Roland Lewis, the president and chief executive of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, is answering City Room readers’ questions about boating in New York waterways. The first set of answers can be found here and the second set appears below. We are no longer accepting questions.
I’ve noticed very few small sailboats in the rivers, even as I have seen an increase in the number of kayaks. Is it safe to take out a small boat like a Sunfish or a Laser, or do the tides and traffic make it a bad idea?
— Posted by Ben, Brooklyn
You ask about the safety of sailing in small craft such as a Sunfish or Laser around Manhattan. Here I will defer to experienced harbor boater and author Bill Kornblum, who chronicled his love of sailing in and around NY in “At Sea in the City” (an excellent read by the way). Bill says “boating in the waters around Manhattan should be done under controlled conditions, that is, in a group or with a program that closely monitors the conditions. This may not apply to very experienced kayakers, but everyone in small craft needs to be aware that the waters around Manhattan Island can be dangerous.” Wise words. Get lessons and get involved with the many human-powered and sailing organizations. Many are listed on the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance Web site. Get on the water, but be sure to do it safely.
Are there any plans to put in a city marina, or at least mooring balls anywhere on the East River … or anywhere along the Brooklyn waterfront?
— Posted by Gerriet, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
There are plans for mooring fields and marinas on the East River, but for the time being they are only plans. The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park will one day have a marina – hopefully that day is soon. And equally promising on the East River and elsewhere is the city’s new multiberth request for proposals, which may allow for mooring sites on the East River and elsewhere.
Adding to the question on the wakes from ferry traffic, a friend used to keep his 24-foot sailboat on a mooring in the Hudson in Lower Manhattan, but the moment you stepped onto the boat the ferry wakes were so violent that you had to cast off and sail away immediately to avoid becoming seasick. (He moved his boat away after one season.) Has any research been done, nationally perhaps, on ferry hull design which could reduce the size of their wakes? Has there been any interest in developing standards for this? They are not only dangerous and unpleasant but speed the degrading of shoreside park facilities — piers, ramps, docks, etc. The city is spending a lot to improve our waterfront — why can’t ferry operators be held responsible for the destruction they cause to our waterfront infrastructure? Thank you!
— Posted by Btoan, New York, N.Y.
Dear Btoan and others concerned with wake issues,
Our 21st-century harbor with increased boat traffic, especially fast-moving ferries, brings the problem of wakes. Wakes inhibit marina development and harm existing waterside development. Boats create the wakes but man-made structures on the shore exacerbate them. Hard shorelines with concrete bulkheads create a “bathtub effect,” bouncing water from shore to shore. Also, for such an important problem there is surprisingly little official regulation. Currently, the only wakes regulation in New York Harbor is within 200 feet of the pier heads in New Jersey and 100 feet from the pier heads in New York. There are two “no wake zones” in the Harlem River. All other no or low wake zones in the area are voluntary and self-enforced, if at all. The M.W.A. brought together wake experts at its recent conference for a panel titled “Busy Harbor Rough Waters: What to Do About Wakes.” Also, the Harbor Ops Small Passenger Vessels Subcommittee formed the Wakes Working Group to address the problem. I am not an expert, but hull design, speed, routes and the bathtub effect all contribute to the problem and all will be part of the solution. The Web site for I Boat NY Harbor provides excellent wake information for recreational boaters.
One sees many private boats out on the water in the East River, the Hudson River and in the harbor generally. Sailboats and motorboats, about 20 feet or greater. It seems like most of them must be traveling through, though, because I haven’t been able to find any good places to stop. I am aware of places in N.J. and the outer boroughs, but are there any places within the center city where a boat can dock? Specifically, anywhere in Manhattan to dock for a while or pick up/drop off friends south of the 79th Street Boat Basin on the west and Hell Gate on the east? What about just pulling up to a bulkhead or a waterfront park?
— Posted by Cul, Brooklyn
Dear Cul and others who want more waterfront access,
The resurgence in recreational boating on our harbor is increasing the call for more access for all kinds of boats. New Yorkers and New Jerseyans have beautiful new waterfront parks where they can be near the water but what they are increasingly demanding is the opportunity to be in the water. Creating increased access is a worthy investment, but it is an investment. The City of New York has certainly invested in the harbor, improving water quality and creating magnificent parks. Where we as an important water body have fallen short is with federal investment to improve our estuary, including increasing public access. A group of civic organizations have joined together to encourage our bistate bipartisan bicameral Congressional delegation to do a better job and get the resources that other water bodies such as Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound have received. This campaign (M.W.A. is part of it) is called the Harbor Coalition.
Where does a novice rent a small motorboat in the city and what are the best waterways to explore?
— Posted by Sssur, N.Y.C.
For a motorboat on New York Harbor I would recommend that you go through a charter boat company that would provide a staffed boat (i.e., a boat captain) for trips. The New York City parks department provides a database of city charter boats, including passenger limits.