Restore Dyckman Marina

March Madness

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“Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”

– Widely Attributed

As we enter March 2019, the future of the Dyckman Marina concession for the summer season remains unclear.  The current holder of the license, a shell company called Manhattan River Group, is in all sorts of trouble following the problems of summer 2018 (not to mention the problems of all six summers before that).  
 
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La Marina is shut down in 2018

 
First they were told by Parks to stop hosting a massive and illegal valet operation and grossly improper ticketed concerts in the beach area.  Their response?  Sue the city for $2 million in damages — for revenue lost from not being allowed to do things they were not supposed to do in the first place.  That is not the action of someone that is your partner for operation of a public concession.
 
valet in street

A valet operating on public streets

 
Then they had their liquor license seized by the State Liquor Authority, largely triggered by the fall 2018 drug bust.  Again, not something that usually leads to keeping a concession agreement.  In fact, the prior concession license was terminated for exactly this reason.
 
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MRG’s bankruptcy petition

 
Finally, Manhattan River Group declared bankruptcy.  This is almost beyond comprehension, given that they were one of the most profitable concessions in the city bringing in millions every summer.  Look at this 2018 revenue report – over a million in revenue for a single month in June (almost none of which was for valet or beach concert rental, by the way) and yet at the end of the year they owe $600,000 to creditors, including $200,000 in back rent (a measly 8% of revenue) to the city?  Those creditors, by the way, include a number of families who gave wedding and bar mitzvah deposits — read this particular letter from a couple about their wedding deposit and Manhattan River Group’s response, and the ensuing response from the couple.    
 
erick morillo fernando and josh

MRG partners Mateo (l) and Rosen (r) with a concert DJ performer

 
Despite the years of outrageous problems, the lawsuit against the city, the multi-agency raid, the shooting, the drug bust, the bankruptcy and the Community Board resolution begging Parks to terminate the concession agreement, as of February 2019 the Parks Dept has still not cancelled the concession license with Manhattan River Group. 
 
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A Brother Jimmy’s storefront

 
Instead Manhattan River Group (which is comprised solely of partners Josh Rosen, Jerald Tenenbaum, Fernando Mateo and Chris Villano) has appeared at public meetings saying it is their intention to “restructure” and partner with a new restaurant brand for the 2019 season in a bid to save their very lucrative contract.  They appeared at a February CB12 Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee meeting introducing the BBQ chain Brother Jimmy’s as one possible idea.
 
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MRG partners Rosen (l) and Mateo (r) at La Marina

 
Letting MRG partner with anyone makes no sense.  Regardless if a new restaurant manager might actually follow, for once, the written rules and requirements of the restaurant concession agreement, Manhattan River Group should have nothing to do with it.  The concession license agreement must be terminated and re-bid (as happened with the prior operator in 2007), or assigned (as was done with the New Leaf Cafe concession a couple years ago).  And the SLA must complete their process and strip the license from MRG without interference.
 
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SLA will soon decide on the fate of the liquor license

 
Should a new operator be assigned, separate from any MRG association, remember that the basic requirements of the agreement as written and binding include:
 
  • No Concerts, No Ticketed Events, No Bottle Service.  None of these uses are allowed in the agreement as approved uses, which is not surprising for a public waterfront site.  Concerts are specifically called out as “strictly prohibited”/
  • No Late Hours.  The agreement is clear, open til 11 pm Sun-Wed, and 12:30 am Thurs-Sat.  Logical given that the site is near a residential neighborhood and in a park.
  • Summer-Only Operating Season.  The agreement allows for a concession from May to October. That’s it.  The concession license as written does not allow for off-season events.
  • No Valet Parking.  The approved site plan has no parking on site.  There is a parking lot adjacent, on Parks land, but that lot is open to the public for regular street parking.  To reserve it for the restaurant, it would have had to have been included in the Licensed Premises (as was done for New Leaf Cafe), which was not the case here.  Or a separate agreement could be drawn up following all rules and procedures for issuing a public concession.  
  • No Outdoor Music after 10 pm. This is in the agreement but also comes from the NYC Noise Code and is common to all Parks. (For example, SummerStage in Central Park)
  • Public Access.  Per the agreement, the facility cannot be closed to the public without special permission and weeks of advance notice.  It is parkland and supposed to be accessible, which it was often not since opening.

Furthermore let’s remember that there are TWO concessions here, restaurant and marina.  And the Marina aspect of what is one of only two public marinas on Manhattan Island has been sorely neglected since the concession opened in 2012.

jetskis at dock

Jet skis at the federally-funded dock for large boats.

To recap, see this earlier post that talked about the incomplete marina.  It also helps to review the original 2007 winning vision by Manhattan River Group for a large full-service marina serving 200 vessels.  That’s not a typo — the schedule really called for 200 moorings after 10 years.  MRG won the RFP for the concession largely based on their proposed marina that would “be overhauled and re-established to concentrate on moorings as the primary means of storage… in the winter the entire site, including the restaurant, will be taken apart and stored, and all available upland will be utilized for the winter storage of boats.”

mooring schedule

Promised seasonal moorings, never built.

