NYCkayaker boathouses on the Hudson river in NYC

Erik Baard
Fri Nov 3 09:29:54 EST 2006

Hi All,

This conversation has rung 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 restored, 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.

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 desirable.

Best regards,

Erik Baard

On Nov 3, 2006, at 8:24 AM, Rob Buchanan wrote:

> 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  
>> docks,
>> 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.....
>>> ********************************************************************* 
>>> *
>>> The NYCKayaker mailing list is hosted by, and  
>>> is a
>>> public
>>> service offered to the kayaking community by the Hudson River  
>>> Watertrail
>>> Association. Learn more about HRWA at
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> **********************************************************************
> The NYCKayaker mailing list is hosted by, and is  
> a public service offered to the kayaking community by the Hudson River  
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