NYCkayaker boathouses on the Hudson river in NYC

ralph diaz
Thu Nov 2 09:24:23 EST 2006

Interesting discussion thusfar and most of it with valid points.  Just some
clarification on things:

This was started not as a way to regulate paddlers.  It had other purposes.
First, NYC Parks wanted to reduce its liability regarding paddlers launching
from its designated sites.  Paddlers are supposed to get a permit and the
application form comes with a short document that exposes the paddler to a
reminder of safety precautions about weather, traffic, cold water exposure
etc.  Second, NYC Parks also wanted to have an idea of how many people were
paddling in the city.  That is why I and others such as Tim Gamble at the
DTBH strongly urged people to get permits.  I don't think in any given year
we ever got more than 100 or so to get permits.  Now if there had been a
thousand paddlers or 2,000 per year (figures that begin to scratch the
surface of paddlers in the city), then NYC Parks would have taken notice in
terms of numbers of launch sites and other park systems such as Hudson River
Park Trust would have taken notice.  To jiggle a saying "We don't reap what
we don't sew."

Several other things about NYC Parks and the permit system.  I was on the
scene just a few years after it started.  Given the difficulty of launching
unguided amateurs into the more turblent and traffic filled waters of the
East River and lower Hudson (south of Riverside Park), no launch sites were
ever located there.  They were in waters that more resembled conditions in
Rockland County where one paddler on this list freely launches.  Frankly it
was not anticipated that the level of skills would grow so fast as they have
done through the DTBH and companies such as Manhattan Kayak and NY Kayak
that have made paddling by large numbers of kayakers reasonably safe in
those trickier waters of the harbor.

NYC Parks early on anticipated the storage issue.  I remember going around
with officials looking for potential places and having some pointed out in
the Orchard Beach area and in Northern Manhattan.  None were that large
(building space is at a premium even for NYC Parks).  And none were in lower
Manhattan, obviously.

The Hudson River Park Trust and the Hudson River Park Conservancy that
preceded it had nothing to do with the creation of any of the paddling
establishments that sprang up.  All are grassroots affairs or humbly begun
businesses started by enthusiasts who had a similar desire to see people
enjoy their rights to their waters only differing in whether for profit or
not for profit.  All of these establishments are untidy in the Trust's eyes
and suffer from "not made here" in the sense that the Trust did not put them
in place from some grand scheme of things.  So, the Trust is always going to
be of a frame of mind that it wants to either do away with them (now don't
be shooked; the Trust doesn't like anything funky and paddling is funky) or
wants to regulate them into something that is anathema to the free spirited
souls usually drawn to paddling.  The Trust is not a friend, so don't expect
much from it that you can't wrestle from it through sheer weight of numbers
of paddlers and their supporters.

In the records of Manhattan Kayak, NY Kayak,  Outriggers Group, etc. but
most importantly the DTBH are names and names of people who support paddling
because they are either deeply involved in it or have taken a lesson or two
or gone out with the free program at the DTBH operations.  While people do
change addresses etc.  I am sure that there are probably 40,000 names that
can be pulled up of which some 25,000 are NY State residents and about
20,000 residents of the five boroughs.  That is voting power that would
impress the Trust, which afterall is a NY State/NY City governmental agency.

I know a whole lot of the people who have piped up on the issue, Bonnie,
Mike Pidel, Joy, Jeff Hoyer, Eric Baard, Nancy, etc.  You are really all on
the same page.  You want access and, part of that is storage.  That is now a
challenge that while large is not as threatening as the one Bonnie mentioned
that led to the creation of The Human Powered Boating Group (HPBG).
Remember the threat back then was to the very use of the harbor waters of
the Hudson south of Riverside Park, all of the East River and Upper Bay
bordered by Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Battery and New Jersey. The HPBG
joined together all commercial paddling operations that used the harbor (not
just Manhattan Kayak and NY Kayak but also Atlantic Kayak Tours and other
upstate outfitters), DTBH, the Barge paddlers,  outriggers, surf skiers,
Floating The Apple.  You name it . . . if it held an oar or paddle it became
part of the group.  As Bonnie noted, the shipping commercial interests and
the Coast Guard stood up and took notice.  Efforts to effectively regulate
us out of existence in NY harbor waters was stopped.  We came to an modus
operandi with the ferries, got law enforcement to help stop the rising
harrassment of paddlers  by renegade jet skiers and did pioneering work on
effective lighting for night paddling.

It cost not a dime to unite.  All it took was to see the common interest
being threatened and presenting a strong, reasoned front.  A threat is
exactly what is happening with the Trust and paddling.  Jim Wetteroth (DTBH)
was one of the principal people behind the creation of HPBG and Bonnie
(Manhattan Kayak, Barge) played an important role is the gains we made as
did Randy Henriksen (NY Kayak) as well as Michael Glass (surf skiis).
Others are still around.  Get together to make sure there is a pie that can
then be divided.

ralph diaz

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