Haters Gonna Hate: North Brooklyn Boat Club
Local blogger, Miss Heather of New York Shitty stirred up some controversy in early February with a theory about scandal and embezzlement within the ranks of the North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC), in regards to a the organization’s new location. The Boat Club responded with a statement on their site explaining their story and defending the funding.
Then two weeks ago, Queens Crap published this story, calling the NBBC a “phony environmental group,” accusing the non-profit of building a park in Maspeth that the local community doesn’t want. The blog also faulted the boat club for supposedly paying a member $20,000 to paint a mural on the future site of Plank Road.
So why is all this blogosphere hate being spewed at this boat club, which was created to improve the local community and environment?
Today, Jens Rasmussen, the Communications Coordinator at the Boat Club, sent out an email with a nod to the attacks: You may be aware, that for the past few months there has been an ongoing campaign of misinformation, which discredits the boat club and challenges the funding for the long-awaited Greenpoint Boathouse and Environmental Education Center.
He announced that this Wednesday 4/23, DEC and City Parks Foundation are having a public meeting about the Newtown Creek Environmetal Fund (the source of the initial funding to build the Boathouse). The Boat Club organizers will also present their “ongoing educational programming, community building, and advocacy work.” The two-part meeting will take place at 3:30 PM and 6:30 PM at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (47-40 21st Street, LIC, 11101, 8th floor meeting room). This should give everyone with doubt/questions/concern a chance to confront the boat club organizers directly, since this issue has proved to be ridiculously complicated, and one that people (or at least these two super angry bloggers) seem to have very strong opinions about.
And now, some background. In 2011, the North Brooklyn Boat Club was the recipient of public funds from the City Parks Foundation, as per a vote, and designated as a multi-faceted, year-round facility that would increase waterfront access and environmental education. The waterfront outlet was supposed to be housed at 1155 Manhattan Ave in the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, but due to lease disagreements, it has been operating out of a temporary site at 51 Ash, under the Pulaski Bridge since its inception.
The $3 million was part of a $10 million settlement with NY State in 2008, which gave money back to Greenpoint as an “Oops + sorry” for that time the city missed a deadline to improve the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The remaining $7 million was allocated for waterfront improvements throughout the neighborhood. According to the Boat Club members, the non-profit community group was given free access to 51 Ash by Broadway Stages.
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, Miss Heather was/is skeptical of the potential new location of the Boat Club, which currently occupies a lot at 51 Ash Street. Allegedly, that land is being converted into the site of a new 4-story “transient hotel and community facility (private club not for profit)” according to the NYC Department of Buildings, which is owned by Tony and Gina Argento of Broadway Stages. The “new” Boat Club will be housed in that building.
“The club’s goal with this generous donation was to develop programming and membership so that when the time came to occupy the boathouse, the club could hit the ground running,” the boat club organizers wrote in a release on their website.
But Miss Heather did bring up some lingering questions: What has been done with the funding so far ($3 million) and why would a non-profit boating center be housed in a private transient hotel…and what is a transient hotel exactly? It does not sound particularly inviting, especially for a community center.
“Please tell me I am not the only person who finds the use of public funds ($3,000,000 if Wikipedia is to be believed) for what appears to be a private endeavor a mite bit troubling,” she wrote.
Geoggrey Croft, executive director of NYC Park Advocates told the Daily News that the plan to use public funds to help build a for-profit enterprise is “beyond sketchy.” “No money from the city should go for a private hotel,” he said.
Following the controversy, the Newtown Creek Alliance issued a statement in support of the new site for the Boat Club, outlining the reasons that the club, as an institution, benefits the community by providing an environmental education center for students and scientists to study the ecology and history of the creek, a boatbuilding and nautical crafts workshop, and boat and safety equipment storage.
I should also mention that the Boat Club was recently the recipient of additional funding from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund. As of March, they received $24,660 for a campaign to dissuade the public from putting cigarette butts in the creek, $24,693 to expand they waterways environmental education program, and $24,426 to support programming at the “ED shed,” to develop and expand community workshops on marine sciences and aquatic conditions in Newtown Creek.
The City Parks Foundation released a budget, which documents that so far, only $28,067 has been spent on the Greenpoint Boathouse project, although there are no specific funding breakdowns.
“Over the past two years, NBBC has introduced hundreds of people to Newtown Creek for the first time,” they write. “A permanent home for NBBC that includes an education center will help build a well informed constituency for the Creek that cares about it’s future.”
Miss Heather remains skeptical, questioning the Newtown Creek Alliance for supporting the “new and improved” boat house when, she argues, no one has seen the plans for the building yet. “This stinks to high heaven, folks,” were her
last words on the issue (time has told that she has many many more words about all of this).
The Boat Club responded by explaining that after three years of negotiations, they were “unable to come to agreeable terms with the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center and began looking for other suitable locations. A number sites and proposals were brought forward and after careful consideration, it was deemed that building on the current location, next to the Pulaski bridge, would be the most desirable, feasible, and sustainable.”
The Boat Club also ensured readers that the entire process will be administered and supervised by the City Parks Foundation, which requires that any and all funds only be applied to the Boathouse and Environmental Education Center elements of the facility, which will include equipment storage, the education center facilities, boatbuilding, nautical crafts, and “other community spaces.”
However, Broadway Stages president, Gina Argento, told the Daily News that she plans to split the cost of the entire project down the middle with the Boathouse, although nothing is final yet.
Miss Heather then went at it again, posting this photo of what she describes as the plan for the Boat House.
However, she failed to identify it as a plan for a contest submitted 10 years ago. Jens Rasmussen of the North Brooklyn Boat Club verified that this mock-up is unrelated to the current plan and was originally designated for the Bushwick Inlet.
What a mess. Why is Miss Heather so interested in discrediting the Boat House? She has declined to respond to our requests for an interview….so I guess we can never know for certain. I’ve laid all the facts here, as I’ve found them, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide where the misinformation lies.
WHO ARE YOU GONNA TRUST???