By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Community Board 6’s Land Use and Waterfront Committee discussed some of the imminent changes planned for the East River, in the context of both the Blueway Plan to provide more access to the river for recreational activities and the proposed renovations of the Skyport Marina at the committee’s monthly meeting last Wednesday.
City Council Member Dan Garodnick was on hand at the meeting to collect input from the committee on how the community would like to use the $1.5 million in funds that his office has allocated for Stuyvesant Cove Park.
A number of volunteers and staff members from organizations such as Long Island Community Boathouse and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance attended the meeting. Rob Buchanan from the NYC Watertrail Association said that he and his colleagues found out about the meeting too late to prepare a presentation with ideas and would be willing to come back to the meeting next month, but LIC Boathouse volunteer Ted Gruber had a preliminary suggestion.
“You already have a kayak launch there but there’s a fence in the way,” he noted. “It would only take about $5,000 and what you could do is put a gate and a couple of steps before it gets warm next year, because who knows when the rest of this would happen.”
The council member acknowledged that there are interim solutions that could be considered, but he is optimistic that the project will be completed. What that project is specifically, he said, is up to the ideas from the community, but he feels that the money available is most conducive to a kayak launch.
According to calculations that Garodnick got from the Economic Development Corporation, expanding a beach in the space would be about $7 million, which would be more than an ecodock and kayak launch. An ecodock would also be costly at $4 to $5 million, he said, including an additional $500,000 per year for dredging because the water is too shallow, but that option would be revenue-generating because it would allow historic vessels to dock there.
EDC’s Senior Vice President of Asset Management Rich Cote was at the meeting to address additional questions about the proposed renovations to the Skyport Marina and a number of committee members expressed concern about the changes, especially in light of the discussion about increasing recreational activity on the East River not far from where the marina is situated. Cote had said that the bulk of the work planned was focused on maintenance and improvements to the infrastructure, and one of the major concerns from committee members was the possible addition of more space for larger seaplanes that was included in the presentation EDC gave at the previous meeting.
“A new seaplane dock is not maintenance,” argued Committee Vice Chair Ellen Imbimbo. “If you want to have the discussion on what the river is for, like those uses that Councilmember Garodnick spoke to earlier, then a seaplane dock seems contradictory to all of our discussions of making the river accessible so we can all enjoy it. I don’t think it’s about noise. It’s about how we view the East River: for fun and swimming or for more seaplanes.”
Imbimbo added that the Community Board has a history of opposing seaplanes, noting that committee member Lou Sepersky found a CB6 resolution from 1999 that opposed seaplanes and the community board struggled with the city over the heliport at East 34th Street when that was new to the area.
Cote responded that there were no specific plans for larger seaplanes to be docked at the marina “in the near future” and that they were only creating a place for seaplanes to come in, but committee members were not appeased by the implication that larger seaplanes could technically be docking at the marina at some point.
“There is nothing in this for the community,” said Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal. “The plan has nothing for the community except noise and problems.”