“That’s why I supported the development of a new Eco Dock in the Dyckman Marina, which will open the waterfront to Northern Manhattan and encourage residents to partake in water activities such as kayaking, sailing, and other aquatic activities.”
– Council Member Robert Jackson, discussing the never-built EcoDock he helped to fund in 2012.
The Dyckman Marina concession operates under two separate but similar 2009 License Agreements — one for the Restaurant and one for the Marina. Both have very similar language; the main differences deal with dock pricing and clauses specific to marina operations.
As with the originally intended and legally defined Restaurant use, there is no issue with the Marina use as it was described in the License Agreement. It is exactly what the community had asked for in their discussions with Parks about the site. Per the agreement, the Marina was to be:
…a full-service marina for the use and enjoyment of the general public with mooring, docking, and launch facilities and with ancillary facilities, which may include boat storage, hauling, vessel repair, boat service and maintenance, boat and equipment sales and rental, services for boaters (such as, without limitation, laundry facilities, showers and restrooms), a ship store, staging for sightseeing tours, and a sailing shcool in accordance with the provisions herin and to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Parks.
One must wonder then how satisfied the Commissioner was when no marina appeared for all of 2012 when the “restaurant” first opened, only the natural boat launch at the beach north of the concession, or when only floating moorings finally appeared late in 2013. Full docks did not appear until 2014, two years after the facility reopened. As of September, 2014, the marina functions included:
- No access to the general public during concerts or nightclub events or anytime before 4 pm on weekdays and 11 am on weekends
- No boat storage
- No hauling
- No vessel repair
- No boat service and maintenance
- No services for boaters (aside from restrooms)
- No ship’s store
- No staging for sightseeing tours
- No sailing school
What the marina did include in 2014 is:
- Boat parking for nightclub patrons
And what was added in 2015 was:
- Party boat charters
- Sailing school for three weekends, starting August 29
Tweet from August 24, 2014 from nightclub patron docking at the concession.
Is that consistent with the agreement and past promises? When the concession reopened in 2012, press statements included promises such as:
The new site design, completed by Andrew Franz Architect to Manhattan River Group LLC’s specifications, includes four distinct zones: an integrated parking and staging area; a full service restaurant and snack/picnic window open to the public; the marina and launch area with a 22-slip dock, ship store and sailing school; and an area for a casual waterfront lounge running between the Hudson’s shore on the west and the Manhattan Greenway to the east.
The restaurant and lounge were built; the rest never came to fruition other than the much-delayed docks. It seems that to make those happen, federal “Boating Infrastructure Grants” were obtained; but this funding source requires public access inconsistent with what was actually provided. For example, the B.I.G. funding was announced in 2011 as:
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, in cooperation with The Manhattan River Group, LLC and partners will receive $669,286 and match that amount with $235,154 to renovate an existing marina on the Hudson River to include space for 80 transient vessels, access to NYC, transient amenities such as showers, dinghy dock, and pumpout as well as a Chinese junk for transportation between boats and land.
But by definition, B.I.G. funds cannot be used for “Projects that do not provide public benefits or are not open to the public”. While technically the docks at the concession can be rented, it is not clear how access would work during nightclub or concert operations or anytime the gates at La Marina are closed (which is often). Transient boat parking was also reduced from 80 to 22, unless that was supposed to include the mooring field that never seemed to appear. There was no “Chinese junk”. The public benefit of Khloe Kardashian or DJ Camilo arriving by yacht has yet to be determined:
“Khloe and French arrived together on a yacht around 9:30 PM,” an insider tells Radar of the waterside hot spot. “They were holding hands and looked happy together.”
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned about various aspects of the project that seem to have deviated from the approved project objective and purpose of the Program….
Failure to meet the grant objectives as approved by the Service and satisfactorily address the issues discussed above will result in grant disallowed costs as well as the initation of grant closures and recovery of grant funds obligated to your agency.
