The company that operates New York City ferries is being sued after three Muslim families wearing discernible religious garb were allegedly denied entry to the water shuttle at the Wall Street pier because of ‘security issues.’
The alleged incident took place on the afternoon of September 21, 2019.
Two American women of Pakistani descent and another woman, all of whom are hijab-wearing Muslims with ‘pronounced accents,’ took their eight children for an outing before one of the families left on an extended trip to Pakistan.
The families met at the Bay Ridge pier to board a ferry to Wall Street at around 3:30pm, according to the complaint.
Three Muslim women wearing hijabs and who had discernible foreign accents were allegedly denied service on a New York City ferry in September. The above image is an undated stock photo of women unrelated to those mentioned in the story
After arriving at the Wall Street pier without incident, the families had planned to take another ferry to Governors Island.
But because the next ferry to the island was at 5pm and the last ferry leaving the island was at 6:49pm, the families decided they could not spend enough time there, so they changed plans.
Instead, they would board the ferry from Wall Street and head to Brooklyn’s Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where they would spend the rest of the evening.
Since the women had two strollers, they asked to board the ferry to Brooklyn last – after the long line of passengers boarded first.
Once their turn came to board, the women were denied entry onto the boat, according to the complaint.
The explanation given by the ferry attendant was that there was a ‘security issue,’ the lawsuit alleges.
The women allege that they were not allowed to board a New York City ferry from Wall Street to Brooklyn’s Pier 6. The image above is a 2017 file photo of the Wall Street pier in Lower Manhattan
The women and their children were then taken to a security officer who the complaint alleges is the head of security for the Wall Street ferry.
They were then told that they were being denied service because their children were standing on the seats.
According to the lawsuit, this was ‘an after-the-fact false excuse in an attempt to explain away discriminatory conduct.’
The women are being represented by Ahmed Mohamed, a lawyer who works for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that advocates on behalf of Muslim Americans
The lawsuit alleges that the children were frustrated and that most of them were crying after the ferry left without them.
After a two-hour wait, the three families were eventually able to take a ferry from Wall Street to Bay Ridge, which is the same ferry they used to get to Lower Manhattan.
The lawsuit states that the families ‘entire day was ruined’ and that the children were ‘scarred’ by the experience.
It is also ‘the last memory of New York City’ for one of the families which flew back to Pakistan for an extended period, according to the court filing.
Later that evening, one of the women submitted a complaint to NYC Ferry in connection with the incident.
NYC Ferry told one of the women that the incident was a ‘misunderstanding’ and offered to reimburse the families.
The lawsuit states that the three families were ‘embarrassed and humiliated’ since ‘the ferry passengers were looking’ at them and they ‘could feel the passengers’ eyes directed at them.’
The families are seeking unspecified damages for humiliation, embarrassment, and severe emotional distress.
They are also demanding a formal apology as well as disciplinary action and sensitivity training for the attendants who refused to allow them to board the Wall Street ferry to Brooklyn.
The complaint was filed to New York City’s Commission on Human Rights.
The Economic Development Corporation, the nonprofit which runs the ferry service, released a statement saying: ‘NYCEDC takes these matters seriously, and is committed to ensuring that no person is denied services based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, gender identity or disability.’
The women are being represented by Ahmed Mohamed, a lawyer who works for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that advocates on behalf of Muslim Americans.