Hudson River Park Promises Free Boating Amid Push for Waterfront Profits

By Mathew Katz on October 22, 2013 2:51pm 

 The Downtown Boathouse has been running a free kayak program at West 72nd Street for 10 years, and also runs similar programs in Hudson River Park.
The Downtown Boathouse has been running a free kayak program at West 72nd Street for 10 years, and also runs similar programs in Hudson River Park.
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Downtown Boathouse

CHELSEA — The Hudson River Park has promised to preserve free and low-cost boating as part of its plan to overhaul the park's waterfront in search of some much-needed cash, officials announced Tuesday.

In a new request for proposals, the Hudson River Park Trust described new criteria for organizations hoping to run the boathouses at Pier 26 in TriBeCa, Pier 66 in Chelsea and Piers 84 and 96 in Clinton starting May 2014.

The park's goal, according to the RFP, is to give the public "consistent, safe and affordable access to the Hudson River," with free and low-cost programs run by nonprofits along with more expensive uses run by private companies.

It was not immediately clear whether the RFPs would favor the existing free kayaking operator the Downtown Boathouse, a tiny nonprofit with a $30,000 budget that operates out of a boathouse at Pier 96. The group had previously feared that it could be forced out of the park in favor of private tenants companies that would generate more revenue.

Downtown Boathouse did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trust is hoping new private operators can help it raise money as it faces an $8.5 million deficit for the 2014 fiscal year and contends with challenges like the crumbling infrastructure on Pier 40.

According to the RFP, the Trust will charge fees for commercial operators but will reduce or eliminate fees for organizations like Downtown Boathouse, which are free to the public. Private businesses can also provide some free programming to get a break in rent, the RFP says.

The winners of the RFP will be able to launch kayaks, canoes, outrigger canoes and row boats from the boathouses. The larger Pier 66 boathouse can also hold motorized sailboats of up to 40 feet.

The possibilities for the boathouses are varied, including rental, boat storage, a boat club, sailing lessons, tour programs and even limited sales of boating-related products, the RFP says.

"While the Trust’s primary purpose in constructing the boathouses is to provide the public with safe, affordable opportunities to experience a variety of boating types on the Hudson River, we recognize that in order to meet the operating standards articulated in this RFP, some Permittees may wish to offer revenue-generating operations," the RFP says.

Interested applicants have until Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. to submit a proposal.

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