By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — Ideas on how to use the new Bay Ridge Eco Dock were floating around like buoys on the surface of the water when Bay Ridge residents and environmentalists got together with waterfront advocates at a meeting last Thursday evening.
While there was no consensus on how to get the best use out of the eco dock, the meeting sponsored by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance at the Bay Ridge Library on Ridge Boulevard on April 26 did offer some glimpses into how the dock might be used.
Possible uses for the eco dock discussed at the meeting: bringing students down to the dock to study marine life; having pleasure boats bring visitors to and from Bay Ridge; and allowing experienced kayakers to use it as a place to launch their kayaks.
“We certainly think this would be a great opportunity for education for students to have access to the water,” said Gerard Buckley, admissions director for Xaverian High School.
Allowing children to get so close to the water that they could see fish and plant life up close would be a boon to school science programs, according to one teacher. The instructor, who teaches at Bay Ridge Prep, said exploration right now is time-consuming because buckets have to be dipped off the side of a boat and into the water and then brought back up and passed around to each child.
“I’m very happy (about the eco dock). I’m so tired of buckets off the boat,” she said.
Representatives from the Southstreet Seaport Museum, the New York Aquarium and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc. all expressed enthusiasm for the eco dock.
“We hope to make this a part of our itinerary,” said the Sloop Clearwater representative.
The waterfront “is a great educational tool,” he said. “It changes kids’ lives forever.”
Boat operators are also eager to use the eco dock. Companies including Classic Harbor Line, which conducts dinner and sightseeing cruises around New York Harbor, made a pitch to use the eco dock.
Construction of the $700,000 eco dock is expected to begin this summer and be completed by the fall. The Waterfront Alliance worked with Councilman Vincent Gentile and other officials to convince the city to fund the construction of the eco dock. The eco dock will be the property of the city’s Parks Department, but Roland Lewis, president and CEO of the Waterfront Alliance, said groups like the Shore Road Parks Conservancy will be asked to organize activities there.
The goal is to give more people access to the water, Lewis said.
“People from this community should be able to enjoy the water. There are 529 miles of waterfront in New York City. It’s the greatest harbor in the world and we’re just starting to realize its potential,” Lewis said. “We keep talking about the eco dock, but the idea is access.”
Becky Schneider of the Waterfront Alliance gave an overview of how the eco dock will be constructed. It will be connected to the 69th Street pier by a 60-foot long gangway. The eco dock itself will measure 20 feet by 40 feet. A 30-foot ramp will lead to a lower platform for kayaks. That platform will measure 22 feet by 22 feet.
“The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance will be working with the community and the Parks Department to come up with a maintenance plan,” Schneider said.
Residents at the meeting expressed concern about the lack of restrooms on the 69th Street pier and its effect on visitors, about insuring access to the eco dock for people with physical disabilities, and about such issues as trash and litter.
“This is a starting point,” said Chip Cafiero, vice president of the Shore Road Parks Conservancy, referring to the ideas tossed around at the meeting. “Right now, you can’t take schools down to the waterfront. What are you going to show them?”