Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sermon Postponed Indefinitely...

OK, left a comment over on the Roosevelt Islander suggesting consulting with CG, CG Aux, or maybe a professional outfitter about whether their proposed location was really suitable for what they wanted to do.

Their response:

"Earlier today, representatives from NYC kayak/boatclubs with a great deal of experience paddling on the East River attended a meeting with RIOC staff to discuss the RFP. Although the Kayak/Boat Club representatives acknowledged the challenges of operating a kayak facility at this site, they also expressed their strong desire to participate in establishing such a facility."

My initial reaction was "I don't get it. I really, really don't get it. I honestly didn't think any of the local paddlers who knew what they were doing would touch this one with a ten-foot canoe pole..."

Turns out however that those were friends who know the area better than I do. I'm still not sure I like the idea, but it's not really my business. It sounds like there will be more explanation forthcoming - it also sounds like maybe some brakes will be put on the ridiculous rush, and if my friends were to be selected, certain things that the RFP mentioned (like rentals) would be dropped in favor of a pretty closely controlled operation, - so for now, no sermon, I feel like I've said my bit & that's enough.

Still seems like it would've made a TON of sense for the RIOC to get an opinion from someone who knows boating safety but does not have a direct interest in running their facility, but the mental pictures I was painting for myself when things like rentals were supposedly in the picture have gotten a little less frightening.


Ht said...

Maybe you could also suggest to this organization to get opinions and advice from the men on workboats that transit this area all the time. Some of the best Tugboatmen that I know like Capt Bill Brucato and his brother Jim would have a lot of insight for something like this.

bonnie said...

HT - I've got too many friends in this now, I am not going head to head with them, they do know the area better than I do, they have been running stuff on the Queens side for a while & I just don't want to fight with them.

However, it's not just me and my friends who are affected by this and the one comment I did leave before officially backing down over on the Roosevelt Islander blog was that it didn't make sense to me if they were only considering the opinions of people who wanted to run their proposed boathouse.

The information is all out there & public.
The RFP is here:

The update on the Roosevelt Islander blog:

And the contact person at RIOC (Roosevelt Island Operating Committee), is Rudolph Rajaballey; his email is:
Rudolph.Rajaballey "at" (no spaces of course).

I actually got better response to my comment on their blog - I'd emailed Mr. Rajaballey a week ago, before this week's developments, and haven't heard back.

That's pretty much all the information that I've run across.

Will add that I think I've heard that the process is likely to be slower than the crazy RFP timeline where they're trying to have something up & running in May, and also, some of the crazier things mentioned in the RFP (like rentals) are just not going to happen if the group I know is involved.

Pretty depressed about the whole thing right now but that's just how it goes sometime, right?

Pass it along as you see fit.

HT said...

Bonnie, I will pass this along and look into the sites that you have listed.I worked on tugs and oil barges for over 30 years, and I am now retired. I have nothing against recreational boating, in fact I am getting ready to go on a couple of year sailing trip. First time in my life I will be on a boat to enjoy myself. I think that the people that want to run this boathouse are looking at the bottom line and not the consequences.Once this gets out AWO is going to go to the Coast Guard and demand some rules on this. Hell Gate is not a place for Kayaks, it is one of the most feared and dangerous areas of water there is in the U.S. Not to mention the amount of commercial traffic that goes trough there all the time.Tugs and ships can not just slow down going through the gate, so there is usually a big wake that follows,that would not be to good for paddlers. Well anyway you have a good nite,and yeah sometimes that's just how it goes.

bonnie said...

Aw, hell, I try to do the right thing and open up the discussion and it goes straight to "You people need to be regulated".

Oh well, I do understand - every tug captain out there has a stupid kayaker story (hell, every responsible, trained paddler has a stupid kayaker story) & I know the prospect of more stupid kayakers has to be scary.

The proposed location is closer to the southern end of the island - they are talking under the Queensborough Bridge right now, and I think even the location may be not yet fixed - the farther north in the

Hell Gate is not that bad for a kayaker who knows what they are doing (and that includes knowing that when a tug is coming through there they can't stop and can't manuever and the paddler damned well has to stay out of their way). I've personally through there more times than I can count. If you time it with the change of the current & stay to the sides, out of the way of the traffic, it's not any problem for a skilled paddler. Wakes are also not a problem - part of the problem when people who don't paddle start talking about regulations is that they think we all just bought a toy at Wal-Mart and tip over at the drop of a hat - that is true of some but I'd say not of most.

