Friday, February 16, 2007

Hudson River Park kayak storage - by the numbers.

I have this tendency to forget that there are more than Hudson River Park paddlers reading this blog when I get going on the possible problems with the kayak storage prospects in the Hudson River Park. I get a good reminder of this every now & then when I call my folks in Hawaii. They've heard a fair amount about the various trials & tribulations of the Hudson River Park paddling community over the years, but when I start talking specific people, organizations & the fluctuations in the statuses of their various home bases, they get a little confused.

In fact it's a little hard to keep track of for me - I only get so much information. Back when I was doing the kayaking thing semiprofessionally as a partner at MKC I was a lot better informed - now, as I said to the Pier 63 gang the other day, I feel a little bit like I'm standing outside in a high wind, trying to catch pages an unbound galley that somebody dropped as they blow past & then trying to explain the story from that. Every now & then somebody else with a few key pages will share them, too - I guess that's why I get so upset when people let the grapevine get shut down, because I'm convinced that the more people are sharing information, the better the overall picture & the more truly representative of the paddling community as a whole the responses.

Whatevers. Anyhow, I've been thinking that it might be helpful to sort of step back a bit & try to start explaining the big picture (inasmuch as I have a big picture - I think I do but I may be seeing it wrong) in smaller, hopefully more coherent chunks.

Tonight, I got to playing around with Excel - I have this vague picture of an impending potential storage crunch; depending on a number of variables it could be anywhere from nonexistent to severe & permanent. I built this little model that would give me year-by-year changes, from 2004 (which is the year in the past at which I believe the Park had the largest number of spaces for individual boats).

I played around with a few different scenarios, and thought I'd share a few with you here. In this exercise, I only care about the numbers - I'm just looking at the overall pool of available storage & trying to get the numbers I've been imagining down more clearly. There is no Randy, there is no New York River Sports, there are simply boats at locations. The only breakdown is at Pier 40, where some of the boats from Pier 26 got moved after Pier 26 closed("Pier 40 public"), augmenting the number that were already stored there at the Pier 40 kayak company.

My basic assumptions for the numbers are just that - assumptions. Some are guesses of the educated variety, some less so. In general, I've tried to be conservative in my estimates so as not to skew the picture to the alarmist side.

Here are the assumptions. The order is north to south. HRPT indicates a new boathouse built under the auspices of the Trust. Downtown is the Tribeca boathouse I've referred to before, the one that the Trust was saying might be up in the air & that's now being looked at closely by the local community board - it would be built on the same pier as an old grassroots boathouse that was closed in 2004 (and btw I think that old one held considerably more than the 100 I've estimated here - that's one of my more cautious estimates).

The numbers to look at are the totals and the "yearly change" numbers at the bottom. Anywhere you see red, that means lost storage. An individual year with a loss of storage means people scrambling for interim storage. A loss in "change from 2004-2009" indicates that unless another boathouse comes into the picture (and there IS supposed to be one at Chelsea's Gansevoort Peninsula, although that's going to involve getting the city to move a lot of city equipment), that space is pretty much just gone.

Let's look at the worst-case scenario first (cue Darth Vader music). This one's just ugly - the DEC permit covering the barge in Chelsea doesn't get revised, the new tenants at Pier 40 don't make any space for kayaks, and the Trust doesn't get the money for the boathouse downtown. 60 boats out in the cold in 2007, 70 more looking for homes in 2008. 140 spaces lost from 2004 through 2009.

Next, let's look at the rosiest scenario (cue full choral version of the "Ode to Joy"). This assumes that none of the extant facilities get shut down, and the new boathouses just end up being room for expansion, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Tra la la!

btw, anyone interested in a bridge?

Finally, a midpoint scenario (I did a few of these for fun - this one's actually an outcomes that I could imagine happening based on how things seem to be lined up right now - that could of course change at any time, though).
In this one, the DEC holds fast on not allowing human-powered boats at the barge, the new Pier 40 tenant decides that a public paddling program fits well with their program, but not the kayak company, and a nice new boathouse opens up downtown. 2007 is a bad year for a lot of paddlers. Some spaces open up in 2008, but the overall number of spaces ends up down 20 from our starting point of 2004.

You get the general idea, right?

A couple of additional things to consider looking at that last one - note that I'm assuming that the boathouse downtown is open for business in 2008; if it's not (and it's still in the planning phases right now), and I'm guessing right on the 2008 timeline for the new tenants taking over Pier 40 for development, instead of having a 60-boat loss this year followed by a 50-boat gain in 2008, there'll be a loss of 60 in 2007 followed by a loss of 50 more in 2008. Of course in 2009 you'll have 100 open up, so the overall change for those 3 years ends up being a mere loss of 10 storage spaces either way - but that still leaves 110 boats scrambling for interim storage during the first 2 years.

And one other thing - the barge not being available, even for one season, automatically means a major loss of storage in 2007. Many of us (particularly those of us for whom paddling is a year-round activity) did scramble when they shut the place down in 2006, but I believe there are still a lot of boats stored there & if the closure IS pemanent, there will be an even bigger crunch as soon as the barge moves & people can retrieve their property.

So those are the basic numbers in a few different potential situations.

Next time I feel like tackling the topic, I think I'll match up some of the cast of characters with the current facilities, and thinking about possible outcomes were group 1 to move from Pier A to pier D.

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