Saturday, April 24, 2010

Another meeting

We're in the budget hell homestretch at work right now, so it was a slightly late night at the office. At one point while I was momentarily idle, waiting for the next round of revisions to appear, I remembered to check on a City Council committee meeting I'd heard about. It was on the calendar so I did up a quick email to all my various mailing lists & a few friends who aren't on any of those:
This sounds like it should be interesting meeting of the Waterways Committee of the City Council.

Oversight – Rules of the Road, Boating Safety and Cooperation in New York City Waters.

I don't think I can make it (in the homestretch for FY11 budget season so pretty much chained to desk, there now in fact) but I'd heard about it through a friend & I thought I would pass it along - already had to a few people but I think it had been rescheduled right before I first heard about it & the original cancelled date was still on the calendar with a note it was being rescheduled - that's done so here it is.

It didn't hit me until after I got home that it was a little shortsighted of the committee members to hold a hearing like this at a time when most recreational boaters would presumably be at our desks, working at the jobs that earn us the money that lets us pay for our recreational boating habit. If you were here earlier than around noon today (Saturday), you saw an initial version of my complaint that I'd slapped together last night & set to post today. I'd planned to join one of my sailing friends this morning at the club for an 8am launch, heading over to the north channel bridge - but I woke up this morning feeling lousy in a way that said a quiet day at home would probably be a better idea.


So since I'm home instead of out in the sunshine planting marsh grass, I figured I might as well take that late-night whine & actually do something with it. Here's what I sent:

Dear Councilmembers:

My name is Bonnie K. ...

I am a paddler, sailor, and resident of NYC.

You are having a hearing on Rules of the Road, Boating Safety and Cooperation in New York City Waters. Concerns have apparently expressed about failures among the recreational boating sector to comply with the rules of the road, boat safely, and cooperate. There might be things being said at your hearing that members of the recreational boating sector should be able to hear for ourselves -- so why are you having the meeting at a time when the vast majority of recreational boaters are at work & may find it difficult to attend?

I imagine that this is because for all the other participants, this IS work, and because it's normal practice to have such committee hearings during the work day, and it didn't occur to anyone that this one might be worth changing. I suppose there's no way to make it work for everybody - try to include the recreational set & you'll be asking all the professionals to sacrifice their leisure time; put it during the work day so the professionals can attend as a normal part of their work day, and the recreational set has to sacrifice office hours.

The word is out about the meeting & I am hoping that representatives of local recreational organizations (like the New York City Watertrail Association, copied above) have been invited to participate and & will be able pass the word later on what happened - but I do wish that the cooperation could have extended to finding a time for the meeting when a wider set of waterway users could conceiveably attend, for example, at 4 pm on a workday. Let the recreational set find a way to leave work a little early, and let the professionals get home a little late. Wouldn't that make sense?

Thank you for your consideration - if not for this meeting, then at least in future planning.


Bonnie K. ...

BTW - A very sincere "Thank you" to PortSideNY for initially passing the word even before the final version appeared on the City Council - once again filling in a communication gap between the different types of waterway users.


paddlingOTAKU said...

it would have made sense, and the pessimist in me says it was done so the recreationists wouldn't have a voice.

maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.


will said...

does "meetings as window dressing" come to mind?

bonnie said...

I don't know if there's intent or just thoughtlessness, but since my plan to go participate in the American Littoral Society Earth Day beach cleanup & planting in the J-Bay sanctuary got cancelled when I woke up feeling lousy & so I had more free time than I thought, I didn't just do this post - I sent my complaint to the committee members.

Pat said...

Next week the State Parks will hold a public meeting about a project that'll have a big impact on/for our sailing club. Originally it was scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday -- when most of our members live 75 to 160 miles from where the meeting will be held. The best I was able to do was to get the meeting time changed to 3 pm, so people who want to attend can at least get in a half day of work and take the afternoon off to drive the two hours to the meeting.

bonnie said...

I'm impressed you got that much & hope it all works out in your favor. I'm not really expecting results from my email, just did it out of some sense that not speaking up when you think something's being done wrong is as good as saying "Yeah, I'm ok with that".

I just find it frustrating that they're apparently working on something that's going to affect a whole lot of people, but they're only making it feasible for the commercial set to go.

Fortunately there are enough people among my friends & clubmates who are self-employed, between jobs, or retired that I do expect that at least a few people will be able to make it.

I don't know whether they'll be invited to participate, though, or whether they'll just be there as spectators. I actually threw in the bit about "hoping" that the NYC Watertrail group had been invited to participate because I happen to know that as of the time when I first found out about this last week, they had not been extended any such invitation.

They certainly don't represent 100% of the people who are paddling & rowing out there - I don't think any group ever could, it is perfectly easy to buy a kayak & get on the water without joining one of the groups of which the NYCWTA is comprised. But they do speak for an awful lot of us & if I knew for sure that one or two of them was participating, that would be enough for me.