VCB Receives GVSHP Award

From GVSHP Award

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation honored Village Community Boathouse with a Village Award. Deborah Clearman accepted the award and gave a rousing speech. There was a story in the Villager Newspaper about the ceremony which was MC’d by Calvin Trillin.

Photos by Michael Anton, Official Photographer of the NYC Department of Sanitation


Deborah Clearman’s Acceptance Speech
2014 Village Award to Village Community Boathouse

I am Deborah Clearman, Recording Secretary of the Village Community Boathouse. On behalf of our entire community, I want to thank GVSHP. We are thrilled and honored to be receiving this award.
The Village Community Boathouse has occupied a space on the south side of pier 40 in one form or another for more than 15 years. We build and row traditional wooden rowboats which we use to fulfill or mission of providing free public access to the Hudson River Estuary.

Three times a week during rowing season—April to November, depending on the weather—anyone can show up at Pier 40 and row with us. After a brief orientation they don life jackets, climb down a 12-foot ladder into the boat, set their pins and rings (They’ve just learned what these are), toss their oars, and they’re off. Four oarsmen, each wielding one long oar. A seasoned coxswain—member of VCB—coaches them as they row around the embayment, getting the feel of it, often “catching a crab” or two (a nautical term, google it when you get home). Then the coxswain asks, “Are you ready to go out on the river?”

Bounding over wakes and waves, dodging traffic in the shipping lanes, the rowers feel the power of the wind and tide, great forces of nature sweeping through the heart of New York City. The city will never look the same to them.

In the winter we move inside, into our large shop on Pier 40, to build the boats. Again, the public is invited to participate under the guidance of VCB members. Learning how to use power tools, carving planks out of quarter inch plywood (One quarter inch between you and the river!), bending them around forms, filling the cracks with a mixture of epoxy and sawdust we call “peanut butter,” many hands make light work. With each week what we are building looks more and more like. . .a boat. At the end, another Whitehall gig, 25-feet long, joins the boathouse.

Our activities and programs enhance the quality of life in Greenwich Village and serve to remind our community of the rich maritime culture and traditions of the historic Greenwich Village waterfront. But VCB’s existence is under threat.

Pier 40, once a major source of revenue for Hudson River Park from its parking facilities, is crumbling. Over the years, park administrators, developers, and community leaders have floated various schemes to repair and maintain Pier 40 and to support the park. Somehow, the public boathouses in the park, which last year put more than 30,000 paddlers and rowers on the water, have been mostly overlooked in the discussions. Pier 40 is not just about its playing fields, which are understandably beloved by the community. Pier 40’s south-side embayment is the best and safest water access point in the entire Hudson River Park. The boathouses provide the literal “connection to the water” that the park’s creators, designers, and managers always intended. The experience of being out on the river in a human powered craft is unique and transformative. We are a city built on water, and the fate of the city will be tied to its relationship with its waterways. The preservation of public access to the water, and adequate indoor space for community boating groups, should be a central requirement of whatever development scheme is ultimately adopted for Pier 40.

So please, talk to your local politicians, community board members, and journalists, but most of all, come on down to the south side of Pier 40, any Tuesday or Wednesday at 5 or Sunday at noon, and row with us!

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