Upper West Side Many New Yorkers, unfortunately, can count themselves victims of theft, but not many would name a 20 by 20 foot boat dock as an item stolen from them. The non-profit Manhattan Community Boathouse has made it onto that short list, and is now fundraising to replace the pricey dock that enables them to offer free kayaking in the summer.
The floating dock disappeared late October of 2014 from Pier 96 at the Hudson River. Kaitlin Petersen, president and co-founder of the Manhattan Boathouse, noticed it missing when she and some volunteers visited the boathouse during a maintenance check.
“It’s definitely an out of the ordinary occurrence,” said Petersen. “This isn’t some routine thing for the waterfront.”
Petersen has filed a police report for the theft in addition to seeking out help from the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to track down the dock. Currently nothing has been found. The NYPD did not respond to requests for information regarding the case.
The Boathouse must now rely on donations through their Indiegogo page, since their insurance cannot cover a new dock. Petersen hopes they could raise $30,000 dollars - the cost to replace it - by the end of February in order to have a new dock for their upcoming season in May.
Residents of the neighborhood are also shocked about the unusual theft at the pier.
“It’s a big whodunit and I think we are trying not to focus on that part, but obviously that’s the part that is so compelling for people,” said Petersen.
Graeme Birchall, president of the Downtown Boathouse, also found the theft unusual. Birchall once ran the free kayaking program on 56th street until the boathouse moved downtown to 14th street in 2013. The Manhattan Community Boathouse is an offshoot of the-non profit that helped continue the program in Midtown.
When asked if thefts similar to this one occurred in the past, Birchall described how curious people sometimes go down to the pier at night and untie the floating dock off the pier. When this occurs the dock usually travels no further than 10 to 20 feet away. Aside from the dock being tied down, it is also firmly secured with other protection.
Birchall explained that the fact that the old dock disappeared without a trace means that a lot of effort was put into transporting it. “It’s like trying to tow a broken car, it doesn’t go far fast,” he said.
The dock has served its purpose since 2006, helping volunteers safely launch their visitors’ kayaks for their sessions.
“It was used by over 75,000 people so we got our money’s worth out of the dock, and if we get a new dock we will get our money’s worth from that one too,” said Birchall. In a typical year the boathouse receives 20,000 to 30,000 visitors who boat for free.
Those who utilize the dock see it as a gateway for enjoying the city’s natural resources.
“You’re surrounded by a harbor that we have spent many billions of dollars cleaning up,” said Birchall. “So why not use it? That is what that dock was all about.”
Petersen reported that the Boathouse has currently reached their halfway point in donations. View the fundraiser page for the Manhattan Community Boathouse’s new dock at www.indiegogo.com/projects/manhattan-community-boathouse.