By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Bay Ridge Community Eco Dock will open for a second season of waterfront activities on June 28 and local officials are pulling out all the stops to mark the reopening, including free tours of an historic schooner and lessons on how to cultivate oysters.
The opening ceremony, hosted by Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), the New York City Parks Department and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, will take place on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m.
The eco dock, which opened last fall, is a flexible, floating dock attached to the 69th Street pier. The eco dock contains two levels; one for ships to dock and another that serves as a launch pad for kayaks.
The recently restored fishing schooner Lettie G. Howard, a designated National Historic Landmark and the flagship of the Port of New York and New Jersey, will inaugurate a new season of maritime programming at the Eco Dock.
The South Street Seaport Museum restored the Lettie G. Howard to her original 1893 appearance. In 1994, she was certified by the U.S. Coast Guard as a Sailing School Vessel (SSV), allowing her to carry students of all ages as a training ship. The schooner serves as a platform for learning about the history, science and industry of New York Harbor. Visitors will be able to step aboard and meet the crew and student trainees.
A fireboat from the Fire Department of New York City will be there to provide a water spray salute to the Eco Dock.
The opening day’s activities will also include lessons offered by students and teachers from John Dewey High School on how to garden oysters.
The Eco Dock is designed to provide access to large and mid-sized historical, cultural, commercial and educational vessels and smaller human-powered boats, and can serve as a platform for environmental education programs, according to the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.
The dock was constructed with help from an $820,000 grant provided by Gentile.
“The Eco Dock was a dream come true for me,” Gentile said. “If you look at a map of New York, what you’ll see is a whole lot of blue. Indeed, before there was a city, there was a harbor. Right along with San Francisco and Hong Kong, New York City has one of the greatest natural harbors in the entire world. And now the waterfront of southern Brooklyn is connected to it all. At last we are giving the community access to its waterfront in a whole new way.”
The Eco Dock could help promote Bay Ridge businesses, according to Gentile, who said there will be day trips set up to bring shoppers and diners from other parts of the city via boats to Bay Ridge.
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said the Eco Dock is a great thing for Bay Ridge.
“I think it will bring people to the waterfront,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle. “We’re very excited that it’s opening for a new season of great activities for people of all ages.”
June Johnson, chairman of the community board’s Parks Committee, said the waterfront facility is both an educational and entertaining. “You can come and ride on a schooner and have fun. But the Eco Dock will give kids a chance to learn all about the eco-system of the waterway,” she told the Eagle.
Johnson said that last year, when a schooner at the Eco Dock offered cruises around New York Harbor, she was struck by something she saw. “There were people of all ages on the boat. There were senior citizens walking with canes, but there were also a lot of young people there. Everyone was talking about how excited they were to be taking the trip. I think the Eco Dock is going to bring people together,” she said.
“We are thrilled to kick off the first full season of programming at the new Bay Ridge Community Eco Dock,” said Roland Lewis, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. “Throughout the season, we will welcome historic ships, community sailing demonstrations, environmental education programs and so much more!”
The alliance is working with maritime educational groups and community organizations to plan programs and events at the Bay Ridge Community Eco Dock. So far, the 2014 season is shaping up to be an exciting one, according to the alliance. Special events will be held on July 6, 13 and 19, featuring visits by the A.J. Meerwald, a restored oyster dredging schooner turned sailing classroom. In addition, the historic fireboat John J. Harvey, will be offering free public tours around the harbor.
For more information on the schedule of events, visit http://www.waterfrontalliance.org/.