By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It’s not every day you get to board an historic schooner and it’s certainly not a common occurrence in Bay Ridge. But on Saturday, people lined up for the chance to board the Lettie G. Howard, an 1893 fishing schooner that was docked at the 69th Street pier for the day.
The Lettie G. Howard was the biggest attraction at the ceremony marking the opening of the second season of the Bay Ridge Community Eco Dock.
The eco dock, which opened for an abbreviated season 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 structure was built and brought to Bay Ridge with a big assist from Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), who provided $820,000 in funding for the project.
Following a brief ceremony hosted by Gentile, it was time for visitors to enjoy the eco dock. Under sunny skies and warm temperatures, people lined up to board the Lettie G. Howard or wandered over to an oyster garden kept by teachers and students from John Dewey High School, who were on hand to talk about marine science. Other residents just stood on the eco dock to enjoy a close-up view of the water.
“It was very exciting to get a chance to get on the schooner. You felt like you were going back in time,” Bay Ridge resident June Johnson told the Brooklyn Eagle. Johnson, who brought two of her grandchildren, Rose and Richard Maxwell, to the grand opening, is the Parks Committee chairman of Community Board 10.
The Lettie G. Howard is a national historic landmark.
Johnson had red t-shirts made for Gentile and herself to celebrate the eco dock’s new season. The shirts were emblazoned with the words “Eco Dock Bay Ridge.”
The Lettie G. Howard remained docked for the day, but Gentile said that other ships will be visiting the 69th Street pier in the coming weeks this summer to take people on tours of New York Harbor.
The eco dock will also accommodate kayakers, students who want to study marine life and others with an interest in getting closer to the waterfront.
Gentile worked for several years with the New York City Parks Department, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance and Marty Markowitz, when Markowitz was the borough president, to make the eco dock a reality. He called the grand opening, “a dream come true for me.”
The goal of having an eco dock in Bay Ridge is twofold, according to Gentile. First, the dock can allow people to enjoy the waterfront, he said. “Finally we are giving the community access to its waterfront in a whole new way. It is high time for us to re-discover our relationship with the waterfront!” he said.
The eco dock can also be used as an educational took, the councilman said. “With help from our friends and partners in the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the Eco Dock will now be home to large historic and educational ships, so that our local school children and the general community can tour these boats. We’ll have large sail boat and FDNY boat tours and even day-trips from other locations to Bay Ridge to bring shoppers and diners to our neighborhood!” Gentile said. “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.”