New York has a total of 525 miles of shoreline, but to the great frustration of city officials, not much of the waterfront is accessible for recreational use.
The city took a big step toward rectifying that situation when officials cut the ribbon to signal the grand opening of a new $1.1 million eco dock at the 69th Street pier in Bay Ridge on Thursday.
“It is the first of its kind in the city,” City Parks Commissioner Veronica White said. An eco dock is a floating dock that is attached to a pier, moves with the tide, and has minimal impact on the surrounding natural resources, Parks Department officials said.
A large crowd of residents, civic leaders, and waterfront enthusiasts turned out for the opening ceremony on the pier.
Officials said they hope the new eco dock brings the people of Bay Ridge and southern Brooklyn to the waterfront every day.
The new eco dock, funded in large part by Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) is a multi-purpose facility. The dock was constructed with two levels, an upper level to accommodate schooners and sailboats and a lower level to be used as a launching pad for kayaks and small vessels.
The dock will be used as a launching point for kayakers and as an outdoor classroom for students seeking to study marine life, according to Gentile. The councilman said schooners and other small sailing vessels will dock there to take sea loving residents on short trips.
That was music to the ears of Roland Lewis, president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. ‘Well folks, we can now get from the Ridge to the Bay and from the Bay to the Ridge. How about that?” he said. The alliance is a non-profit group that has 600 member organizations and works to have waterfront areas in New York and New Jersey developed for recreational use.
The 69th Street pier eco dock will enable people to “enjoy the waterfront in a recreational and educational way,” Gentile said.
The dock will expand students’ horizons by providing a place for them to get a close up view of marine life, White said. “It will be a floating classroom. Students can learn a little about chemistry first hand,” she said. Students will be able to study environmental science, aquatic biology, water chemistry, and water craft design. The eco dock will also have oyster stations.
The dock will be a place where kayakers can paddle to their heart’s content, officials said.
On Thursday, there were no kayakers in sight, but the Pioneer, a 40 foot long schooner, welcomed several passengers aboard for a trip around New York Harbor after the opening ceremony was completed. Students from three local schools, Bay Ridge Prep, Fort Hamilton High School, and John Dewey High School, were among the first passengers.
At the opening ceremony, it was announced that Gentile and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a non-profit group which promotes waterfront use in New York and New Jersey, are co-sponsoring a schedule of events at the new eco dock.
Here are some highlights:
On Saturday, Oct. 19, The Shearwater, one of the city’s few floating landmarks, will take people on tours of New York Harbor. Reservations required. Email [email protected] for information. Also on Saturday, free pumpkins will be distributed and children can get their faces painted.
On Saturday, Oct. 26, visitors will get the chance to ride on the South Street Seaport Museum’s W.O. Decker, a tug boat built in 1930.
On Sunday, Oct. 27, tours of the decommissioned fireboat John J. Harvey will be offered.
The season will be brief in duration. Activities will end at Thanksgiving. But the eco dock will reopen in the spring.
Gentile, who secured more than $800,000 of the funding toward the eco dock, said he was happy to see his dream of opening up the Bay Ridge waterfront come true. “How sweet it is!” he said, quoting the late Jackie Gleason. The councilman also thanked Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann and board members who had worked with him on the project. He singled out for praise June Johnson, chairman of the board's Parks Committee. "June, thank you for your dedication," he said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz also supplied some of the funding for the eco dock. The project took three years to complete.
Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Bay Ridge-Coney Island) praised Gentile for seeing the project to fruition. “It is hard to get an original idea through the city bureaucracy. Today is a testament that it is possible,” he said.
The dock was constructed to withstand another Hurricane Sandy type of storm, according to White.
City officials are delighted that another piece of the waterfront will be accessible to residents, said Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey. “One of the things this administration has been trying to do is get people to the waterfront,” he said.
Gentile’s council colleagues, Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) and Peter Koo (D-Flushing) attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. Recchia, chairman of the council’s finance committee, urged residents to visit the eco dock. “Make use of this. It’s here for you,” he said.
Koo, chairman of the council’s waterfront committee, said he was impressed by the dock. “After seeing this, I want to build one in my district too!” he said.