Category Archives: Press

NBBC on Jimmy Kimmel Live: A Tour of Newtown Creek with Jimmy Kimmel and Bill Murray

We took Jimmy Kimmel and Bill Murray on a canoe tour of Newtown Creek and told them — and audiences all over the world — about the joys and challenges of our home waters.

Check out the video here, and come join us in spring 2020 for another season on the waters of New York City, waters that belong to all of us. We can’t wait to see you for another year of

COMMUNITY • ADVOCACY • ADVENTURE • PADDLING


(Hate Youtube and Google? In the United States you can watch directly on ABC’s site right here.)

Love those boats? So do we! They were purchased with GCEF grant funds and form the keystone of our public and educational programming. Check out the story of the Clipper Langley Canoes here.

And to see more of the Langleys in action on the creek, check out this article about our attendance at the Tideland Institute‘s Lost Islands of New York concert on Newtown Creek, featuring the Wollesonics. It features some great pictures of our fleet.

Big News from *YOUR* Community Boathouse

Dear community,

We have two exciting announcements to share with you. First, this spring we will (finally!) commence building our community boathouse and environmental education center on Newtown Creek. This North Brooklyn community space is made possible by a grant* from NYS DEC and generous support from Tony and Gina Argento of Broadway Stages. The boathouse will be located on the same lot we have used as our home base for seven seasons of community programming, and the building project represents more than eight years of planning to create a space that will connect the people of North Brooklyn with their waterways, in keeping with our mission.

Second, in conjunction with the building of this boathouse, our nonprofit (501c3) organization will now use the name North Brooklyn Community Boathouse. We will commission the design of a new logo and are looking forward to sharing more details about that with you in the near future.

The 8,000-square-foot boathouse will include storage for dozens of kayaks and canoes, an ADA-accessible dock, a boat-building workshop, an environmental education center, and office space for nonprofit organizations working on revitalizing our local waterways.

Since its founding in 2010, the North Brooklyn Community Boathouse has expanded its outreach and programming while fostering an inclusive culture of creativity and DIY resourcefulness (with a nautical bent). Today we have more than 350 members, many of whom actively volunteer in delivering monthly free public paddles, environmental-education programs, and on-water kayak and canoe training, as well as marine-safety and trip-planning workshops. When NBCB takes ownership — and we will actually own this facility — we will secure the future of these valuable programs and community access to the water.

One of the Big Canoes, Public Paddle, July 14, 2018

While the boathouse is under construction, the status and privileges of our members will not change. NBCB will continue to operate, with paddling and other programs based in exciting new locations around Greenpoint. Kayak and canoe trips will be launched from the Brooklyn Barge (West St @ Milton St.) and free public paddles and also member trips from Manhattan Avenue Street End. Environmental Education trips will be launched from those locations as well as other spots still to be confirmed. Long Island City Community Boathouse has also offered to collaborate on trips and programs during the estimated eighteen-month construction period. These temporary locations will give NBCB more exposure and help expand both membership and outreach.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with us. You can e-mail info@northbrooklynboatclub.org. And look for updates here on our website as the paddling season approaches — and we hope to see you on the water soon!

With love and thanks,

North Brooklyn Community Boathouse

PS: Yes, we shall miss the boatyard while we are in exile. It lit up our lives!

*The Newtown Creek Environmental Fund was created from fines levied by New York State DEC against New York City’s DEP for violations incurred during the construction of the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant.

New York Times: Come On In, Paddlers…

Some people questioned the wisdom of establishing a boat club at a Superfund site. But such is the lure of water, even when sludge seems like a more fitting descriptor, that the North Brooklyn Boat Club emerged out of one of New York’s most-polluted estuaries, Newtown Creek.

Its docks sit just downstream from a sewage treatment plant and a recycling center. Its clubhouse is flanked by salvage yards and warehouses, not far from an area so contaminated by decades of oil spills that the soil resembles black mayonnaise. And, flashing a winking self-awareness, its logo features a rowboat in a stream gushing out of a sewer spout while a tin can and a dead rat drift alongside.

“There’s only so many times you can see a beautiful sunset or a nice little beach,” said Fung Lim, 52, a charter member who takes experienced and novice rowers out each week in a 28-foot skiff he helped build. “It’s more fun to poke around in a commercial waterway.”

Now in its second year, the 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.”

North Brooklyn Boat Club on the Newtown Creek

photo by Robert Stolarik

It was not long ago when New Yorkers kept a safe distance from the water, once so fouled by sewage and industrial waste that it was infamous for harboring cholera, typhoid and hepatitis. But in recent years, thanks to concerted rehabilitation efforts by environmental groups and government agencies, residents have taken to the waterways with a pent-up fervor.

They are paddle-boarding in the Hudson River, swimming in the Bronx River, canoeing in the Gowanus Canal. They are yanking up fish from Jamaica Bay, once declared a menace to public health, and having them for dinner. But perhaps the most unlikely site for recreation is Newtown Creek.

