Friday, April 20, 2012

Roosevelt Island boathouse - tying up a few loose ends, introducing a few new ones.

Just a quick post here since I sort of left things dangling with this thing.

I did get a little more information this week. On the good side - apparently people on Roosevelt Island have actually been trying to figure out if they could get some kind of water access for ages, and in the process of that they have spoken to exactly the sort of expert I've been saying they should be speaking to - somebody who's not looking to run anything there and has experience that gives them a broader perspective than just a kayaker's. The opinion given was that there are a few places on the island where small, carefully controlled programs could be run safely.

That was really what I wanted to hear was happening - as I think I said, my impression based on my own recollections of the area was that it wouldn't be good, but if I had a chance to go see it, I might easily rethink.

As far as small, carefully controlled programs go, the kayak group that the Roosevelt Islander blog mentioned as having attended a recent meeting (in the comments in theoriginal R.I.'er post I'd referred to) are already running stuff like that in the same area and know as well as anyone how to deal with the currents and stay out of the way of the barges. So on that front, I was definitely being a Chicken Little. However, there's still something off-kilter here - ends up being off in competitive-rowing territory and that's outside of what I actually know, but here's what I've read of the story so far. It is an interesting set-up.

The boathouse RFP that was just put up was in response to a proposal that the Roosevelt Island Operating Company ("RIOC", which basically decides what happens on Roosevelt Island) received from an organization called New York Rowing.

 New York Rowing used to be based at the Peter Jay Sharp boathouse (which I admit I still think of as the Bette Midler Boathouse as she had a ton to do with the place existing at all - she saw a community need and helped make it happen) on the Harlem River. Programs there have now been taken over by a group called Row New York. You can read more about the story of the changeover on the latest WaterWire. That article mentions that New York Rowing wasn't very involved in the community. The parting of the ways involved a lawsuit.

Having lost that venue, NY Rowing asked the RIOC for a new home on Roosevelt Island. The RFP was done on an expedited basis, (which is why I was so utterly floored by the whole thing; usually any new boathouses in the area take eons of planning and community board meetings and other such argh-itude, and this one popped up complete as Athena springing from Zeus's head, without so much as a single rumor beforehand - I'm not as hooked in to the kayak grapevine as I was when I was in Manhattan, where a certain amount of political action is just part of the cost of keeping a boat on the waterfront, but still, a new boathouse is huge!) but right on the heels of the announcement came questions about conflicts of interest among a couple of the parties involved. 

At this point, this is all way over my head, but I'll definitely be staying tuned and if I hear anything, I'll pass it along. That's all for now - gotta get some shuteye, long week and I need to rest up, tomorrow is the Sebago Season Opener and Andy and I are starting it off with another session with the NYU Poly Concrete Canoe Team. Go Team!

Hope everybody has a good weekend!


Pat said...

Water access is usually a good thing. But it seems it can get complicated very quickly in NYC.

bonnie said...

It's always contentious.

The commercial/recreational arguments are pretty straightforward - up through sometime in the 80's, our Sixth Borough", to use the great term for our waterways that my fellow waterblogger Tugster Will has popularized, was too polluted to play on; the freighters & barges & tankers (oh my, freighters and tankers and barges, oh my) had their workspace mostly to themselves; the recreational craft that were out there were mostly larger, motorboats, keelboats, a bit easier to see than kayaks. People started putting kayaks and other small craft back in the water sometime in the 80 (NYC Parks kayaking rules date back to that time & forbid immersion rescue practice because the water was still hazardous then - the rules are still there but nobody stops us from practicing rescues these days)and then it really took off in the late 90's and some of the commercial folks have been asking for us to be given "Zones" or other such regulations ever since - I think they assume that we all just bought toy boats at WalMart and came out to play. Unfortunately, although I think the vast majority of local paddlers have a very healthy respect for the needs of the commercial folks & the power of the estuarine currents, we do still get people out there who actually fit that description, and unfortunately those are the ones who the commercial people really see, as they don't always know where they should go & how much room a tug captain needs to feel like he's not about to kill someone. Fortunately for us, the Coast Guard has been slow to listen to those calls.

This case really has a different spin, but it's worrisome when something like this pops up with no discussion - any noticeable uptick in incidents in that area could get the CG thinking maybe it's time to fence in the human-powered set.

bonnie said...

Ooops - "how much room a tug captain needs to feel like he OR SHE is not about to kill someone"

Most of the tugmen are still men but in this day & age there are women doing that job too.

Anonymous said...

Residents of Roosevelt Island ARE interested in a boating program. Whether it will be the New York Rowing group or another remains to be seen. A RIOC board member (conveniently) failed to mention that he sits on the board of NYR and that the board member of NYR who presented to the RIOC board sits on the board of the private school where he is Executive Director. (lesson: Students, today we will discuss insiders and refusals.)

When this came to light, the board member deflected the issue.

Given RIOC's slow pace, many doubt there will be boating in 2012.

bonnie said...

Well, might end up being done better if it's done slower.

And in the meantime, you do have the Long Island City Community Boathouse very close by. Google says it's about a half-hour trip via public transportation - takes me forty-five minutes or more to get to my boathouse in Canarsie so you're already one up on me there - and it's an excellent place learn about paddling in that area.