Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Community Board 4's letter of support - YEAH!

Can't resist posting this - it was a bright spot in a miserable day, plus it's a great statement of how all this business started. In other news that I choose to see as VERY good, someone from the DEC has actually returned a call from MC, the gentleman who ended up acting as our spokesperson (and doing a great job) after the original spokesperson managed to ruffle a lot of feathers (especially mine) & finally stepped down. The DEC was the one organization in all of this that seemed like a faceless beaureaucracy, there wasn't any name attached - well, now there are some, and one of them has taken the time to really talk to MC, and like everyone else involved, it doesn't sound like they set out with the intent of taking water access away from a bunch of people who've been enjoying it for years.

That doesn't necessarily mean everything's going to be hunky-dory now, there may still be some patient persuading to be done - but it feels like progress.

Like I've said before - there don't seem to be any bad guys here - it's all just the unfortunate result of various policies which may have seemed, to the writers, like they would work well, but had an unexpected result.

Now the one weird thing is that the DEC person has introduced a bit of a new angle - saying something about there were also some environmental considerations involved...

I'm not going to go into that right now though.

Enough preamble....

City of New York
Manhattan Community Board No. 4

J. Lee Compton

Robert J. Benfatto, Jr. Esq.
District Manager

October 6, 2006
Louis Oliva, Acting Regional Director, NYC
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Region 2 Headquarters

Re: Pier 63 Maritime (Lackawanna Railroad Barge) at Pier 66A: Kayaking Application

Dear Mr. Oliva,

As you are aware, Pier 63 Maritime, a former railroad car-float transformed into a waterfront access site, is a very popular center for historic ships, park visitors, neighborhood residents, commercial and recreation boaters, maritime enthusiasts, and, as was amply demonstrated to Community Board No. 4 (CB4) at a recent meeting of its Waterfront & Parks Committee, a very large and active community of kayakers.

Approximately three years ago, Pier 63 Maritime (P63M) came before CB4 to seek its endorsement of a plan to move the barge to Pier 66A, a partially restored railroad float bridge, when its lease from its landlord at the time, Basketball City, was terminated as stipulated by the Hudson River Park Act. The plan was approved by CB4 concept.

Subsequently the owners of P63M began discussions with both the Hudon River Park Trust (HRPT, its new landlord to be) and New York State Department of Environmental Consetvation (DEC) with regard to this move, slated to occur in the coming months. It is our understanding that these discussions have resulted in a pending permit from DEC and a draft lease, still in negotiation, from HRPT.

At the last meeting of the Waterfront & Parks Commeittee, several issues related to this move were discussed in detail, in particular (and the subject of this letter) the status of kayaking at the barge after it moves to its new location.

According to Manhattan Kayak, a subtenant of P63M, as wel as numerous independent kayakers, approximately 150 to 170 kjayaks and canoes are currently stored in and/or launch from Pier 63 Maritime. The majority are stored below the deck of the barge with the remainder on adajacent floats -- none are stored above deck. These boats are divided between Manhattan Kayak's own training and tour boats, a kayak water polo club, New York Outrigger and independent privately owned kayaks, the latter being the largest contingent by number (over 100).

It is our understanding that the DEC permit as currently proposed, does not allow either the storage of or the launching of kayaks or other human powered boats from P63M once it moves to its new location at Pier 66A. We also understand the reasons for this prohibition may come from one or more of the following reasonings:

1. That there will be a boathouse and hand-powered boat launch immediately north of Pier 66A (at Pier 66) that will be sufficient to handle the current and/or anticipated activity of this nature,
2. That P63M will be host to motorized vessels as permitted (historic vessels, commercial excursion boats and water taxis) and will thus be unsafe for kayaks, and/or
3. That P63M at Pier 66A will lie within a "motorboat zone" as defined by the Trusts's Estuarine Sancturary Management Plan, and therefore human powered boats are not permitted at this location under the plan.

The kayking community has demonstrated to us that the first reasoning (capacity of the planned boathouse at Pier 66) is not valid based on the numbers presented - up to 170 in the current situation compared to a capacity of about 55 (according to the kayakers) in the new boathouse -- leaving over 100 without a place to launch or store kayaks. It further appears that other kayak facilities in the Hudson River Park are not capable of absorbing this overflow. It is also evident that this activity seems to be growing in Hudson River Park as well as other locations.

As for the second reasoning, the kayaking community has stated that combined kayaking and motorized boating ahas taken place at Pier 63 Maritime safely and without incident for many years, as well as at other locations such as Pier 40 (also within Hudson River Park, the 79th Steeet Boat Basin and many other locations in teh city, state and the US.

As to whether the interpretation of the Estuarine Sanctuary Management Plan prohibits kayaking within motorized boating areas, we have no opinion. However, the owner of P63M has ageed to keep motorized vessels away from the north side of the barge, paving the way for the Trust to re-designate that area for human-powered vessels if necessary. If such a change is needed and if all parties can agree to such a solution, CB4 sees no reason to object.

In summary, it appears that a definite need exists to accomodate both kayak storage and launching at p63M as well as the adjacent boahouse at Pier 66, and that there is no particular danger in allowinng this to occur. Assuming that such activities are in accord with either the current or potentially revised Estuarine Sanctuary Management Plan to the satisfaction of DEC, the Trust, the kayakers and the owner of P63M, and based on our knowledge of the situation, CB4 urges DEC to allow the kayaking and human powered boting activities (storage and launching) to continue at the new location as they have for many years at its current location.

This letter was pase unanimously at the October 4th meeting of Manhattan Community Board No. 4


J. Lee Compton
Community Board 4

John Doswell
Waterfronts and Parks

Kristin Dionne
Waterfronts and Parks


HEAR HEAR! Thank you, CB4!

fingers crossed & knocking wood now...

BTW I think that letter outlines the current situation better than anything I could say, and with that all the who said what to whom and when I was starting to go into becomes blissfully irrelevant.

Maybe tomorrow I can write about rolling at Lake Sebago instead...

No comments: