Urban Boater: Village Community Boathouse

The following article was posted by UrbanBoater on February 15, 2012 in Features, International, Urban Boats·

Unfortunately, the budget wouldn’t allow for an interview in person but UrB caught up with Rob Buchanon of New York’s Village Community Boathouse to find out more about boat life in the city.

The Village Community Boathouse (VCB henceforth) is an all-volunteer community rowing association based on Pier 40 in Hudson River Park in Lower Manhatten. Rob starts by telling me that the original idea for the association came from Turkey,

“The boathouse is a spinoff of a an organization called Floating the Apple, a community rowing group founded in the early 1990s by a retired archeologist named Mike Davis. Mike had spent a lot of his career in Turkey and was struck by the neighborhood rowing clubs in Istanbul, which seemed to be located at the end of every street. On returning to New York, he set out to create a similar network of community boathouses here.”

The Hudson River Park offered the Community Boathouse free rent and waterfront space in exchange for the association offering the public free rowing. Rob notes that the Community Boathouse is a social, education and environmental enterprise,

“The harbor is our biggest public space, and our primary mission is to promote universal public access to that space, to get people on the water wherever they live. We’re also interested in the environmental stewardship of the estuary, and in fostering a tradition of maritime hospitality and fellowship (in other words, partying) with other boating groups.”

From Village Community Boathouse Favorite Photos

The association now has around 60 members from all over New York that not only get to use the boats but get involved in making them. The association has a number of boats to choose from, “ten four-oared, fixed-seat, 26-foot-long Whitehall gigs, based on a traditional New York Harbor design, plus a six-oared pilot gig and several smaller boats” adding proudly, “all of them built by us”, an added attraction for members that can get involved and learn new skills (you never know when you might need to build a boat).

I asked Rob what kind of people the association attracts, “Every kind operson-it’s New York. Our core membership is about 60 people, of all ages and ethnicities. Many live nearby in Greenwich Village or Soho, but others travel from all over the five boroughs.”

The association is growing with numerous high schools, colleges and member of the public getting involved with the rowing programmes and community boat-building sessions. Rob notes that, “Last year, more than 1200 individuals went rowing with us, and we sent out more than 500 cruises, for a total of more than 3000 rower-days.”

From Village Community Boathouse Favorite Photos

The increasing numbers of people participating in the association’s rowing or boat-building programmes means that New Yorkers are getting to enjoy a public space previously inaccessible to many of them. Rob notes that, “the best thing about urban waterways is that they belong to all of us, no one can privatize them or put them off limits-at least not as long as we are out there using them.” Rob adds that public usage and ownership of the waterways not only empowers people but can enrich their lives in a social, mental and physical way,

“People who row with us therefore experience the thrill of collective ownership, as it were. They also get to know their neighbors and anyone else who wanders in, feel the power of the tide, soak up the scenery and a bit of history, and get a good workout. We’re not a club, by the way–for better or worse, we’re a true community boathouse. Anyone can row with us, and anyone who ‘exhibits a spirit of service’ can become a voting member.”

From Downloads

To link with the original Urban Boater Article, click HERE

Comments are closed.