MRG will offer mooring customers a level of service surpassing other area marinas.  Primarily, the Manhattan River Club Marina will be the only mooring field in Manhattan offering launch service.  Basic services will include quality laundry facilities (machines and maintenance outsourced to CoinMach, an established vendor in this area), clean showers and restrooms, a ship store complete with supplies, ice and refreshments, catering services provided by Costera, dinghy rental, and in-water cleaning/detailing service.  We will also seek to provide potable water delivery, remote hose-down, and remote batter charging services for moored vessels.

The marina agreement was then based on this RFP and requires, in writing:

  • A full-service marina for the use and enjoyment of the general public.  Required components include mooring, docking and launch facilities.
  • 24/7 Access.  As a marina, it was expected that there would be seasonal and transient moorings and docks.  Any boating customer was to have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week between April 16th and October 15th.   
  • Mooring Dinghy.  From 8 am to 11 pm, every day during the above season, a dinghy would be staffed to take boaters to the moorings.
  • Marina services.  This included a boat pump-out station for sewage, use of the concrete ramp for $50, kayak storage, winter boat storage, etc.   
  • Beach Maintenance.  The marina operator must maintain the small beach next to Dyckman Pier as a small-craft launch site, free to use and free of litter.                  
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Federal program that paid for the transient marina infrastructure

To raise funds to build the docks and marina services, Manhattan River Group and Parks won a federal grant in 2011 from US Fish & Wildlife for $669,286 of taxpayer money.  This grant created additional obligations, specifically for transient vessels over 26 ft long that would visit for up to but not more than 15 days:

  • Build a dock and moorings for 100 vessels.  80 of these were to be for transient vessels.
  • Pumpout, electric and water hookups for 20 transient vessels.  This is critical since large boats require such services  if they are to visit.
  • Add security for the docks.  Most often this means a gate with an electronic key.
  • Restrooms, showers and laundry.  For visiting boaters to use when docked.

None of this happened by the time the concession opened in 2012. Parks seemed content to let things slide through 2013 and then a dock appeared in 2014 that could host 20 vessels in slips, plus a slip for a launch dinghy, and 14 more vessels across the front.  A couple moorings were on site but not deployed.   When Fish & Wildlife came to inspect in 2015 they were not pleased, finding that the marina restrooms were in fact now nightclub restrooms, the shower was marked “employees only”, there was no laundry, no hookups, no dock security, no pump-out and poor access. More time passed and it took until 2017 for the BIG grant conditions to be met (meaning these requirements now run until 2037). 

sailing2

Sailing school vessels docked at the transient dock

Note that the grant was adjusted slightly due to a decrease in moorings, now numbering only 20 transient moorings down from the originally funded 53 (and originally proposed 200 in the RFP).  Combined with the dock there is now space for only 54 transient vessels – and it’s not even clear that any boat ever used any of them for a multi-day stay.  Instead the moorings would sit empty while the dock would fill with jet-skis and boats under 26 ft, vessels that are not supposed to be even using the dock!

So besides maintaining these 54 transient spaces, the services, the restroooms, laundry, showers, dinghy service and access, there is still the obligation of seasonal tie-ups.  La Marina posts rates, per their contract, for seasonal dock space but has no seasonal dock (the transient dock cannot be used for seasonal boats per the terms of the BIG funding, or technically even the popular sailing school)   There are no seasonal moorings actually installed, just the 20 transient ones.  In other words, most of the marina is still missing.

mooring field installed

Greatly reduced transient mooring field finally installed in 2017

Finally, in addition to the marina, there is the lingering question of the “eco-dock“.  This was funded by former Council Member Robert Jackson and former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in 2012 to provide additional community waterfront access and programming.  Plans were even drawn up in 2013.  It was never built.  Where is it, where are the funds, and what are the obligations for any new concession operator?

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Closed gates of Dyckman Street Boat Marina, aka La Marina

Restoring Dyckman Marina means restoring the concession to its legally binding contracts.  It means removing Manhattan River Group based on their past actions, bringing in a new operator via assignment or RFP, and making sure that operator follows exactly the approved and written concession agreements for the Restaurant and the Marina.  After seven years of problems and unmet promises, anything less for the Inwood community would be madness.

 
 
 
 
 

3 thoughts on “March Madness

  1. Great summary. In addition- nobody responds to emails or calls for transient dockage. I’ve tried numerous times to get a slip or mooring, but it just goes to an unmonitored email or voicemail. Total scam!

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    • Thanks for the information. Would you mind emailing restoredyckmanmarina@gmail.com with further information about your attempts to obtain a mooring? It’s long been alleged that the marina only exists in name only and has never functioned as such for seasonal boaters (or even transients who stay overnight) but we need to hear from actual boaters who have tried to get docking or moorings.

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  2. Matt, you should also email info@lamarinanyc.com. Transients are always welcome. No reservation is necessary.

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