By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Adirondacks it ain't, but the East River is a superb spot for kayaking, aficionados argue.
And Brooklyn Bridge Park's new floating dock for launching kayaks makes it that much better.
The $170,000 floating dock off Pier 2 got its christening Saturday from Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. President Regina Myer, a bevy of public officials and a waterfront advocate who is spearheading the construction of similar docks in every borough.
With sunshine and azure skies making it a picture-perfect day for the aquatic-minded, Borough President Marty Markowitz offered up a few puns in tribute to the new Eco Dock.
“There's so much to do and see in Brooklyn – but one thing that can really 'float your boat' is to take advantage of our gorgeous waterfront,” Markowitz said.
“Every year so many Brooklynites look forward to hitting the water and doing some kayaking – and thanks to this new Eco Dock, it's a 'watershed moment' for kayakers, who will have an even easier time getting in and out of the river.
“So come on in, the water's fine.”
Eager boaters heeded his command.
Bright red, yellow and blue kayaks set forth from the floating dock onto clear gray waters. The skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan provided a jaw-dropping backdrop – which some urbanites say is even better scenery than the woodsy shoreline of Lake George, where many well-heeled New Yorkers send their kids to summer camp to learn kayaking skills.
At BBP the instruction and the use of the kayaks are free of charge. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, a non-profit staffed by volunteers, runs the summer kayak program with a funding assist from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.
More than 10,000 visitors have availed themselves of BBP's free kayaks since the Boathouse launched its program in 2010.
“With the new dock at Pier 2, we will be able to introduce even more people to the great pleasure of kayaking on one of the world's most spectacular urban waterfronts,” Boathouse board Chairman Charlie O'Donnell said at the Eco Dock's inaugural celebration.
“We look forward to working with the Brooklyn Bridge Boathouse and the Conservancy to provide quality boating programs for all park visitors,” Myer said.
Before heading for the dock Saturday, kids strapped into buoyant vests stopped to talk to a television camera crew about their willingness to try a waterborne adventure.
The 20-foot by 40-foot dock, designed by Bellingham Marine to withstand punishing weather, will shorten wait times for BBP kayak users, who until now had to board the paddle-propelled boats on the park's shore.
“The Eco Dock will provide the community increased access to the water, which is especially important during the hot summer months,” said City Councilman Steve Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn), who obtained the discretionary capital funding for the dock in tandem with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.
State Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn) vowed to work with park honchos and fellow elected officials to get “community priorities” such as a permanent swimming pool, tennis courts and a skating rink built at BBP.
Other amenities now under construction at Pier 2 – to which the new dock is attached by a 5-foot-wide gangway – include basketball, handball and bocce courts, an in-line skating rink and a fitness area. The pier's opening is set for the end of the year.
The new kayak dock is the first to be constructed under the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance's Open Waters Initiative.
“We have a dream,” said Alliance CEO Roland Lewis, “a dream of Community Eco Docks dotting the shores of New York City and offering access to the water for all.”
His organization's next dock will be constructed in Bay Ridge at the 69th Street Pier with funding from City Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach). It is set to open in September.