Thursday, October 12, 2006

Getting it down

Lunchtime preamble to a post I wrote last night:
Back when I was a partner at Manhattan Kayak Company, I used to joke that I didn't need a T.V. to watch soap operas - I was living one & the name of the soap opera was "As the Kayak Rolls". Things got less dramatic once I dropped out of MKC - rather pleasantly so - but over the last couple of weeks I've been feeling like "here we go again". Been wanting to write down some of coherently & sequentially. Now that the first string of meetings is over, I think I have a little time to do that!

It all started with an email.

Or at least this phase started.

Or maybe this was more of an end.

Anyways. There it was.

Aug 28, 2006 12:07 PM.
From: Manhattan Kayak Company.
Subject: Manhattan Kayak Storage Access Information

Opened it up and my stomach instantly tied itself in a knot (nice tidy one, of course, I do sail too).

You can read the rest of it here. The gist, though, as you'll know if your a member of the Rustbucket Alumni Association or even a moderate follower of this blog, was simple -

It was the time that had always been coming. The Rustbucket was being shut down so that the Hudson River Park Chelsea section could finally be built.

If I had a dime for every time I'd said or written "This was always supposed to happen", I'd have enough for a pretty decent bottle of wine by now. Probably not quite up to a bottle of Balvenie, but definitely a decent bottle of wine.

Basically, back in the fall of 1998, when Manhattan Kayak got the boot from Chelsea Piers, we moved to the barge with the full understanding that it had a finite term of existence in the Park - possibly as short as a couple of years.

That decision to move had happened before I actually joined, if I remember correctly that had a lot to do with a woman Eric had nicknamed "Ubergirl". She was a good guide & teacher, and also a powerful & very competive paddler, had rowed crew at Cornell. She'd been guiding for Eric at Chelsea Piers during the summer of '98, she'd also been doing some outrigger paddling with New York Outrigger, who'd been based at the barge since 1996. When the need for a home for MKC arose so unexpectedly, Ubergirl suggested the barge to Eric as a possibility, Eric met John Krevey & decided John was Han Solo and the barge was the Millennium Falcon & that was good enough for him.

I came in a while after that phase but had been keeping close tabs on the situation because I really missed paddling. This was a few years back, but that's sort of how I recall the decision happening.

The point is, we moved into a very tenuous situation, we knew all about it, & we did so willingly. The idea was - it was there. It would work without needing to invest too much money in facilities (thanks to a lot of enthusiastic volunteers who were willing to come in and scrape rust until they looked like coal miners...well, not coal miners, but rust miners...oh, man, if I am going to write this right I have GOT to go scan some photos of the construction of the first hold). Even in a worst-case scenario, it would at least have bought the company another year or two, during which we'd be diligently looking into alternatives.

I have already described the overall situation we moved into back then back when we had Shutdown Scare #1 this year, back in June. Have linked to that writeup a few times during this process as I think it's good to understand the backstory. If you missed it the first 27 times - here it is again - Pier 63 - A Better Explanation!

Nutshell version, though, is that we moved in as subtenants of Pier 63 Maritime; Pier 63 was a subtenant of BasketBall City. BasketBall City was supposed to be an interim tenant - the Hudson River Park Trust was their landlord. There were, if I remember correctly, a couple of legitimate extensions of the BBC lease because the Hudson River Park Trust wasn't ready to begin construction - but eventually those were exhausted. That's when BasketBall City dug in their heels & proceeded to drag things out in court for a few more years.

Jumping back up to 2006 - the June shutdown scare? That was averted because BasketBall City tried to declare bankruptcy in one last last-ditch effort. That one finally got thrown out of court in late August. The eviction notice - covering BBC and all of their subtenants - was already written up and ready to fly the minute that happened.

That was what precipitated the MKC email.

MKC had gotten a much, much longer ride at Pier 63 than we ever thought we would when we moved there precisely because of all the BBC footdragging.

I was only shocked when I got the email because I'd gotten the impression from someone who was pretty well connected there that we'd be good through November, then there'd be a move & maybe a paddling hiatus of a couple of weeks while that happened & things got set up at the new location.

Take away my whole winter paddling season? Oh no! That's much worse than I expected!

My natural reaction to such a surprise?

Pull out my email contacts for the Hudson River Park Trust & fire off an email. Talked all about the glories of fall paddling - the crisp air, the absence of motorboats, etc. etc. etc., and how much it hurt to have that anticipated Fall yanked away on such short notice.

I closed with the following words:

I do understand that getting the park built is your priority - but I hope that the Trust will at least remember that there are some eighty-odd kayak owners - some of whom are even more passionate about their paddling than I am - who's treasured river access is being restricted during this time.

Please, I beg of you, do whatever you can to make that restriction as short as possible.

Never hurts to ask, right? Worst they'll do is say "No can do, please be patient 'til spring", right?

Little did I know...

to be continued.

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