Members of Community Board 7 still oppose several aspects of the $90 million plan that will transform the 79th Street Boat Basin.
NYC Parks and NYCEDC presented plans to Community Board 7 in June and updated the dock house design to the board in November. The changes included an updated roof design, refinements to the window arrangements and openings, and material updates — all of which will help the new climate-resilient and ADA-accessible dock house provide enhanced marina access for boaters, students, and the public. The changes presented in November were in response to community and Public Design Commission feedback.
However, the board was not satisfied and on Nov. 29, sent a letter to EDC expressing concerns about the project.
· There are concerns about how the Dock House blocks sight lines, the supporting columns are too thick and there would be three opaque sides to the building, with only one side, that one seen only from the water, being made of glass.
· The board wants written assurance that the “live-aboards” — those who reside on their boats — at the marina will be given alternative docking locations during the time the Boat Basin is closed, and they voiced that they will be offered the opportunity to return after completion of the work with the understanding that they will pay the same rent.
· They want a safe structure to store kayaking equipment for the potentially revived kayaking program be included in the plans as well, which occurred there prior to Hurricane Sandy.
· The board also wants to widen the Esplanade around the Boat Basin as this area of the park, that north/south pathway adjacent to the Boat Basin, is already often overcrowded. The new expansion of the basin will make this even more congested.
· Lastly, the board wants, if at all possible, that a viable route be kept open along the north/south bicycle route for the duration of the construction period for both recreational and commuting cyclists, as well as along the Esplanade for recreational users in Riverside Park.
These are some of the same issues raised during the summer when the CB7 Parks and Environment Committee had a nearly two-hour discussion about the marina. During that meeting, board member Klari Neuwelt questioned if the massive project is just to raise revenue for the city or to benefit the community.
“Live Aboard” Concerns
Marina resident Gloria Weiss was perturbed as to why there is not complete transparency on the project.
“I don’t understand why the engineer’s report can’t be made public without a F.O.I.L. (Freedom of Information Law) report,” she said.
Weiss, like many members of the “live aboard community,” are worried about what will happen to them when the construction is done.
Additionally, board members and residents asked NYC Parks about the kayaking program, but according to Nate Grove, chief of Waterfront and Marine Operations for the Parks Department, that is not part of the plans.
“We don’t monitor the kayak program anywhere in the five broughs,” Grove said. “We don’t have plans to manage any kayak program.”
Lastly, the letter last month expressed concerns about the Dock House, as did board member Ira Mitchneck in the summer. Mitchneck said NYC has a long history of well-known park architecture, including Central Park, Battery Park and Riverside Park.
Simply put, he said, the plans for the Dock House are unappealing and need to be changed.
“This is the single most disappointing piece of municipal architecture,” Mitchneck said.
The project will demolish the facility’s aged wooden support structure and replace it with modern steel and concrete construction to meet modern waterfront codes and climate resiliency guidelines.
The work will include dredging the basin to increase the depth of the water, which will improve navigation at all tides and mitigate tidal surge. In addition, debris/ice protection will be restored and the number of slips will be increased to address the 14-year wait list, which has nearly 800 names on it.
The project is funded by $28.3 million from FEMA and $60.9 million from the mayor.
Located in the Hudson River, along the shore of Riverside Park at 79th Street, the marina, completed in 1937 and expanded in 1968, is maintained and operated by the Parks Department and is the only facility in the city that allows year-round residency in boats. However, only 10 of 116 slips are occupied year-round, and as of Nov. 1, 2010, department rules prohibit houseboats from docking at the basin.
In an email statement, the Parks Department said that “we plan to present the design to Community Board 7 and PDC again next year ... The design is not final at this time – NYC Parks and NYCEDC continue finalizing based on input from the community and Public Design Commission.”