Community board nixes educator’s idea to build science lab on Bay Ridge pier
A retired educator’s dream to get a marine science lab built on the Bay Ridge waterfront suffered a major setback on Monday when the local community board refused to add the proposed project to its list of city capital budget priorities.
As a result, the Denyse Wharf marine lab proposal that has long been sought by Thomas Greene could be dead in the water.
Greene, a retired assistant principal who taught for many years at Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge, has been trying for decades to convince the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to build a lab on Denyse Wharf, a pre-Revolutionary War pier at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Greene, who said the lab would allow students to study marine and plant life, added that the support of Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights) is crucial to his efforts.
“This project is on the back burner for DOE; that’s the problem,” Greene told the community board at its budget hearing on Oct. 20. Greene said support from the community board might jump-start the project because it would show the DOE that the project has widespread support in Bay Ridge. Two local elected officials, state Sen. Marty Golden and Councilmember Vincent Gentile, have both stated their support for the lab.
Greene formed a group called Friends of Denyse Wharf and leads local students on periodic cleanups of the pier.
But at the hearing, the community board voted to keep its budget priority list as is, refusing to add the marine science lab proposal to the roster of projects it wants the city to fund.
“The idea is wonderful, but our capital budget plan is for fiscal year 2016,” Board Chairman Brian Kieran said. Under the city’s budget calendar, fiscal year 2016 begins on July 1, 2015. Kieran said a long-ranged project like the marine science lab, which would require extensive study and tens of millions of dollars in investment, could be better approached from a different angle.
Denyse Wharf is owned by the U.S. Army and the military would have to excess the property in order for the city to get its hands on it.
Other board members, however, said they are reluctant to endorse Greene’s idea.
Board member June Johnson, a retired a school secretary, said the community does not need a marine science lab at Denyse Wharf because the Eco Dock at the 69th Street pier is a perfect spot for students to study marine life. The Eco Dock, which built with funding from Gentile, opened last year. “We have the dock ready to go down there. It’s a place for the children to learn,” Johnson said.
The New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) also threw cold water on the Denyse Wharf project. In an Oct. 14 letter to the community board obtained by the Brooklyn Eagle, Lorraine Grillo, president and CEO of the SCA, wrote that the wharf’s “inaccessibility to vehicles and increased security needs have seriously hindered this proposal’s acceptance.”
Grillo wrote that the damage Superstorm Sandy caused on the Brooklyn waterfront, “would currently have the placement of a school facility in the Narrows of New York Harbor defy sustainability efforts, marine education, and common sense.”
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