“The North Brooklyn Community Boathouse is going to have a transformative impact on this neighborhood’s relationship to the waterways,” said Dewey Thompson, founder and leader of this organization of kayakers, canoeists, sailors, environmentalists, boatbuilders, community leaders, and local activists. “We are going to be the biggest and more dynamic boathouse in the metropolitan New York area.”
After more than a decade, the NBCB is going to have a new building of almost 8,000 square feet to take people to paddle, teach them how to protect the environment, hold workshops on nautical crafting, and other educational programs.
This new building will be ready in 2024 thanks to a grant from the Newtown Creek Environmental Benefit Fund (NCEBF), which is administered by the City Parks Foundation, and Broadway Stages, who have made substantial financial investments and are contributing the required portion of land to build the facility.
Former president Thompson and community activist Christine Holowacz were responsible for obtaining the grant of $3.5 million that secured the construction of the new building.
Thompson added that NBCB and New York City “owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Tony and Gina Argento and Broadway Stages for their vision, commitment and incredible generosity in making this happen.”
The NBCB is located underneath the Pulaski Bridge, on the Brooklyn side (51 Ash Street).
“This is the result of a big effort of many people, and I am glad to invest in this community to secure safe access to the water,” said Tony Argento during a press conference that was held Saturday, November 5th, 2022 at this location. “As a businessman and a member of this community I feel very proud of what we are doing for the future of this city”.
During the press conference and the afterward celebration party at Greenpoint Beer & Ale, members of this club expressed their satisfaction and relief. “As a paddler and volunteer at NBCB, I can say we’ve faced a lot of obstacles over the past few years. We’ve lost our home twice and faced a pandemic, so it’s been hard to grow and welcome new members into the organization. Being here today and seeing the building’s progress is incredible. It’s energized everyone involved and we’re excited about the future,” said Julie D’Aprile.
Fung Lim, a founder member who missed the press conference and the party, said from his home that “Our community boathouse building would enable us to serve the community on a whole new level, in accessing NYC’s waterways more safely, more efficiently.”
Miguel Rueda, a new member of the NBCB who attended the press conference and missed the party, said: “I am very happy because we are going to have a nice building with bathrooms and showers, and I am planning to better my padding skills.”
During the press conference, New York City councilman Lincoln Restler, and state assemblywoman Emily Gallagher talked about the importance of this new building for the local community. Both of them said that they are planning to paddle as soon as the doors open.
“We are going to keep our main goal that is public paddlers, free of charge, and we need more trip leaders with the right skills,” said Erica Pajerowski, president of the club. “We also need to improve our website.”
Patterson Beckwith, co-president of the NBCB, was very pleased with the events on Saturday, and told all the volunteers of the club that “We should feel proud of ourselves.”
Robert DiMaio, also a founder member, took a more poetic approach: “Paddling the waters around NYC have a transformative effect, meditative, the same healing value of traveling to a faraway quiet forest—but within walking distance of my home.”
“There is a critical need for increased awareness and stewardship of Newtown Creek. The construction and operation of the North Brooklyn Community Boathouse will further advance the community’s ability to safely access, learn about, and improve environmental conditions along the waterway,” concluded Willis Elkins, executive director of the Newtown Creek Alliance and Board Member of NBCB.
At this moment the NBCB is holding fewer trips because of the construction of the building. They keep some canoes at Manhattan Avenue, and some kayaks at the end of the construction site, in two containers next to the Newtown Creek. The membership is suffering, but the future looks better.
When the construction is finished, this club will be the only one in the New York City metropolitan area with bathrooms and showers.
By Javier Castaño