I would hate to see the mere proposal of a boathouse lead to some sort of zoning. In fact, a HUGE part of why I starting speaking out about this boathouse the way I did was because I was genuinely afraid that a Roosevelt Island boathouse putting novices out on the water in a very challenging area was almost sure to lead to conflicts & accidents that would make the Coast Guard start thinking that maybe they DO need to do something about the kayaks.

That would punish a whole lot of paddlers who have taken the time and spent the money to learn what we need to know to share the harbor without endangering ourselves or anyone else.

What I do think might be better some sort of required discussion or permitting process for new recreational boathouses that involves someone who knows boating safety & can look above & beyond the kayaker's perspective (which is the only perspective that seems to be being considered here).

Years and years ago, I actually tried to get the Hudson River Park Trust folks to talk to the CG about their planned boathouses. Didn't happen 'cause there was a guy with a vendetta against the Trust (was actually suing them) who'd temporarily worked himself into a position of influence with the CG and managed to turn my suggestion at the committee he ran into a power play against them ("They can't just talk to the CG, they have to present to this committee because this is the proper venue for such discussions".)

Didn't end up being a problem as far as I know - you might not agree but the North River from the north end of Battery Park City on up is not a bad area for that sort of thing - lots of sheltered waters for beginners to learn in; better paddlers need to know the tides & currents & where the ferries, dinner boats & cruise ships are going in and out but as long as they're aware of those, it's fine paddling.

bonnie said...

Oops, meant to wrap up better -

That didn't end up being a problem, but even back then I really thought that when a community wants to put in a boathouse, they should be aware that the activities there aren't only going to affect their community. Such plans do probably get discussed at community boards - what if, when a new recreational facility is being planned, the community were to bring in at the very least, someone well-versed in boating safety who could look at the location & give an unbiased assessment of the risks?

Now when I say "unbiased", that is where it gets tricky. Non-paddlers don't know what a well-trained paddler is and is not capable of doing (50 miles in one day? Possible with the right tides. Hell Gate at the wrong time in the tide cycle? Not so much...); good paddlers sometimes forget how bad a bad paddler can be. If you could get a combination, somebody from the commercial or at least powered side, someone from the human powered side. You'd want something like someone from the Coast Guard, a local boating safety instructor (a Power Squadron instructor who's worked on their Paddle Smart program would be perfect), and then maybe some high-level coach from the ACA or BCU who has urban paddling experience.

Could be hard to get the right balance but it seems like a sort of sensible idea to me

bonnie said...

PS - re your comment: "I think that the people that want to run this boathouse are looking at the bottom line and not the consequences."

The group that my friends are involved with don't make a dime off of their efforts. It's all volunteer. I don't think a commercial outfitter wouldn't want anything to do with this spot - the risks are high, the scheduling difficult (an all-volunteer group can afford to only run trips when slack coincides with an hour, someone who's trying to make a living needs to run classes & tours every day during the summer if they're going to get through the winter), and the start-up expense would be an awful lot of money to gamble when I think the RFP states that it's for a one-year trial. No business person would go for that particular setup - from a risks & opportunities point of view (sorry, I do actually crunch numbers for a living), it's all risk, no opp.

The volunteer free-kayaking places come from a very different mindset - their bottom line is "How many people did we get out on the river this year?"

Not so much a bottom line as a wet bottom line for them.

bonnie said...

OK, and one more comment. This is the problem with me blogging about this stuff - it's complex, it's important, and I just haven't got time to address it completely & properly now.

But further to the idea about some sort of unbiased committee or team looking at boathouse locations -

Even knowing who the applicants are can create bias. Perfect case in point here - me.

One week ago I was pretty sure this was the worst idea I'd seen in local small-craft news in ages.

"Pretty sure" because I hadn't seen the spot, though. If I went & looked, I know I might think something different.

And with friends who I trust being involved, my thinking has also changed. I'm still uneasy but I don't feel like I can say "This is a bad idea" with anywhere near the same level of confidence as I was before I found out they were in on it. They know the area, they are running tours around there already, maybe I was being too knee-jerky...

Was I right two days ago, or am I right now?


Depressing & frustrating but there it is.

I think I'm done now.

bonnie said...

PPS - FWIW, if anyone's curious what tug captains really think of kayaks in the east river - here ya go.