LIC boat houses bandy in court over ownership

HarborLab founder Erik Bard wins the latest decision in a lawsuit brought by a rival boathouse. Photo courtesy Erik Baard
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In Long Island City, it is called the Battle of the Boathouses, a two-year-old court skirmish between the founder of the LIC Boathouse and the group that wrested control of it.

Erik Baard stepped down as chairman of the boathouse in 2008 and has since been sued by members of a smaller, affiliated boating group called the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, which later assumed control of the boathouse. The affiliation with the nonprofit Dredgers began in 2004, allowing the LIC Boathouse to accept donations and purchase insurance. Baard said the two groups were always separate and distinct.

The Dredgers sued Baard for trademark infringement, claiming Baard does not have the right to use the LIC Boathouse logo. He had used the logo on a Facebook page that disparaged the Dredgers and the way they ran the boathouse at a former meat packing plant, at 46-01 5th St.

Brooklyn Federal Judge Pamela K. Chen denied the Dredgers’ motion for summary judgment Dec.18. Baard, who is representing himself in the case, said, “The judge found that the Dredgers can’t prove ownership of the LIC Boathouse, so they can’t keep me from using the logo. The judge also said she couldn’t find any trademark infringeme­nt.”

Baard believes it helped that he was better prepared than the Dredgers, who are represented by a lawyer.

“I presented 87 exhibits of evidence, even a video of Pete Seeger asking for donations for the boathouse. They presented only four pieces of evidence and that seemed to annoy Judge Chen,” said Baard.

Representatives of the Gowanus Dredgers could not be reached for comment.

The case now moves to pretrial hearings in March, but Baard believes the hard part is over.

“If they can’t prove ownership to keep me from using the logo, I think it’s all but over,” he said.

Baard has since created another boating club called HarborLab. The club offers programs in environmental education, stewardship and restoration. It operates at a launch site on Newtown Creek and many former LIC Boathouse members joined his club, dissatisfied with the way the Dredgers run the current club.

Meanwhile, Baard has decided against counter-suing.

“To use our resources in this stupid battle is pointless,” he said, “I’ve chosen not to sue for defamation because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in court. I want to be back on the water.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538

Posted 12:00 am, December 27, 2013
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Reader feedback

Erik Baard from LIC says:
Thanks for caring about this issue but a quick correction: My Facebook fan page does not use the logo and I don't seek to use the logo. In this regard I was misquoted. The important fact is that many volunteers and community supporters don't agree that the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club owns the LIC Community Boathouse, which was built with local volunteer efforts and local funding. We agreed only to an affiliation centered on fiscal conduit services. My Facebook fan page is called LIC Community Boathouse Founder because I am promoting reforms for safety. transparency, and inclusion from the position of being the person who started the organization with a vision of those priorities. I did not assert in the interview a desire to use the logo or a right to use the logo. That belongs to an independent and reformed LIC Community Boathouse.
Dec. 27, 2013, 4:48 pm
Erik Baard from LIC says:
As a smaller aside indicative of the fact that I was misquoted is that I never called the organization the "LIC Boathouse." I very purposely used the word "Community" in naming it and always refer to it as the LIC Community Boathouse. And again, I did not and do not assert a goal of using the logo. I assert that my page is not infringing, which was affirmed by Judge Chen in her order denying summary judgment, and assert that the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club (a smaller club in Brooklyn) has improperly claimed ownership and hurt our community asset. Elections were canceled in 2011 and governance is marked by cliquishness and opacity, which results in poor decision-making and ill service to the community. Those quotations were not my words.
Dec. 27, 2013, 5:03 pm

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