NYCkayaker boathouses on the Hudson river in NYC

Erik Baard
Wed Nov 1 16:29:07 EST 2006

Hi All,

One thing that is clear from experience and discussion is that the  
benefits to the city as a whole from maximizing water access. Paddlers  
and rowers are perhaps the most visible sign of ecological renaissance,  
which you'll see popping up in tourist brochures in a few years time.  
More importantly, these kinds of individualistic (well, for paddlers  
anyway) and offbeat activities appeal to "the creative class" and young  
workers generally. NYC needs to shed its  
museums image if it's to compete for top labor talent with smaller Sun  
Belt cities.

Knocking crime down was the first part of the equation. Now creating  
green spaces and eco-recreation is moving to the fore. When the New  
York City kayaker is a television cliche, we'll perhaps attack our  
failing educational system. Do I dream?

In short, we're not beggars at the waterfront. We enhance its value for  
developers and corporate employers alike. But this is truly palatable  
only with free public programming.

One important facet of the waterfront space dilemma is that despite all  
of the wonderful gains to the city in the big picture, we've still got  
to contend with parochialism. Many residents feel park resources should  
be allocated in direct proportion to usage in the most simplistic  
terms. Some natural spaces, for examples, are forever under siege from  
residents who want ballparks and other active recreational areas  
(witness the coming battles of kayakers being hemmed in by restrictions  
surrounding wetlands restorations).

My solution has been to advocate for a monolithic concrete dome  
( boathouse that's largely under earth and  
plantings, so instead of a building blocking waterfront views, the  
boathouse is a green hill from which non-boaters can enjoy superior  
views of water and sky, a place to picnic, or sunbathe. It just happens  
that the hill is hollow and full of boats. There can certainly be other  
solutions, but wherever possible we should consider how boathouse can  
blend into the landscape or be packaged into multiple-use structures.

For neighborhoods where waterfront storage is a lost cause, the folding  
kayak option might prove useful in novel ways. Imagine a "Tin-Lizzy"  
version of the Feathercraft Java -- a cheap, no-frills, light, reliable  
sit-on-top boat with inflated sections and a light frame that assembles  
in ten minutes. A community boathouse could store anywhere and have  
weekly field trips to water access through the city. Graeme' put a lot  
of thought into this, and I am excited about a rough design for a Sedna  
kayak (named for the Inuit sea goddess) developed with help from Orlova  
Chaze a couple of years back.

Alternatively, with a reasonably sturdy and efficient multiple boat  
cart, volunteers could trundle down to the water's edge from a few  
blocks inland. I've asked Recycle-a-Bicycle to put some thought into  

Salty regards,


On Nov 1, 2006, at 3:30 PM, Richard Clifford wrote:

>  NYCKayaker,
>      May I suggest that the notion of a government subsidized program  
> is not a creation driven merely by the financial need of the  
> subsidized.
>      In this instance I believe that there are several "values" for  
> the subsidy provided by state or federal government to any public  
> access boating facility and its programs, such as DTBH.
>      First, a compelling reason for a subsidy is driven by a public  
> desire to promote and to insure waterfront access and open space for  
> use by the 'many' regardless of the finances of the 'few.' It would be  
> absurd to ask folks how money they had in the bank before allowing  
> them to walk in Central Park, or to charge them depending upon their  
> wealth. The theater and arts are subsidized w/o regard to the wealth  
> of those who attend. (BAM, The Public Theater, Joe's Pub, etc.)  
> Eventually the parks and recreation and entertainment are their for  
> the people who live in, around or near the City. Open access was the  
> compelling reason behind building the trail in the first place.  Just  
> Google: "open access waterfront Pataki"
>      You might then ask yourselves, were all those $ millions in parks  
> and waterfront subsidies merely a prelude and dressing of the  
> properties for private developers? Each site from the new Yankee  
> Stadium, to Randall's Island, to Battery Park City may offer  
> compelling clues.
>      A second possible reason for any government subsidy may be a  
> shared desire that the urban environment should not devolve and  
> degrade into a monoculture of big box stores, fast food and chain-gyms  
> for "exercise." There are many interests that prefer the monoculture;  
> it drives out competition and leads to greater profits and  
> centralization of control. The 'subsidized program' affords diversity  
> of services for the entire economic spectrum, not merely the bottom of  
> the economic ladder. In you consider the City to be a living entity  
> then you may appreciate, in a Darwinian sense, that diversity is a  
> very good thing.
>      The argument concerning the cost of the subsidy is not  
> compelling. Is the statement that NYC real estate is very expensive  
> the cause or the effect of how decisions are to be made going forward?  
> In that very expensive environment we have wrestled for 45+ years with  
> our initial subsidy of Rent Control.  That program is dwindling and  
> currently is less than 2% of the total urban housing stock. It was  
> superseded by the Rent Stabilization program. Many smart economists  
> would have us all believe that the removal of housing subsidies will  
> cause the pricing to drop, and not to continue to rise. The argument  
> has never gained significant traction in NYC. Any effort to destroy,  
> wind-down or to replace Rent Stabilization has been met with fierce  
> arguments that the solutions lead to greater costs, less diversity and  
> a City census that is financially and economically more brittle, being  
> dependent upon, e.g. only Wall Street.
>      But, eventually any government must make a cost-value driven  
> decision of who to subsidize and how long to continue the subsidy.  
> Just my view of the subsidies aspect of the discussion. Best wishes,  
> Richard Clifford
>  Joy Hecht wrote:
>> Good points, Bonnie.  The appropriate analogy to bike racks might be  
>> places to launch, or to pull kayaks onto the shore while getting  
>> lunch.  Not permanent storage.
>> The bottom line is that NYC real estate is very expensive.  That’s  
>> why most New Yorkers don’t live in places where you can keep kayaks  
>> at home.  And why housing for kayaks, just like permanent car  
>> parking, is going to cost a fair bit. 
>> There’s a further argument for not subsidizing it – generally  
>> subsidies should, IMO, go to people at the bottom of the income  
>> ladder, not those who can already afford to purchase a not-so-cheap  
>> boat.  How would you feel if the city gave free or subsidized stable  
>> space to people in the city who own their own horses?  That’s a more  
>> extreme example, since horses cost vastly more than kayaks, but I  
>> imagine most people would consider that a grossly inappropriate use  
>> of public funds.  If dock space at the 79th St. Boat Basin is  
>> subsidized (and I have no idea, though I’m guessing it might be), I’d  
>> guess you consider that inappropriate too.  The same goes for kayak  
>> storage, though to a lesser degree since kayaking isn’t as expensive  
>> as horses or power boats.
>> Working together to increase the total amount of private rack space,  
>> even if it is available at market rates (paid either in money or in  
>> volunteer labor) seems like a really good strategy – and more likely  
>> to succeed than showing a conflicted front to the city officials or  
>> whomever you have to convince that kayak storage is a real need.
>> Joy
> -- 
> Richard C. Clifford, Esq.
> Attorney at Law
> 1890 Palmer Avenue, Suite 302
> Larchmont, NY 10538
> Tel: (914) 834-0757
> Cell: (917) 854-5824
> Fax: (914) 834-0888
> **********************************************************************
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