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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.

Next City: Surfers, Sailors & Other Waterborne Urbanites on Sandy’s Legacy

Hurricane Sandy took her for a little spin

Hurricane Sandy took her for a little spin

For millions of New Yorkers, the evening of October 29, 2012, was their first real, transformative encounter with the city’s vast waterfront. Certainly, before the night Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge overwhelmed river banks and dunes and protective systems, almost everyone who lives in or visits New York had crossed a bridge or been to the beach or enjoyed a peaceful moment where water and the built environment meet. But it wasn’t until October 29 that the city’s 520 miles of coastline were truly laid bare for all to see, and for hundreds of thousands to suffer.

For some New Yorkers, however, that night was a long time coming. The kayakers, surfers, fishermen and sailors that spend their days on the water surrounding the city are well aware of its awesome power. Now, a year and a half into recovery, this group of aquatic urbanites has some very particular thoughts on what happened and what should be done next.

Jens Rasmussen, a founding member of the North Brooklyn Boat Club, is an actor by trade and an adventurer and environmental advocate when time permits. He’s been leading kayak and canoe trips on the East River and Newtown Creek since 2010. “When Sandy hit,” he says, “the club could have lost everything. We keep our equipment in shipping containers at the water’s edge, and if a member hadn’t chained the container nearest to the water to an anchor onshore, that container and all the ones behind it would have floated away in the storm surge.” “A boat we’re restoring did float away,” he continues. “The next day a team paddled out from our base in Greenpoint [in Brooklyn] to search for it and found it on some riprap in the Bronx.”

Rasmussen and the North Brooklyn Boat Club believe that wetland restoration, an idea being explored by the city, is one of the most sensible and effective strategies for protecting New York moving forward. “We know wetlands restoration is superior at storm-surge attenuation. It can absorb and dissipate very large amounts of water,” he says. “We also think it’s a good quality of life and natural beauty feature that can be added to abandoned parts of our waterfront.” Land behind the existing pockets of wetlands, he says, faired far better than the land behind bulkheads and unprotected banks.

Cody Daniels, a 42-year-old surfer who travels to Rockaway Beach in Queens whenever the waves look good, says the surf community was devastated by Sandy. “Over the years, I’ve seen big storms and huge erosion,” he says, “but Sandy just crushed Rockaway. It was third world for months afterwards.” Surfers didn’t go back in the water for a long time. “We didn’t know what kind of chemicals or waste or chunks of trash or spears of rebar might be out there. And you don’t really want to surf when all these families are trying to piece their lives back together. There were a lot of cleanup efforts and some guys volunteered to help rebuild and provide aid.” “I think a lot of people see the Rockaways as more vulnerable now,” he continues. “I know some homeowners want a seawall, but some others think that the waves and the ocean and what’s happening are part of what living on the beach is about. I tend to agree with them, you know, like, you have to accept that risk.”

Lech Zawadzki, an electrician who fishes in the East River says he wasn’t surprised by the storm, but the city’s response bothered him. “Rivers flood sometimes.” he says. “The mayor and the officials should know this and know how to get power back on and fix things quickly.” His own apartment didn’t have power for two weeks. “If it wasn’t for friends, my family would have been homeless. We did not know what to do and no one told us.” The gasoline shortages were a problem too. “I spent days in line for gas when I should have been working to get power back in people’s houses,” he says. “Next time, the city needs to focus on getting the basics back quickly and telling people what to expect.”

Despite their different experiences and outlook, each of these men familiar with the rivers and oceans around New York said something about how Sandy reminded city dwellers that they’re all water people. This, they all agreed, was a good thing. “Awareness and stewardship are inextricably linked,” says Rasmussen. “It’s a central belief of the Boat Club that recreating on blue open spaces in the city, by paddling, we, New Yorkers, all people, learn to value the water and to see how our choices and policies effect the health of the water and the city.”

Next City: Surfers, Sailors and Other Waterborne Urbanites on Sandy’s Legacy, by Graham T. Beck

Village Voice names North Brooklyn Boat Club NYC’s Best Boat Club for 2013!

North Brooklyn Boat Club

North Brooklyn Boat Club – Best NYC Boat Club 2013

Village Voice names North Brooklyn Boat Club NYC’s Best Boat Club for 2013!

You won’t find Sperry footwear or Nautica gear at the North Brooklyn Boat Club. Nope, only industrial waste and rumored hepatitis. But that’s precisely why founder Dewey Thompson’s collective of rowers is so indisputably badass. The club proudly calls Newtown Creek, one of the most polluted waterways in America, home. For three years now, these renegade kayakers, canoers, and sailors have been on a mission of reclamation, jamming one oar after another into some of the choppier waters of environmental stewardship in order to re-enable the creek for purposes of recreation. Membership to the volunteer-run community organization is $40 and includes intrepid small-craft group sails, bird-watching, and exclusive concerts back at the boatyard. Last time we visited their Greenpoint hub, members were gathered around a fire pit, tossing back Brooklyn Lagers and recounting past outings. The consensus was clear: Stunning views of the Manhattan skyline are worth the occasional run-in with a floating rat.

See original Village Voice piece: North Brooklyn Boat Club – Best Boat Club New York 2013

DNAinfo: Brooklyn Boat Club Kicks Off Season with Kayaks, Canoes and Oysters

“The Greenpoint-based North Brooklyn Boat Club launches its spring season this month with an expanded lineup of vessels and environmental work, from water quality testing to the creation of oyster habitats, its leaders said. The club, which will feature rides at least twice a week starting in May, has expanded this year to include two canoe instructors and additional boats, founding member Jens Rasmussen explained. “A big thing is not just getting people on the water, but also teaching skills to the highest levels,” Rasmussen said. “Canoe instruction is available to any club members for free.”

The group — based currently at a space on Ash Street by Newtown Creek — will also start building habitats for filter feeders like oysters and clams, he noted. “Clams and oysters are natural organisms already present in the estuary, and they’re natural water cleaners. We’ve started documenting where they’re living, and we want to encourage more to grow,” Rasmussen said. “We’re seeing more and more dolphins and seals because the water is getting cleaner, and we want to help that.”
This spring members will also have the chance to help restore wooden vessels, and to continue the water quality testing the club began last year with the New York City Water Trail Association, he said.”

DNAinfo: Brooklyn Boat Club Kicks Off Season with Kayaks, Canoes and Oysters (April 2, 2013)