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An Actor’s Boating Passion


An Actor’s Boating Passion

North Brooklyn Boat Club

Acting is a calling for many people. They enjoy the emotions that they are able to invoke on the stage or screen while entertaining people. Actor Jens Rasmussen brings that same calling and passion to boating.

Rasmussen, who has played over 200 roles in his acting career on the stage and in film, helped start the North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC) in 2010. “I have always loved the water,” he says. “Growing up, I spent countless days swimming at my local YMCA. Then as a teen, I was introduced to windsurfing, which absolutely blew my mind. After that, I started crewing competitively for scow captains in inland lakes regattas.”

It wasn’t until he moved to New York from Milwaukee, however,that Rasmussen began to feel the entirety of the boating bug. “I was still interested in boating when I moved to NYC in 1996,” he recalls. “I first sought out and volunteered with Floating the Apple, which builds and uses Whitehall gigs. Unfortunately, I only learned of the East River Kayak Club, in my own neighborhood of Greenpoint, as they were winding down their operations in the late 90s.”

That left him unable to scratch his boating itch for a while, until something caught his eye. “A few years ago, when I learned of the Greenpoint Boathouse proposal that was being submitted to the DEC’s Newtown Creek Environmental Benefit Projects for Environmental Benefit Project funds,I naturally wanted to help make that a reality,” he explains.“I emailed Dewey Thompson (a Greenpoint filmmaker and NBBC harbormaster), who was the driving force behind the proposal and started getting involved from there.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as a potential site for their boathouse fell through. “We had originally proposed and planned to be moving into the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, a Civil War-era rope factory,” says Rasmussen, “but we were not able to procure a lease agreement that would have been sustainable, or honored the significant amount of community funds that our project would have brought to the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center’s infrastructure.”

The set back spurred the actor and his club members to look for other options. This led them to Tony Argento, the owner of Broadway Stages,a film and production company.He’d given the club a 20-foot-wide strip of land for use as an interim site while the club found a permanent location.  They were initially hesitant to ask for help in securing a permanent location, thinking that they would be pushing the bounds of his generosity since he had been letting them use the site for free.  “He didn’t even hesitate,” Rasmussen says. “He immediately started putting things in motion, and this is before he knew we would be bringing the EBP funds to the table.”

NBBC is still developing architectural plans for the site, but hopes to be fully moved into the permanent site, which is near the Pulaski Bridge, in two years.The club has about 250 members, each paying $40.00 yearly. NBBC has two main types of activities, canoeing and kayaking, though there are opportunities for other pursuits such as paddle carving, boat restoration, rowing, survival skills, and open-fire cooking. Rasmussen says that there’s generally some boating by members all year round, though only the most advanced paddlers go out when there’s cold weather.  “We have fewer activities in the winter, but we never stop. Anytime you see folks at the yard, feel free to stop in and visit,” he says.

An Actor’s Boating Passion

Gertie & Millie on a doggy paddle

Besides dropping by, new members are encouraged to get involved via social media, the club’s website (, exposure in media outlets, and at an annual public meeting. At the NBBC meeting this past November, Rasmussen didn’t pitch the club as being a club. “I said that I don’t view us as a boat club; we’re story tellers. We go out on the water and write stories with our paddles, collect them in our boats, bring them back to land, and share them,” he elaborates. “These are stories about the adrenaline rush of strong currents and healthy bodies, stories about city infrastructure and our water quality, and stories about the surprising return of wildlife to the New York City estuary.”

Rasmussen feels very strongly about the club’s role within the boating world. “As stewards of these waterways, it’s our duty and pleasure to share these stories with people who have not yet had the chance to experience the NYC archipelago up close,” the actor articulates.

That’s no act.


Original piece by Michael Griffin for Boating Time Long Island

Greenpoint’s Newtown Creek Boathouse Is Still in the Works

Greenpoint's Newtown Creek Boathouse Is Still in the Works

North Brooklyn Boathouse

Curbed: Greenpoint’s Newtown Creek Boathouse Is Still in the Works

Since 2011, a handful of passionate Brooklyn residents have dreamed of a boathouse and environmental education center in Greenpoint. Their dream is far from dead, but it has certainly taken on a different form. Last night, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) hosted a public meeting in Long Island City where various organizations gave updates on projects around the Newtown Creek. There, North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC) members delivered a blow-by-blow of how plans have evolved—in a somewhat circuitous way—to their current status.

