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Greenpoint's Newtown Creek Boathouse Is Still in the Works

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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.
· All North Brooklyn Boat Club coverage [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.