NYCkayaker boathouses on the Hudson river in NYC

Erik Baard
Fri Nov 3 09:34:44 EST 2006

Hi All,

This conversation has run longer than I expected, but that's not a bad
thing at all -- new ideas are being introduced and everyone is being
civil. With that in mind, I'll pipe up for what I believe will be the
last time.

Urban planners tend to think in grand schemes, which is often
disastrous. While we don't have a Robert Moses paving over bays and
communities now, a much lesser evil has been that the greenways and
waterfront parks fringing our city tend to be generic and sterile.

Indeed, greenways and street end parks have in some cases eliminated
water access -- at the end of Manhattan Avenue there used to be a dock
made by rowers and paddlers with East River ApprenticeShop and the now
defunct East River Kayak Club. Now that the city is turning that street
end into a green park, future water access is in doubt and even if a
launch is reinstalled it will be locked with keys granted only to an
authorized operator. As one city official explained to me, "Well, before
it was just neighborhood people putting in their own dock without
informing the city. Now that it's going to be a park, the city is
implicitly saying it's a good idea to go down to the water. That makes
us more liable if anyone falls in."

In principle I believe in very local control of neighborhood growth,
especially on the waterfront. But the danger there is that community
boards are often greatly influenced by developers with very little
interest in the long-term health and potential of the neighborhoods they
enter and alter.

Both roll-out greenways and cookie-cutter developments have the
unfortunate effect of homogenizing neighborhoods and disconnecting
waterfronts from neighborhoods.

To safeguard against the excesses of both tendencies may I suggest the

1) Give parks soft edges wherever possible. At Queensbridge Park, for
example, the city is attempting to remove a crumbling retaining wall.
Some residents want the wall and fence restored (worries about kids),
but more desirable plans call for a sloping shoreline. Coves might be
carved out of the straight shoreline, seemingly at the cost of a loss of
some mature trees, but much of that motivation is to mitigate landfill
across the water on the FDR Drive. But wherever a soft shoreline is
restored, park officials and local boating and nature groups should
aggressively educate people about water safety and ecology.

2) Create landing beaches and wetlands restorations at the base of walls
where a fully soft edge is impossible and reasonable vessel traffic
expectations allow. Some might object to landfill on the waterfront, but
inert sand and healthy mud planted with marsh grasses and saltwater
exposure tolerant native trees (leaving an unfettered beach landing
zone) would be an ecological gain. As it is now, we have inland
ecosystems abutting struggling marine ecosystems with no intertidal,
littoral growth area connection to sustain either. The landing beach
could be accessible via a ladder, though a ramp is ideal. A full
landfill isn't necessary if a raised concrete platform, essentially a
shelf, is adjoined to the wall.

3) Make small floating docks for rowers, kayakers and canoeists
mandatory in sheltered areas and publicly supported museums. The North
Cove marina at the World Financial Center should welcome paddlers, but
might reasonably demand that they have marine radios since it's a blind
approach. The South Street Seaport and USS Intrepid museums should
safely welcome human-powered boats into their current-protected slips.
This will also be a boon to tourism, especially from companies like

4) Install cleats and bollards where seawalls remain. On Sept. 11, 2001
the tugs, ferries, and other boats that arrived to evacuate people from
Battery Park City were forced to insecurely tie up to park benches,
trees, and rails. There's little cost and much safety and aesthetic
value gained by keeping even latent, decorative waterfronts minimally
equipped for service. Moreover, in "Old New York" a tugboat could pull
up to shore for a quick deli run (crews often don't sleep on land for
days) and it would be great if in a few designated areas they, and other
small vessels, could do so again. Pull-up time could even be restricted
to an hour. Many strollers would love to see the boats up close and it
reconnects industry with pleasure.

5) Bring living street ends up to the waterfront. One of the greatest
joys of our harbor is pulling up to the soft edge of the Mitsua Market
in Edgewater, NJ. Hassle-free, you kayak right into a little Asian
(formerly primarily Japanese but now diversifying) shopping plaza. It's
wonderful. Brooklyn, upper Manhattan, Queens, parts of the Bronx, and
Staten Island don't have huge highways or train lines snaking along all
of their waterfronts. Let's encourage development that allows for small
stores and restaurants that reflect neighborhood character to have pride
of place next to greenways. Towers that are set back a few extra yards
will still have awesome views.

6) Bring a module approach to park design. Decorative elements like
sculpture and gardens should be alterable, so that neighborhoods can
tweak parks to reflect their changing ethnic character and other values.
Maybe even segment greenways in some fashion to allow local control. I'd
love to paddle up, or bike up, to festive lights, temporary
installations, or other multicultural holiday expressions. Maybe even an
open space for food cart vendors on the street side.

Anyway, I hope some of these ideas are helpful. I'm sure there are many
reasons why in many places they can't be implemented, but again, on a
neighborhood-by-neighborhood level, perhaps a few might prove viable and

Best regards,

Erik Baard

> David, those are all good points, and I can't disagree with any of them.
> Certainly we need a multiplicity of put-in options, and small, cheap docks
> and floats do make a lot of sense in many hard-edged places.
> What I'm saying is that there are also a lot of natural put-ins, many of
> them that we don't even notice, and that many more can be created with
> minimal effort. One example: the way that hoboken boaters shifted the
> rip-rap in frank sinatra park to create a natural landing. Another is the
> opportunity that the parks department seems poised to miss in manhattan's
> east river park, where the sea-wall is being rebuilt with several
> rip-rap-filled 'embayments.' They could likely be modified to allow for
> access or at least emergency egress, but apparently won't be.
> Two other things I like about launching from the foreshore: one, it
> encourages people to see the natural shoreline as something worth hanging
> onto, and two, legally speaking, no one owns it--it belongs to the public.
> With docks come the questions of ownership, maintenance, liability, etc.
> --Rob
>  On 11/3/06 6:56 AM, "David Gottlieb" <> wrote:
> > Rob, we are not talking about docks for the Queen Mary or for the Sixth
> > Fleet. I am suggesting small scale put ins -- whether they are tiny
> > ramps, or beaches. Small docks are not environmentally detrimental
to the
> > river. I would say that there is much more environmental damage
created in
> > producing one kayak, with all the effluents from chemicals and
plastics that
> > are part of the process of making a kayak.
> > 
> > The NYC shore line, in many parts is rip-rap and landfill -- not
exactly the
> > original environment of the NYC shore line. A few minute put-ins
here and
> > there will not be deleterious to the environment.
> > 
> > Little docks and ramps cause no environmental harm, and will allow
access to
> > human=powered boats.
> > 
> > On 11/2/06 2:52 PM, "Rob Buchanan" <> wrote:
> > 
> >> Docks are expenisve to install and maintain, get slippery, and
aren't really
> >> a step in the right direction as far as the health of the estuary is
> >> concerned. Beaches--natural, restored, or accreted--are the way to
go. And
> >> there are lots of them:
> >> 
> >> On 11/2/06 12:04 PM, "David Gottlieb" <> wrote:
> >> 
> >>> However, to make boating around the boroughs safer, the city
should install
> >>> docks and/or other types of launch sites for boats every few
miles, at a
> >>> minimum, in case paddlers need to exit in an emergency.....
> >> 
> >> 
> >> 
> >> 
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> > 
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Erik Baard

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