It took until 2017 to get approval from the BIG program administers, for a reduced marina program of only 53 transient spaces (reduced from the original 80). Even so the marina still appears to have never had a paying overnight or seasonal customer according to a 2016 audit. It does not appear in any boating guides or websites like Dockwa or Snag-a-slip. It doesn’t even appear on the NYC pumpout map hosted on the NYC Parks website, even though the marina concession contract literally required the site to have a boat pumpout station! This is a faux Marina that simply doesn’t exist to the boaters it was supposed to serve.
It would serve kayaks, canoes, sculls and larger vessels and “would bring hands-on environmental education to [nearby] schools and community” members, MWA officials say… Lewis said he’s excited by the possibility of opening access to the Hudson River above 79th Street for historic and educational vessels such as the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Tugboat Pegasus, Fireboat John J. Harvey, and other ships operated by non-profit groups… A new restaurant is set to open at Dyckman Marina this summer and the owners have already said they are interested in providing some form of public waterfront access.
The EcoDock was formally announced and funded in August, 2012 and plans were drawn up in 2013. But it is still not installed as of 2016, leaving promises unfulfilled from local politicians who contributed $700,000 to the project. Then-borough President Scott Stringer said in the EcoDock press release in 2012:
“Manhattan is America’s most famous island, and the people who live here deserve expanded access to the waterfront surrounding them. I am pleased that the Borough’s first Eco Dock will be opening in Washington Heights, one of our City’s most historic neighborhoods, because residents of all ages will now be able to take advantage of the recreational opportunities afforded by a previously inaccessible waterfront district. The kayaks, large boats and other vessels docking at Dyckman Marina will bring new life and vitality to this area, and I am proud that my office helped support this worthy project.”
Then-councilmember Robert Jackson added:
“Many New Yorkers forget that Manhattan is an island with access to the waterfront. That’s why I supported the development of a new Eco Dock in the Dyckman Marina, which will open the waterfront to Northern Manhattan and encourage residents to partake in water activities such as kayaking, sailing, and other aquatic activities. This is a great addition to the area that will provide educational opportunities and even economic growth and tourism to the area. The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance project will open Northern Manhattan to a ‘sea’ of possibilities.”
ConservancyNorth, a local environmental group, boasted in 2012 that:
We helped Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance marshal public support and news coverage for an EcoDock that will allow ferries, tugs, barges, and educational ships like Sloop Clearwater, Science Barge, and the OurHudson Barge to dock at Dyckman Marina. Our efforts have helped ensure funding for this important project which could result in new commuter routes, on-water environmental and maritime programs to serve our public schools, and waterfront attractions like tall ships to draw people to the parks.
But under the way Parks has allowed the facility to be managed since opening, there is no EcoDock, there are no science barges, ferries or kayaks docking at the concession, no programming for schoolchildren, no sailing school. Unless one counts environmentally-damaging jetskiers stunting for club patrons or press events for seaplane vendors, there are no aquatic activities whatsoever. The only dock use appears to be for partying, as immortalized in Fabolous’ song “Hot N****”:
Pull up La Marina in a yacht, n****
Then skate off like a pirate with ya thot, n****
A party boat operator, Marco Polo Cruises, even distributed postcards to every mailing address in Inwood in July 2015 advertising chartering their 30-person, DJ-equipped yacht from La Marina. This is stretching the allowed use of “staging for sightseeing tours”, to say the least.
One bit of good news was that, after a nearly four year delay, the sailing school finally opened. Unfortunately it opened on August 29th, and only during the mornings and early afternoons before nightclub concerts and parties took over the site. Lessons were priced at $95 to $200 (family) with the promise of a couple free “community days”. Still, this was finally one piece of the long-promised marina functions coming to life.
But what happened to the other original promised marina functions? Where is the massive mooring field that is supposed to be the heart of the marina? Where did the funding for the public infrastructure go? Why are politicians and conservancy groups saying they are for an accessible waterfront but doing nothing when the only activity is a floating nightclub scene?
Restoring the Marina and Restaurant functions to their originally intended use (and ending the improper Nightclub and Concert uses), along with completing the installation of the EcoDock as planned, will allow the concession to provide the kind of waterfront access and programming for the community that it was supposed to back in 2009.