Two hundred years ago, launching a small boat from the East Side of Manhattan for an afternoon row or paddle would have been ordinary. But in modern times, even as improved water quality has sparked a resurgence of boating around NYC, the East Side of Manhattan has been left out. Intrepid kayakers have been barred from the waterfront, though there are some inviting spots for entry — like the miniature beach at East 20th Street in a park known as Stuyvesant Cove.
The rules changed for a few hours last Sunday as a coalition of groups invited the public to kayak from this tiny beach on the East River. After a five month-long process to win permission from the city, the Long Island City Community Boathouse along with members of Gowanus Dredgers, Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Solar One, LES Ecology Center, Hudson River Watertrail, Rocking the Boat, SWIM Coalition, Urban Swim and others were able to get over twenty kayaks onto the water, provide life jackets and paddles, and set up information booths on using the water as a recreational resource — and all in only a matter of days.
The grand cost of this event for the public: free. After getting the permit to do this event only on the preceding Thursday, the combined effort of the coalition made all the logistics happen brilliantly.
What’s the larger aim? As more people use the waterfront, support grows for improving the infrastructure of the city in a way that protects water quality and the environment in general. To that end, Ted Gruber from LIC Community Boathouse says that the real goal is to make it legal for people to have more legal recreational access to the East River, including from appropriate launch points along the Manhattan shoreline.
Thinking ahead, architecture firm WXY Architecture + Urban Design is in the process of developing the East River Blueway, a plan to get Manhattanites access to the East River waterfront between the Brooklyn Bridge and East 38th street. You can contribute to this plan by adding your ideas to their map.
Photos: Jessica Bruah