In last Wednesday’s State of the Borough speech, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz lauded the North Brooklyn waterfront, particularly Greenpoint, saying that there is lots to celebrate on the northernmost end of the borough.
Thanking the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning, Markowitz highlighted the plan to build a $3 million boathouse and education center at the edge of Newtown Creek, which has been in the works for years, but is now close to becoming a reality.
Although the city was apprehensive about the project because of the contaminated waters of the creek, Markowitz said he sided with the local community groups and that thanks to their efforts, the ground floor of a former factory will become a boat basin with storage for 40 kayaks and a nautical education center.
The Greenpoint Boathouse will be on the ground floor of the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC), a brick industrial warehouse adjacent to the creek at the end of Manhattan Avenue at Ash Street.
The state approved the plan in 2011 after turning it down twice earlier in the year, and despite the city’s concerns that boaters would be sickened by the bacteria and other pollution in the creek.
A deal was made between the city and the state, which allows the boathouse to be in existence as long as its advocates operate with the neighborhood’s safety in mind. Kayakers must avoid swimming in the creek and eating from the creek, as well as not boat within three hours of rainfall because sewage normally spills into the canal after a downpour.
“We feel that North Brooklyn can thrive as a peninsula,” said Dewey Thompson, a Community Board 1 member who began the fight to get the boathouse project underway three years ago.
The lifelong kayaker applied for $3 million from the City Parks Foundation, which is in charge of $7 million as part of a settlement between the city and the state. The money is part of an environmental benefit fund due to a violation on the part of the city to protect the creek during a local sewage plant upgrade.
Thompson said that the mouth of the creek gets virtually the same circulation as the East River, making it substantially cleaner than the back of the creek.
“We were advocating for a long time with the Department of Environmental Conservation,” said Christine Holowacz, an advocate of the boathouse and a Department of Environmental Protection community liaison. “When we received the funding, we were happy.”
The inside of the boathouse will feature 8,000 square feet of space for kayak storage. The boathouse will also have an educational program aimed at helping boaters, kayakers and residents.
There will be an additional outside open space, Holowacz said, noting that the center will also offer affordable space for industrial businesses. Another highlight of the plan is a public esplanade between the creek and the boathouse, which will offer a place for boats to launch without worry.
Thompson also plans to invite LaGuardia Community College students and scientists to study the area around the boathouse once it is established.
The City Parks Foundation is overseeing the construction of the boathouse. The organization estimates that it will take four years for the work to be done, but it might take more time because of certain work that needs to be done on the creek in certain months.
“We are asking them to do it as fast as possible,” Holowacz said,
Alison Tocci, president of the City Parks Foundation, said that she is looking forward to the project. “We are in the process of hammering out the details with GMDC, but we’re excited to be moving forward with the project,” she said.
Tocci revealed that a website solely devoted to tracking the progress of the construction will be launched in May. Anyone would be able to access the site through the City Parks Foundation website and add their own photos while getting a sense of the timeline of completion.
“It will be an amazing amenity for the community,” Thompson said. “It will open up a whole new space to the community for them to explore.”