On Tuesday evening, November 13th, The North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC) celebrated their first anniversary as a haven for kayak and canoe enthusiasts at the Wythe Hotel.
“This is the year end celebration and achievements meeting,” said Monica Schroeder, Head of Safety Commission for the NBBC. “Because of Broadway Stages’ generosity, and the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP), NBBC and other partners now have access to a strip of land to dock boats and launch out to Newton Creek. In the beginning of the year we didn’t know where we were launching our kayaks or canoes and now we do.”
The volunteer-run non-profit organization, was formed after the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) won $10 million from the City for failing to protect the creek from a high level of pollutants. The NBBC had proposed to use $3 million of the settlement to construct the Greenpoint Boathouse. Armed with broad community support, the proposal was approved by funds administrator City Parks Foundation (CPF).
In less than a year, NBBC has acquired 25 boats and has seen membership jump to almost 120. “We have accomplished a lot,” said Dewey Thompson, NBBC founder and former Community Board 1 member. “We have programs for the public and for members,” he said. Over a dozen of those programs are associated with bird watching and discovering the many species around Newton Creek. The organization has also partnered with LaGuardia Community College to create a program concerned with environmental science on the creek. “We’re not just about boating,” said Thompson’s wife Katherine. “This is about community building, ecology building, building leadership and safety.”
The Greenpoint Boathouse will be housed on the ground floor of the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) building at the top of Manhattan Avenue. NBBC members say that the boathouse will have open space for vendors, recreational facilities and a nautical educational center. Members are also already building a make-shift-laboratory on the creek to invite students to study nature and conduct aquatic experiments.
The devastation of Hurricane Sandy was enormous in many communities, but Greenpoint was largely spared. “We were fortunate,” said Thompson. Though the storm reached close to six feet at the creek, none of the boats were damaged or lost to the East River.
“I’ve been involved in most kayaking organizations in New York,” said Tom Potter, co-founder of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse and Brooklyn Brewery. “NBBC has accomplished more in its first year than any organization in New York.” The long time Brooklynite wants every New Yorker to have the opportunity to be in “contact with their natural environment” and believes “a boat club allows you to do that.”
Katherine Thompson agreed, and was happy to help bring that experience to North Brooklyn. “Canoeing and kayaking in New York City is one of the most breathtaking experiences and now the community has the opportunity to do so.”