Three Muslim families are alleging discrimination aboard the NYC Ferry after they were denied service for over two hours due to an unspecified "security issue," according to a complaint filed on Wednesday.
The three mothers had planned a fun expedition with their eight children last month as a farewell before one of the families moved to Pakistan. They traveled from Bay Ridge to Manhattan without incident, according to the complaint. But when they attempted to take another ferry to Brooklyn Bridge Park, two security guards allegedly denied them service, then shut the gate on them.
The families were "embarrassed and humiliated, especially since the incidents occurred in public view of all ferry passengers,” according to a complaint filed with the city's Commission on Human Rights. "The child Complainants were all frustrated and upset. Many of them were crying and did not understand why they weren’t allowed onto the ferry."
When the families tried to learn why they were refused service, they were initially told it was a vague "security" issue, the complaint states. But employees later changed their justification, blaming the children for standing on the seats. The women allege this was an "after-the-fact false excuse" for religious discrimination.
The Economic Development Corporation, which operates the ferries, later admitted this reasoning was false, calling the incident a "misunderstanding" and offering to reimburse the fare, according to the complaint.
The Council American-Islamic Relations-NY, which filed the complaint on behalf of the families, say it's clear the riders were singled out because of their religion. Two of the women wear a hijab and other religious clothing.
"These families were humiliated and traumatized in public view and treated as suspect because they happen to be Muslim," said CAIR-NY Litigation Director Ahmed Mohamed in a statement. "That is unacceptable. We hope the City will live up to its commitment of nondiscrimination and swiftly correct this injustice."
A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office directed comment to the EDC, which said they were aware of the complaint and investigating the incident.
“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,” a spokesperson for the agency added.