Locals show support for proposed LIC boathouse

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State bureaucrats might be skeptical about the proposed Long Island City Community Boathouse in Hunters, Point but local businesses are behind the idea.

"It's going to provide free opportunities to experience the water firsthand," said Dan Miner of the Long Island City Business Development Corp. "It will alter the way Long Island City residents see their relationship with the ... city waterfront."

The non-profit boathouse is applying for a license to use a floating pier in Gantry Plaza State Park at the end of 48th Avenue. Founder Erik Baard said he wanted to start giving free canoe tours this month, but the project has been delayed by red tape.

He is trying to wrangle permission from the three state bodies that have jurisdiction over the park - Queens West Development Corp., Department of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Mary Ellen Kris, assistant deputy commissioner for state parks in New York City, said last week that she had strong safety concerns about boaters in the East River, although she planned to consider Baard's application.

Meanwhile, the local business community has rallied around the project, donating temporary storage space and money for the boathouse, which is a series of canoe and kayak storage racks a few blocks from Gantry Plaza.

"We're excited about it. It brings more interesting things, fun things to do in Long Island City," said David Brause, vice president of Brause Realty Inc., which has significant holdings in the neighborhood including the MetLife insurance headquarters in Bridge Plaza Tech Center on Queens Plaza.

The Manhattan-based company donated one of the boathouse's kayaks. It is one of a half dozen local businesses to make a donation. Plaxall Inc., a local design firm, is letting the boathouse use an empty lot to temporarily store the boats, and the nearby Water's Edge Restaurant and Commerce Bank have also pledged donations, Baard said.

Brause, an avid kayaker, said it is important to connect residents with their waterfront, which has been virtually closed off for the last century before Gantry Plaza State Park opened in 1998.

"I'm a big believer in you got the water, you've got to use it. Use it for recreation, for outdoor sports," he said.

Long Island City is an up-and-coming neighborhood, Miner said, with projects such as the proposed 2012 Olympic Village going up. The mayor has said the $1.5 billion waterfront development would move forward in Hunters Point even if the city loses its bid for the games.

A boathouse where locals have free access to the East River only makes the area more attractive, improving the overall quality of life.

"What's good for the area's residential population is good for the business community as a whole," Miner said. "It's a terrific idea."

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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