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Boat Basin's Public Dock Gets Overhaul, But Some Say It's Not Green Enough

By Emily Frost | October 18, 2012 9:57am

UPPER WEST SIDE — The public dock at the 79th Street Boat Basin on the Hudson River, which dates back to 1937, is getting a complete overhaul by the Parks Department.

The dock was deemed beyond repair and condemned in 2005, and the department is investing $2.5 million to create a new dock that will open to the public by the middle of 2014.

"The intent of the project is to reconstruct the existing facility to its original intended function as a pedestrian walkway, vessel berthing location, and ice and wave barrier to the marina and bring it to a state of good repair for the next 50 years," Parks spokesman Philip Abramson said.

But members of the community, including seasonal and full-time boarders at the boat basin, want the new dock to include innovative and sustainable features like solar lighting. 

At a recent Community Board 7 Parks Committee meeting, several people bristled at the Parks Department's opposition to solar power.

"The sustainable lighting just seems like a no-brainer for something that is in sun all day every day," committee co-chairwoman Elizabeth Starkey said.

"I’m hoping that we can find some sustainable element, especially with the public being invited. It’s a teachable moment for sustainability," CB7 Chairman Mark Diller added.

But Petra Mager, a senior landscape architect for Abel Bainnson Butz, LLP, the design firm contracted to work on the dock, said that while solar lights were "an interesting idea" the firm was "not going to install a light that’s in an experimental stage."

Maria Petrakanas, of the Parks Department, also characterized solar power as "experimental."

"Using capital funds," she said, "it’s very difficult to justify purchasing experimental units." 

Gloria Wise lives on a boat at the boat basin and said she was disappointed the overhaul could not "incorporate PV and solar lights. This is not a fringe thing. Solar PV panels are not experimental." 

The Parks Department also pushed back against the proposal by community members that the dock offer seating, a bathroom and a shower.

"This dock is really still very much part of a functioning marina," said Mager. "The public is invited to visit, to stroll down the dock, to experience this marina, to observe and get a feel, but in terms of spending longer time there, picnicking, reading a book, this is not the place to be."

Nick Rogers, who works on an educational boat called the Clearwater that often pulls into docks on the Hudson River said he was thrilled that the dock was being brought back to life. Seats or no seats, he said he knew people would find a way to stay for extended periods on the dock.

"On a nice day you’ll see 30 or 40 people out there. They will sit out there. They’ll find a place. It’s just nice out there," Rogers said.

To view the full plan, including historic photos and the elements that attempt to address rising sea levels, click here.