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72nd Street

Today I volunteered at 72nd street, opening the facility and putting people in boats. It’s where I started volunteering, and while I’ve moved to other sites as I’ve moved around the city, I spent so much time learning there that I still feel a connection. 

The kayaking spot at 72nd is part of the Downtown Boathouse, (DTBH). It was an accidental spot, I’m told; after another site fell through, it ended up being the next best option. It’s typically the busiest in any given summer, and has many more families due to its proximity to the residential buildings of the Upper West Side. 

It’s a labor of love, and the volunteers who keep it running every summer are a dedicated lot. First of all, all of the storage is in shipping containers about 200 feet away, underneath a highway and behind some basketball courts. To open up or put things away, you have to maneuver past ball players, cyclists, rollerbladers, and runners. 

The “what” that gets moved is much easier this year. Volunteers still have to move out clothing racks holding life vests, two sets of metal lockers on narrow wheels, but they no longer have to cart boats along the path. Boats are now stored on the floating dock, secured with thick cables and locks.  

The water is not quite as protected as at Pier 96. The river flows pretty strongly at times, and the public has to be watched a little more carefully to make sure they don’t drift away. Furthermore, the outer edges are mooring spots for pleasure boats: catamarans, sailboats, and motor boats. 

Where other sites have mostly young adults looking for something new, 72nd has a lot of families, and a lot of drop-ins from runners and bicyclists. 

To get to 72nd, go all the way to the west end of 72nd, before it comes off the highway. Enter the park (by Eleanor Roosevelt) and keep walking west – down the stairs, past the little league ballfields. Open Saturdays and Sundays about 10-5, and also holiday Mondays. 

Published in 2012 Backpaddle Downtown Boathouse New York New York City NYC

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