The boathouse project began as a $3 million project at the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center at 1155-1205 Manhattan Avenue. Negotiations commenced, but in the end an agreement could not be reached to situate the NBBC which would operate the boathouse, at that site. Nonprofit City Parks Foundation, which, to put things as simply as possible, is actually responsible for getting the boathouse built, paid one architect until the project’s lack of progress rendered that firm unavailable. Then funds were spent hiring a second architect. Madonna Architects received $3,000, and Ed Weinstein Architects received $36,444.13.

President of the North Brooklyn Boat Club Dewey Thompson made it clear at last night’s meeting that, despite the delay in its planned HQ, the boat club is already an active organization with over 250 members and a mailing list that reaches over 1,000. In addition to boating, it hosts events related to nautical crafts and composting, and even have days when the public is invited to paddle. (The next one is May 3.) They also do guided tours of the Newtown Creek in association with the Newtown Creek Alliance. The NBBC’s Jens Rasmussen said the club received a $20,000 grant three years ago to purchase boats and safety equipment. But, he added, the rest of its financial needs have been met by donations, dues, fundraisers such as Halloween and solstice parties, and by picking through trash.

The club is currently operating out of a temporary location at 51 Ash Street. That site is owned by Broadway Stages, and negotiations are now underway to build the boathouse at that location instead of the Manhattan Avenue one. There are renderings, but due to ongoing negotiations, Thompson said the NBBC cannot share them at this time.

Several outlets have made allegations about unsavory spending and other agendas related to the slow-moving project; Thompson sought to refute them. First of all, none of that initial $3 million earmarked for the original boathouse has ever been received by the NBBC, nor will it ever be. That $3 million was for the City Parks Foundation to actually build the boathouse; meanwhile, a revised budget for the 51 Ash Street site has not yet been released.

When it comes to Queens Crap’s report that “one of the boathouse regulars got a $20,000 grant to paint a mural,” Thompson replied that he knows of no such mural. According to QC, the mural is supposedly part of another project that the boat club is working on in Maspeth, Queens. As for New York Shitty’s assertion that boathouse funds are being used for a “transient hotel,” Thompson said that landlord Broadway Stages is working on its own separate commercial plans for the site, but hasn’t announced what their function (or functions) will be.

A few of the several dozen in attendance said they felt out of the loop about the boathouse construction’s progress. The NBBC and the City Parks Foundation, who already have regular newsletters, said they would consider sending out more updates on the boathouse project, even if those updates would be communicating that there is nothing new to communicate. Stay tuned.

See original piece by Evan Bindelglass for Curbed

Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.

Stay Warm this Winter in NBBC’s Nautical Crafts Shed!

The temperature may have dropped, but things are still sizzling at the boatyard!

Whether you’re new to the club, or have been a member from the start, you can participate in boat restoration, paddle carving, lumber jacking, and more!

Stop by the yard or subscribe to our newsletter to learn more.

Take advantage of all our programs! BECOME A MEMBER for $40!

2013-11-17 12.34.56You can join a paddle carving course and learn how to use simple hand tools to carve a paddle for the club.


Join in on our canoe restoration in the barrel stove warmed Nautical Crafts Shed at the club

2013-10-19 10.25.36 copy 2013-10-19 13.27.38 copy Boat club members had a great time harvesting timber in Upstate New York for club projects

The New York Times: Come On In, Paddlers, the Water’s Just Fine. Don’t Mind the Sewage.


By Emily S. Rueb, Published August 29, 2013

“Now in its second year, the [North Brooklyn] boat club has more than 190 members paying the annual $40 membership fee, a testament that the best stretch of shoreline is your own. The resolute community of paddlers has embraced not just the opportunity for recreation but also a continuing crusade to clean up Newtown Creek, a commercial waterway that snakes between parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

‘Once you realize you’re not going to die or get covered in toxic sludge,’ Leif Percifield, 30, of Williamsburg, said after a row from Brooklyn to the Bronx, ‘it’s pretty relaxing.'”

Read the full New York Times article about the North Brooklyn Boat Club here.