The Occupy Wall Street movement has set sail to spread a protest message across Manhattan via the city’s waterways. Led by members of Pulse, the movement’s drum circle working group, the OWS marine contingent made it’s maiden voyage down the Hudson River aboard a sailboat named The Druid on Saturday, anchoring just south of the 79th Street Boat Basin. Having passed muster with Coast Guard officials who boarded the boat to inspect it over the weekend, the crew of self-styled “Occu-pirates” hopes to be the vanguard of a floating protest community to sail around the city this summer.
Read the related story on DNAinfo.com.
I spent the Labor Day weekend at the Village Community Boathouse, located on Pier 40 at the diving end of West Houston Street in Lower Manhattan. That’s where dozens of volunteers build and maintain a variety of small, man-powered boats, including a half-dozen Whitehall Gigs. These 7-person rowboats — native and perfectly-suited to New York Harbor — are used in a free community rowing program that promotes public ownership of the city’s waterways and carries on New York’s tradition of “maritime hospitality and fellowship.” It’s a lot of fun, a good workout and a great way to tour the river.
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Earlier this year, Brooklyn artist George Boorujy began putting renderings of ocean birds in bottles and setting them adrift in New York’s waterways in an effort to connect with other New Yorkers and gather information on their interactions with the ocean and local marine life. He recently launched one of his bottles from the deck of The Frying Pan, a lightship docked on the Hudson River, as part of an exhibition New York’s P.P.O.W. Gallery held in collaboration with Underwater New York. Check back in the days ahead to track the bottle’s progress, or visit NY Pelagic.
Mayor Bloomberg rolled out his $3 billion dollar blueprint for New York City’s waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park this week. Vision 2020 is a sweeping plan to connect New Yorkers to the city’s rivers and beaches by developing facilities for transportation and recreation. It will also promote maritime industry through major renovation and construction projects and attract investors to the waterfront by simplifying complex development regulations. One hundred and thirty projects will be launched over the next three years as part of the plan’s Action Agenda. Manhattan’s Hudson River shore is slated for the following capital improvements:
Rehabilitation of the dormant Dyckman Street Marina to include recreation, comfort stations and a restaurant.
Completion of the Dyckman Ramp, Lighthouse Link and Battery Bikeway of the Hudson Greenway.
Reconstruction of the pedestrian bridge at West 181st Street.
Construction of a kayak launch on the sand beach at 170th Street.
Activation of West Harlem Piers Park as a boat and ferry launch.
Restoration of the 79th Street rotunda and fountain court.
Rehabilitation of the derelict 69th Street Transfer Bridge as a public pier.
Reconstruction of Pier 97 at 57th Street.
Reconstruction of the bulkhead between 39th and 43rd Streets
Development of a multi-use pier including a public market, art gallery and rooftop park at Pier 57.
Completion of the esplanade between Laight and North Moore Streets at Piers 25 & 26.
Funding will come from a mix of public and private sources. The city will issue RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for more than twenty waterfront development projects totaling $150 million with an eye toward leveraging private investment to support the construction and maintenance of public waterfront space.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, credited with shepherding the plan through to completion, emphasized the 13,000 maritime construction jobs and 3,400 permanent maritime industrial jobs the plan will create, along with the $1.6 million in revenue it will generate annually. She also noted the fuel efficiency of transporting cargo by water, citing a recent study showing that barges are six times more efficient than trucks on a per-ton basis.
Industrial projects planned for the next three years include the renovation of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal and improvement of rail-to-barge access points at the Rail Yard in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
On the green front, the plan allocates $50 million to waterfront restoration projects such as the Bronx River Greenway and more than a billion in upgrades at six wastewater treatment plants.
All projects will be subject to new city guidelines for planning, design, construction and maintenance developed and overseen by City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, known for her exacting standards for developers.
View a new citywide map of publicly accessible waterfront spaces here.
The Hudson froze over last week. The river ice didn’t last for more than 24 hours, but during that time, it completely transformed everything around it.
Postscript: A number of people expressed concern for the cat huddled on the river bank in the above video. Our paths crossed again recently and with the worst of the winter behind her–I understand calico coats are exclusive to females– she seemed content to continue watching the river from her perch.
Score: “Testing the Jammer” by Freescha
In 2008 Bill Bahen founded Hudson River Community Sailing, New York City’s first nonprofit community sailing center. This year Bahen and his crew put nearly 5,000 New Yorkers on the water.
“The idea of creating access to the waterways in urban centers is not unique,” says the easygoing Baltimore native, citing Boston’s 80-year-old Community Boating, Inc. as one example among many in America’s major port cities. “But I think that Manhattan failed to engage young people on the water using sailing as a medium.”
The reasons for this range from a historic lack of recreational infrastructure along the river to the long-held belief that the city’s waterways were little more than commercial cesspools. Improved water quality and the subsequent reinvention of the Hudson River waterfront as a public green space have since widened New Yorkers’ perceptions of the river as a valuable resource and set the stage for organizations like HRCS to redefine it’s significance in people’s lives.
“NYC is probably one of the best port towns in the world,” says Bahen. “The idea that these young people don’t know that they’re on an island and they don’t understand that there’s the East River and the Hudson River and the Harlem River and those make up the hard borders of Manhattan, that’s just amazing to me.”
By creating access to sailing Bahen hopes to change the perception of sailing as a sport reserved for affluent New Yorkers and to use it as a means of creating opportunities for the city’s young people.
“If they learn how to sail here and we get them a job at some summer camp or some other community sailing program or some yacht club someplace, those could be game-changers.”
My story about HRCS ran in the May 2011 issue of Sailing Magazine.