John Lipscomb, who has spent more than a decade conducting harbor surveys for Riverkeeper, an advocacy organization that has led the push to clean New York’s waterways, said tremendous progress had been made around New York City. Newtown Creek, Mr. Lipscomb said, is among the worst places left, especially the eastern parts, which do not have circulating waters from the East River to flush out pollutants.

When the North Brooklyn Boat Club first dipped its vessels in Newtown Creek last year, the members knew well the history of industrial waste and neglect that had lasted centuries.

Millions of gallons of petroleum — up to three times as much oil as the 11 million gallons spilled in the 1989 Alaskan disaster — has leaked underground in Greenpoint from refineries and storage sites over the decades. An unknown amount has seeped into the creek’s sediment and mixed with heavy metals, PCBs and other contaminants left behind by the factories that once lined the commercial port.

Even though new environmental standards have ended many of those dumping practices — and Exxon Mobil committed to a more thorough cleanup of its spills — all it takes is a heavy rain to overwhelm the wastewater collection and treatment system and send raw sewage and polluted storm water into the creek.

Every week Willis Elkins, a canoe instructor and flotsam expert, dips a bare hand into the murky edges of the creek for a water sampling program that tests for microbes of enterococcus, a bacteria found in human and animal waste.

“It’s important to be knowledgeable about the waters you’re paddling in,” he said.

Sometimes the water is too dirty. But when the water quality is fair, he takes out groups of paddlers to explore the tributaries, passing the silvery digester eggs atop the largest wastewater treatment plant in the city, to Maspeth Creek in Queens, where they might be surprised to see egrets and cormorants instead of two-headed fish.

Before he sets off, Mr. Elkins carefully reviews safety issues with an occasionally skittish audience. No one has fallen in on his watch, he said. But the club has an outdoor shower, a convenient accouterment for such situations.

Dewey Thompson remembers the days when he and other paddlers would climb through holes in fences and cross parking lots and trash-strewn shores to put boats in the water. That changed in 2011, when an eccentric landowner who appreciated the idea of renegade kayakers in need of a dock cleared the rusting cars and machines from his lot on Ash Street in Greenpoint and offered it for their use.

Volunteers pulled weeds and raked up shards of glass and metal debris from the long narrow lot that opens up under concrete abutments of the Pulaski Bridge. Today, the space is bedded with mulch and has 22 kayaks and 8 canoes, a neighborhood composting center and a woodworking shop. This fall, they will host classes on environmental issues with LaGuardia Community College in an educational space dubbed the “Ed Shed.” There is also a stage constructed on top of a shipping container for its “Rock the Pulaski” benefit concerts.

“This isn’t just a bunch of boat nerds doing knots,” Mr. Thompson said.

Plans are under way to relocate the club to a larger site on Newtown Creek, using a several-million-dollar grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The new location is still being negotiated, but within the next two years the boat club plans to have a landing with storage for more than 100 boats, an environmental education center and a library dedicated to the history of the area. There are also discussions to include office space for Riverkeeper and the Newtown Creek Alliance, nonprofit organizations working in the area.

But for many club members, the core attraction remains the chance to leave the city’s street grid to engage with the water. “There are 600 miles of shoreline in New York City and not a lot of access points,” Mr. Elkins said.

So on a recent morning Mr. Lim, a Singapore native with long graying hair pulled into a ponytail, prepared the flat-bottom rowboat for a day out.

The plan was to head up the East River to the South Bronx, or as far as everyone’s arms could carry them.

The river was bustling. An oil tanker heading south hummed past an elegant sailboat. Grumbling ferries shuttled passengers between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Pleasure craft eyed the rowers with a mix of awe and pity.

“Row, row!” some shouted.

The crew passed the decaying timber docks and lush green overgrowth on North Brother Island, where herons and cormorants have replaced the typhoid victims who were once quarantined there. They anchored near Baretto Point Park, where teenage boys somersaulted into the salty water from a rusty bulkhead. The rowers wet their toes and ankles as a gull homing in on a catch plunged in beak first.

When the current turned in their favor, the boat made its long return.

Back on land, the group unloaded and scrubbed the boat, then retreated to the folding chairs and benches circling a crackling fire. As the sun disappeared behind the Manhattan skyline, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building twinkled in full view of the dock.

The boaters cooled their blisters on bottles of Brooklyn Lager and traded stories with another set of sunburned paddlers grilling hot dogs.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to move my arms tomorrow,” one said.

A couple walking above on the Pulaski Bridge paused to make sense of the scene below. A bright blue tugboat chugged by, pushing a barge loaded with recycled plastics out to the East River.

An empty beer can, tossed from the window of a car crossing the bridge, tumbled into the black water below.

See original NY Times article by Emily Rueb with images by Robert Stolarik

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 (www.northbrooklynboatclub.org), 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