State approves Greenpoint boathouse

Anchors? Away! City looks to be torpedoing its own boathouse plan

Greenpoint is getting its boathouse after all.

State officials overruled their city counterparts this week, approving the $3-million boathouse and education center at the edge of Newtown Creek despite Bloomberg Administration concerns about the malodorous waterway.

City environmental officials had stymied the widely backed project at the end of Manhattan Avenue since June, arguing that boaters would be sickened by the bacteria and other pollution emanating from the 3.8-mile waterway, which was declared a federal Superfund site last October.

But after intense community lobbying, state and city environmental attorneys finalized a deal that would allow the boathouse if supporters develop a safety manual that reminds kayakers to avoid swimming in the fetid creek, eating fish and crabs in from the creek, or boating within three hours of a rainfall, when sewage spills into the canal.

Dewey Thompson and Christine Holowacz are excited that the state has greenlighted their plans for a kayak boathouse on the Newtown Creek (hence the smiles and the paddles).
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It being a dry day, Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Greenpoint) declared the accord “great news” for Greenpoint.

“This is now a living project that will go forward,” said Lentol.

Community Board 1 member Dewey Thompson first introduced the proposal to convert the ground floor of a Manhattan Avenue factory into a boat basin with storage for 40 kayaks and a nautical education center one year ago.

He applied for $3 million from the City Parks Foundation, which is overseeing a $7-million pool of money that was created by the state as a punishment on the city for years of pollution.

This is what the world looks like from the Newtown Creek (but not after a rainstorm!).
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

The boathouse proposal received considerable community support, and state officials made the plan a finalist for the pool of money among nearly 50 discussed.

The state favored the boathouse project earlier this year, but backed off once two city agencies signaled their objections to the project.

State environmental officials declined to explain why they now approved the boathouse, but Lentol believes it was because he and other community leaders convinced officials to “give the facts due consideration” and develop the legal language to let the project proceed.

City officials did not care to comment, but Councilman Steve Levin (D-Greenpoint), who helped work out an agreement between the state and the city over many months, had plenty to say.

And this is what it often looks like.
Office of the Attorney General

“This project has always had, and will continue to have, widespread community support,” said Levin. “The state did the right thing here and now all of Greenpoint will benefit.”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.