This article made possible by a donation to our Writer’s Fund from local reader donations!
Things are looking up for the North Brooklyn Boat Club. Even a hurricane couldn’t wipe the polish off their first year in the water, which took the group from mere plans and papers to a modest 20-vessel navy regularly plying the local waters. On April 2nd the group met again to kick off their second season as a fully-operational club, and the message of the night was simple: let’s get more butts in boats.
The key points made at the meeting all supported this theme. Membership fees are effectively reduced by $20 for the year: last year members were asked to contribute $30 to the club and needed a separate $30 membership to the American Canoe Association in order to be covered by that group’s trip insurance. This year the club has a blanket policy with them so a $40 fee paid to the NBBC directly obviates the need for individual ACA membership. Members were also encouraged to start down the safety training path that will result in access to club boats outside of scheduled group excursions, helping to foster a feeling of individual access to the water. Finally, opportunities abound for individuals to get involved in a number of ways: besides the obvious operational groups, subcommittees are working on gardening and green roofs for the space, woodworking and boat-building, and citizen science related to water quality and biology, just to name a few, providing niches for almost any related skill.
If you’re interested, there is still plenty of time this season to join up and get involved. Check out their website, follow the group on the various social media, or just look for smoke coming from the waterfront fire pit and introduce yourself.
Everyone gives me crap for not being a “real” Greenpointer, but my great grandfather G. Clement Edson was the pastor of the Noble Street Presbyterian Church (1907-1911) and my grandmother Isabelle was born on Noble St. Why does this matter?
Great Grandpa’s wedding to his new wife, Gertrude, a choir girl, after his first wife, who was my biological Grandmother died, caused major drama in Greenpoint. The old ladies of the church had another dame picked out for him, but old Clem knew who he wanted. A headline in the Brooklyn Eagle read, Pastor Marries Chorus Girl, which is very different from a choir girl. 20th Century Greenpoint gossip! While I need to do some digging in the Brooklyn Eagle archives, the story even made it into the NY Times.
And aside from personal validation, my great grandmother Gertrude used to swim in the Newtown Creek! Explains a lot, right? We can imagine it was a beautiful and natural place back then.
This is not the first instance of a ballsy female ancestor taking risks with water. I’m also related to the infamous Annie Edson Taylor, who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Today, I would do that before taking a plunge into the Newtown Creek.
These days if you see someone swimming in the Newtown Creek, (after you lol,) call 911.
1. DON’T EAT ANYTHING OUT OF THE NEWTOWN CREEK! “Eating fish and crabs taken from Newtown Creek could harm people’s health, due to the chemical contaminants. Women under 50 years old and children under 15 years old should not eat any fish or crabs from these waters. Others should follow the State Health Department advisories for eating fish and crabs taken from this and other waterways. There is currently a fish consumption advisory for Newtown Creek.”
2. DON’T SWIM IN THE NEWTOWN CREEK! “Swimming, scuba diving and wind surfing (with full body immersion) could harm people’s health, due to biological contaminants and physical hazards (underwater debris, commercial boat traffic).”
3. YOU CAN TOUCH IT, BUT WASH YOUR HANDS! “Canoeing, kayaking, boat touring and catch-and-release fishing are not expected to harm people’s health, if people use precautions (properly washing their hands) to avoid swallowing biological contaminants from surface water.
This is an important step for public safety information. Is there any hope for the Newtown Creek? Can it ever be cleaned up back to the time when Great Grandma Gertrude swam there?
On a dark Tuesday night, I walked down Kent and pushed through a doorway obscured with old burlap sacks to reveal a room full of energetic sailors, paddlers, and waterfolk. Over a round of Dark n’ Stormies – a requisite nautical drink of Gosling’s rum, lime, and ginger beer – introductions were made, and it was hard not to feel a lively mood in the attendees at this meeting of the North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC).
They had a right to be upbeat – several million dollars have recently been green-lighted for the refurbishment of a bulkhead and 8,000-square-foot boathouse in northern Greenpoint, at the mouth of the Newtown Creek, and the NBBC is heading up the efforts to design the space and programming.
The group is well picked for the task. In attendance was a healthy array of experienced seagoers, including kayak guides, sailors of both the river and the bounding main, and a boat builder. All are excited to be presented with a space to share their love of the water with the community, and anyone living in Greenpoint with a hand to lend to the space should definitely keep an eye on their website and attend the next meeting, the details of which are below. Discussed at the meeting:
-Safety is a major concern for all involved. While these folks are no stranger to a good time, they take their roles as teachers and stewards of the waterfront very seriously, and discussions of the exact certifications to acquire are becoming more important as the hope is to have hulls in the water this coming spring.
-Water quality issues are, of course, a concern. However, the point was raised that the water quality at the mouth of the creek is similar to that of the East River as a whole, and those who decide to ply the inland waters can be educated and suitably protected from associated risks. The question of water aeration (conducted on the Newtown Creek to increase dissolved oxygen, necessary for many types of marine life) possibly causing pollutants to become airborne was raised; however, at this time, there’s no scientific evidence supporting or disproving this concern.
-Other boathouses in NYC that can be used as models.
-The importance of including all members of the community who want to use the waterfront, including fisherwomen/fishermen
-If you’re a landlubber built like a T-rex – tiny arms and giant legs – play bike polo. If, however, you’re built like Popeye and similarly unsinkable, consider kayak polo:
I’m very excited by the prospect of a Greenpoint boat house and plan on lending my hand to the efforts to get this going. If you’re interested in becoming involved, come to the next meeting of the NBBC, to be held at: