Councilmember’s ‘Conversation’ on Controversial Dock House Disallows Public Comments

Proposed boat basin dock house to be located at 78th and the Hudson.

By Joy Bergmann

A meeting billed as a community discussion on a controversial new construction project ended up being a recap of what’s already been presented, with no opportunity for the public to speak.

Upper West Side City Council Member Helen Rosenthal did not permit any community feedback during the Zoom meeting held Tuesday, despite the meeting’s invitation stating its purpose as “to allow Parks /EDC the opportunity to update where things stand regarding the 79th Street Boat Basin dock house project and for interested community members to be able to engage in constructive conversation with folks from the agencies.”

Rosenthal seemed surprised to find more than 30 attendees dialed in, including concerned residents, UWS block association members, Community Board 7 members and numerous staffers from the NYC Parks Department, NYC Economic Development Corporation [EDC], the project’s design firms and the office of Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President and UWS Council Member-elect.

“When I was asked [by 83rd Street Block Association President Gail Dubov] to set up this Zoom, I didn’t realize it would grow into what it has become,” said Rosenthal, adding her accommodation of the request was ”unusual” and not something she wanted to set a precedent for in future situations. She then announced she would not allow any commentary during the Zoom.

One attendee who had wanted to share thoughts on the project later called the lack of public comment “shameful” and “a total waste of time.”

Rosenthal repeatedly praised “the process” for public input on municipal projects via Community Board 7 meetings. With regard to the $90 million boat basin reconstruction plan, she noted that CB7’s Parks & Environment Committee had held three prior meetings where Parks and EDC presented their dock house drawings and people offered reactions that were recorded by the project team.

Anyone who was unaware of the meetings or the content therein should, “go on to [CB7’s] web site…and sign up to get their emails,” to stay apprised of upcoming developments, said Rosenthal. Residents can also send their thoughts to CB7 via email: mn07@cb.nyc.gov

Rosenthal said the current proposed dock house design is not necessarily the final one.

The next steps? The boat basin team must again present to Community Board 7 in the spring or summer, before sending any updated plans to the City’s Public Design Commission [PDC] for approval. The community can weigh in at the 2022 CB7 gathering and/or send input to PDC.

“They’re the ones who really have the power in this situation. [PDC] either signs off on the project or doesn’t,” Rosenthal said. There is no requirement for CB7 to approve designs before proceeding with construction. “I’m very pleased with the way the process works. It’s an important one. I think it brings the community into the process and allows feedback.”

Community Board 7 members reiterated the past trajectory of the project, with Chair Steven Brown noting the “robust” feedback opportunities that had been provided. Brown said a letter to Parks and EDC outlining CB7’s current position would be “imminently” sent and then shared with residents. Rosenthal, who leaves office in a month, also promised to link to the letter in an upcoming newsletter.

And with that, she ended the 45-minute meeting, 15 minutes of which were spent listening to attendees introduce themselves. It turned out to be their only opportunity to speak.

WSR received emails from several gobsmacked residents immediately afterward. “Just unbelievable,” said one. “Why no community dialogue, no matter what prior process has been followed thus far. Most odd,” said another. “A remarkable display,” said a third.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 41 comments | permalink
    1. Bob says:

      How strange. I wonder why Helen Rosenthal doesn’t want anyone asking questions about what looks like a major giveaway of public land and money to a select group of wealthy boat owners. Surely that’s exactly the situation in which she’d want to relieve the community’s concerns, rather than increasing them.

    2. Frank Grimes says:

      Wait…..the “community” showed up to the “community discussion” ??? Now what??!!

      HR has never cared for concerns the neighborhood has brought to her attention (valid or not). Her office is completely unresponsive. Your job is to represent and address concerns of constituents, regardless of your own personal beliefs. She is the definition of a Limousine Liberal who lives in her Ivory Tower and spews tone deaf ideas. Her jaded lefty agenda does not echo many of us on the UWS, and I would argue most. I can only hope Ms Brewer is taking notes, and does a better job working with the residents she will be representing. The UWS will be a better place with HR out.

      • William Sacrey says:

        Another example of HR contempt for the people.
        Her office a joke. Never a responce on anything. Staff reflects her indifference. Brewer will be better by default.

      • Jay says:

        She’s hardly lefty, if she were she’d have automatically objected to a private company running UWS public housing.

        Her office has responded to me more than once, they don’t then do anything effective, I contrast this with contacting the office of Corey Johnson. His people some times take effective action about my complaint.

      • LongtimeNYer says:

        Goodbye Helen!

    3. Ryo Hazuki says:

      Problem is any new construction that goes up on the UWS sees public outcry even if the proposed building is for the greater good for the neighborhood. It’s become so normal that officials don’t even bother listening to concerns anymore because they’ve heard so many before with merit. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. For the record, the I don’t agree with the proposal here because it only benefits a few and the “few” aren’t covering the cost. If they raise occupancy prices to cover the cost, then no issue.

      • Jay says:

        Ryo:

        This isn’t for the “greater good” in any sense.

        There are many ways of building a smaller, more aesthetically pleasing less view of the river from the park blocking, dock house.

      • Leon says:

        Totally agree. The UWS has a disproportionate share of “activists” and whiners whose joy in life is finding something to complain about. They take pride in this while the rest of the world laughs and tunes them out.

        This one is low hanging fruit where the response is fairly unanimous except those who have a vested interest in this outcome. It should not be hard to design something that meets the countless regulations and is smaller and more attractive.

        Based on HR’s response, I think she will have a personal key to the useless conference room to use for her future soirées.

    4. Sid says:

      I understand fighting supertall towers in our neighborhood, but fighting against a two story boat house is for people with too much time on their hands.

      Several soup kitchens and other organizations in our community need help this holiday season.

      • Bill Williams says:

        Well, maybe the $90 Million dollar cost of the boathouse would be better spent there.

      • Pedestrian says:

        Why do we need a two story boat house on the Hudson River?

        • Boris says:

          Your comment is disingenuous. This would not be the only 2+ story structure on the Hudson River. There are plenty of structures that ‘block’ Hudson River views from the GWB to the Battery. Let’s not keep harping on that aspect when the real issue is jealousy of boaters’ enjoying an activity not available to all. Docking fees, just like fees related to other activities, don’t have to cover actual costs precisely. That’s the price we pay for there being diverse facilities and activities.

    5. Paul says:

      Sounds like she’s getting ready to retire to her second home.

    6. bystander says:

      $90,000,000 to buy a select few millionaires a dock. What’s going on in their minds?

      • Boris says:

        The revenue stream of docking fees from hundreds of local boats will pour in for years. The docks will also bring transient visitors to the City who pay docking fees and spend money in the neighborhood. Don’t understand why people expect the entire cost to be covered immediately. That’s how all revenue-generating facilities are planned…they’re longterm capital projects. How much does one pay to use a municipal garage? A public skating rink? The subway?

    7. Jay says:

      HR has just 30 days left in office.

      This isn’t a surprise given her record though, she’s consistently out of touch.

      Let us hope, she doesn’t land in a city or private foundation job with any power after she leaves the City Council.

    8. Dudley D says:

      Let’s add a large plaque and call it:
      The Helen Rosenthal Dock House.

      Trust the process.

      • Wait! Why not a plaque titled “The Helen Rosenthal Duck House”?

        It’s a twofer! First on account of how Helen ducks public comments so adroitly AND because: Ducks! …of which there are more ducks than boats that call our beloved river home should, at long last, finally have some public acknowledgement as well.

    9. zig says:

      which slip is helen’s?

    10. Wayne Z. says:

      Having a seat on the City Council has to be one of the most plum jobs out there. All you have to do is show face, glad-hand, and accept gifts. Helen’s a political hack like the rest of them.

    11. John A Molanphy says:

      Rosenthal should be ashamed. Beforehand, I might have been in favor of the dock structure. I am now firmly opposed. I also want to support opposition to Rosenthal.

    12. Irate Partisan says:

      Oh Snap!

    13. Steven says:

      This project is nothing more than the owners of this “food concession” to stay open year around and make more money. As a graduate of Yale School of Architecture, this project has no value to our community or neighborhood. This project will attach large numbers of transients from out side of our neighborhood and create significant congestion around 79th and Broadway. If you care about the increase of robberies and crime, you don’t want this built. This is bad news.

      In addition, I must say this is one of the most ugly and mediocre pieces of architecture I’ve seen in a long time. With the quality of improvements on the lower East River, this building would be an embarrassment for the UWS.

      • Peter says:

        Translate this for me, the non-architecture graduate? A boathouse and a dock with slightly increased dock, frequented by affluent people 3 avenues away, will create an increase in robberies/crime and congestion around 79th and Broadway? How do the (de)merits of the building alone have anything to do with this?

      • Jan says:

        to say nothing about the millions she appropriated
        to AMNH w/o community review to build “an unnecessary
        building” which now appears to be a truly ugly
        inappropriate incompatible building. Just take a
        look!!

      • Mark Moore says:

        “This project will attach large numbers of transients from out side of our neighborhood and create significant congestion around 79th and Broadway.”

        No it won’t. You may fancy yourself an expert but stick to commenting on the aesthetics.

    14. jhminnyc says:

      “A pole barn from an upstate farm supply store is to be shipped to Manhattan as use for a marina structure at the 79th Street Boat Basin on the Hudson. Local architects, bureaucrats, and elected officials are hailing this triumph of design and function, making light of area residents objections.”

    15. Pedestrian says:

      Helen doesn’t resident asking question. She is all about keeping residents in the dark. Zoom meetings are strictly for show.

    16. Fedup UWS says:

      yet she was elected…..twice….because people don’t bother to show up and vote. Well, maybe after this fiasco people in this district will care. Now that they see what we get. Good bye Helen. Pls register to vote in the next primary. In this district unless you are a registered Democrat, whatever you really believe, your vote does not count. Make it count!

    17. Boaty McBoat says:

      Well at least the dock house building isn’t 52 stories, right? I hope they serve drinks again.

    18. Pedestrian says:

      HELEN has never liked public comments. He prefers a silent electorate. She a political hack whose vision has never extended beyond her own self interest.

    19. Tom says:

      Everyone is sooo polite! Fact is, Rosenthal has been effectively checked out of her City Council job for months. Weekly staff-written email blasts don’t count as real work.

    20. Marianne says:

      How shameful indeed that City Council Member Helen Rosenthal did not permit any community feedback during the Zoom meeting! This eye sore of a tall shack which reminds one of former East Germany dwellings or third world countries would depress many of us Upper West Siders whose time at the river promenade is so important to recharge our batteries. I am praying this monstrosity will not come to pass! Thank you West Side Rag for alerting us!

    21. Pcnyc says:

      Agree with Steven: this is an appalling hulk of a design which blocks the view of the river and is in no way harmonious with its surroundings. It must be changed.

    22. NYCsail says:

      As an avid sailor, not a rich boat owner, this project is long overdue and a benefit to the community. The design serves its form and function if any of the naysayers would bother to do some research on boat houses. In fact, take a look at Hudson Sailing Center! The boat owners that use or live in the boat basin are by and large not “rich”. We have had several friends that are travelling use the facility while transiting through New York by boat, and it is a hidden gem for the sailing community. But it needs improvements. I look forward to utilizing it and pleased my tax money as an UWS resident will go to it. AS far as the community feedback, take it up with Helen Rosenthal or maybe ask yourself, what is the problem? Or do you just need something to complain about?

      • James says:

        So we are supposed to accept whatever the boathouse design industry complex shovels out to us? I say, back to the drawing board!

        • NYCsail says:

          Because the building that was there previously (shed) was better? I guess we could put a mini Taj Mahal, but then the costs would be the complaint. Come up with a better drawing then, James.

    23. Robert W says:

      Helen Rosenthal’s response to construction of a 14-story coop that violated the spirit of community preservation laws was delayed and half-hearted though the fix was already in with the city Preservation Board.

    24. Politicians are bad says:

      Helen Rosenthal is doing the dirty work so Gale Brewer doesn’t have to.