Monday, January 22, 2007

Good meeting!

That was actually a good meeting - I felt a little out of place there & didn't say much, but I enjoyed listening to people sitting around a table saying reasonable things about boathouses.

If you were able to sort through the tangle of waterfront political idiocy I was writing about back in September & October & maybe a little in November, you might remember that I linked to an article in the Downtown Express, which was the first place I'd read that all of the sudden, the Hudson River Park Trust was saying that they didn't have enough money to build the boathouse that was supposed to go up on Tribeca's Pier 26 in place of the boathouse the Trust tore down a couple of years ago.

This would have been irritating on it's own. Coming, as it did, on the heels of the great barge debacle, with the attendant simultaneous "It's THEIR fault!" coming from both the Trust and the DEC, it was even more annoying - as I think I said when I first linked, adding insult to injury (like they didn't notice, or think anyone would notice, that the overall projected future kayak storage in the park had, in the course of something like a month, been halved, or worse).

But I think the most annoying factor was that the 2 boathouses that the Trust has had designed & built so far have been super-fancy, but not in ways that actually improve their ability to function AS BOATHOUSES. It would be simple enough to design something far more spartan that works perfectly well, if not better - but the option of looking at cost cuts for the boathouse design wasn't even mentioned. It was like "Gee, we don't have enough money for the Taj Mahal, so you get bupkes. OK?".

Only I don't know if there was an "OK?".

And as it turns out, Community Board One is NOT ok with this at all.

This meeting turned out to be the 2nd in a series of working groups discussing the fate of of Pier 26. At the last one, a list of things that people liked about the way the old Pier 26 worked was collected - things like the grassroots nature of both the Downtown Boathouse and the neighboring River Project, the way they brought people to the river, etc. etc.

I guess Jim Wetheroff, the founder of the DTBH, may have taken the opportunity to mention the over-designed nature of the boathouse.

Julie Nadel, the chair of CB1's Waterfront Committee, left that meeting determined to get the Trust to look and see if, by avoiding the needlessly expensive approach they've taken with the other 2 boathouses, it might be possible to save the lost boathouse..

The interesting beginning to this meeting was that maybe the boathouse wasn't so doomed after all! During the discussions, Julie and Marc Amaruso, another committee member who went to work on finding things out, were told by the Trust that, oh yes, the designs were finished, and if the budget request was granted, they'd be putting the boathouse construction out to bid in early April.

That was an interesting change to the no-funds story!

The committee members asked if they could see the plans (they had a floor plan, but that was about it). They were told "No, the plans are finished, but we don't have them". Now tonight, hearing that story, a couple of other attendees said that they'd seen much more advanced plans. Where? Why, at the Trust's offices.


So Julie's going to go back to the Trust, GET the plans, request that the Trust hold off on rushing anything out to bid until CB1 and some of the potential actual end users of the boathouse have a chance to review the designs closely for unnecessary frills - like the infamous dock -

or heating in your cavernous, uninsulated storage area, when a small changing room that can be warmed up quickly with a space heater will do -

and no, leaving the heat off wouldn't work - the water pipes for the hot showers would freeze. Another frill that could be cut - hot showers at a boathouse is a lovely theory, but if the word is that the boathouse is too expensive - well, most paddlers are OK with waiting to get home to shower (although when MKC moved from the glitzy health-club environs of Chelsea Piers to the rusty old Rustbucket, we did have worry about how many clients we'd lose to the Peach Shampoo Factor - turned out not too many, but we definitely lost a few).

Anyways, long story short, at the first meeting, a list of things people liked about the old Pier 26 was collected; last night, a list of things that were unnecessary (or flat out didn't work) about the newer Trust boathouses was offered by Jim Wetheroff of the Downtown Boathouse (they've now operated out of one of the new boathouses for enough time for him to speak with authority) and confirmed by Eric Stiller of Manhattan Kayak Company (the company I was a partner in once & continued to store boats until Sept. 11th of last year) - MKC had been given temporary space for a few boats at the DTBH-Uptown so Eric also had firsthand experience of the shortcomings. They'll continue working on it once they get a little more than a floor plan. It's nice to hear that maybe the Pier 26 boathouse isn't as doomed as that article made it out to be - wouldn't it be even nicer if CB 1 can get the Trust to revise their plans to produce a simpler, cheaper, easier-to-maintain boathouse that WORKS better, too?

Nice to hear such sensible ideas being discussed at a Hudson River Park related meeting. Now if the Community Board can only get the Trust to listen...

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

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