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The Brooklyn Bridge Park Kayaking Program

Last year in 2013, we put 5,000 paddlers—from toddlers to great-grandparents—on the water for free, every Thursday and Saturday all summer.  We expanded our youth kayaking camp with local groups and started youth and adult kayak polo classes. We also ran numerous trips across NYC local waters, to Astoria, Greenpoint, Red Hook, and Staten Island. 

One of the most exciting features of Brooklyn Bridge Park is that the designers explicitly incorporated the idea of human powered boating.  A floating dock is already in place between piers 1 and 2, that will make getting on and off our kayaks quicker and easier.  This should shorten our lines tremendously and make our launch point closer to where we store our kayaks at Pier 2. Along with that, its surrounding area still is being enhanced and modified to maximize their suitability for our programs, but the simple fact that they are included in the Park’s design is worth some loud applause.  Too often access to the waterfront does not include access to the water.  Here, it does. 



The purpose of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, a registered NYC non-profit organization, is to promote human-powered boating and safe public access to the Brooklyn waterfront, to provide opportunities for people to learn about and participate in human-powered boating, and to promote environmentally sound policies that provide for and sustain human-powered boating in New York harbor.

Over the past few summers, volunteers from several local boating groups (including the Downtown Boathouse, Village Community Boathouse, Gowanus Dredgers, LIC Boathouse, Red Hook Boathouse, and Sebago Canoe Club), helped pioneer public walk-up paddling and rowing in DUMBO Cove.  It proved immensely popular, with at times up to 100 people waiting in line to get on the water.  

Since the opening of the incredible new Brooklyn Bridge Park just to the south of DUMBO Cove and the Brooklyn Bridge, we have expanded the walk-up program considerably over the past three years, while laying plans for an even more ambitious range of paddling activities in the future. 

Upon completion the Park’s amenities will include a 5,000 square foot boathouse to be created by re-purposing a large existing maintenance shed.  During construction we will be operating out of two 40-foot containers located between piers 1 and 2 that are being donated by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation.

Our kayak program is being given a generous boost through a donation from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.  With their assistance we’re in the process of purchasing 20 boats and related gear, which should fill our storage containers and allow us to pursue a full and vigorous paddling program.   Though most of our boats are simple SOT’s for beginners, we’ll also have in our fleet several sportier kayaks suitable for more skilled paddlers. We’ll be well equipped – but we need dedicated volunteers to turn these proposed public programs into a reality. Experienced boaters are of course welcome (and highly prized!) though you need no experience simply to help out. We’ll need hands on land as well as on water to make our inaugural summer a success.   


Additional Info

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, Inc. Board of Directors

Charlie O'Donnell, Chair

Bill Orme, Secretary & Treasurer

Rob Buchanan, Rowing Coordinator

Tom Potter, Kayaking Committee Chair

Nancy Webster

Mike Sylves

Darrin Amellio

Monica Hill

Andrew Shults