the Westchester County Board of Acquisition and Contract. Sound Charter would maintain the pier’s hydraulic boat ramps, the memo states.
The Island Belle was scheduled to be the first vessel to use the Veterans Park visitor’s dock for commercial purposes last Sunday, but instead sat at its mooring on the other side of the Norwalk River railroad bridge. The trip was cancelled Thursday, said Recreation and Parks Director Mike Mocciae, one day after the U.S. Coast Guard was alerted that the vessel might be taking on paying passengers in violation Coast Guard orders.
The Coast Guard had ordered Ken Hart of Sound Charter Group to have divers survey the Island Belle’s hull, according to Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound Investigations Division Chief Dawn Kallen.
NancyOnNorwalk contacted Kallen Wednesday to ask if Hart had gotten the dive survey, which was ordered in February. She said he had not. She indicated she had not heard of the Island Belle’s scheduled Sunday trip. She said there would be “consequences” for the vessel’s operators if that trip were made, as the dive survey had not been received by the Coast Guard.
Kallen said Monday that one of her inspectors had contacted Hart Thursday. “There probably is a connection (to the cancelled trip). The connection is he didn’t get the dive survey and hasn’t been approved to operate yet,” Kallen said.
An inspector talked to Hart again Tuesday and asked about the status of the dive survey, she said. She did not know the result.
The vessel is scheduled to use the Veterans Park visitors dock June 6 and 7, Mocciae said. He said Sunday’s visit was cancelled without explanation.
The dive survey was ordered after the Coast Guard received complaints about the Island Belle sitting on the bottom at its mooring at O&G Industries in the upper Norwalk Harbor when the tide is low. Kallen said a dive survey is standard procedure whenever there is a grounding.
The possible contract between the Westchester County Recreation, Parks and Conservation Department and Sound Charter Group is scheduled to be discussed Thursday at the Westchester County Board of Acquisition and Contract, according to the Westchester.gov website.
A NancyOnNorwalk reader relayed that information in a late Wednesday email.
“I doubt they know anything about what Sound Charter Group has done to Norwalk,” the reader said.
Sound Charter Group was sued by Norwalk in August. The city is seeking compensation for damage done to the Visitors Dock on Oct. 29, 2012, as Superstorm Sandy came in. Sound Charter Group filed a response in November, alleging negligence and carelessness on the city’s part. Although Hart’s lawyer, Albert Strazza, said in January the case is close to a resolution, it remains in negotiations, according to Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola.