HarborLAB’s community investment in environmental recovery again came in sweat equity. The construction of our first dock was a great success! This achievement is a testament to the creativity, perseverance, and great abilities of HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Menje Erickson. Indeed, we’re calling this dock “The Patsy.” Hey, we’re starting our own tradition of naming docks. 😉
We’ll ultimately have three docks: twin 6′ x 15′ science docks and one 10′ x 20′ main boat dock. We’ll build the second twin dock between May 15-May 17 (more here: https://www.facebook.com/events/730740727023245/) for the CUNY LaGuardia Community College environmental science program, one of our closest educational and ecological partners. That dock will float on Dutch Kills, where students are already working with Dr. Sarah Durand and Dr. Holly Porter-Morgan to study industrial impacts and prospects for habitat restoration. Our goal for the 10′ x 20′ dock is to have it complete by July 19, City of Water Day, to be used on Governors Island if needed before permanent placement at the HarborLAB GreenLaunch on Newtown Creek.
With the season fast upon us, Executive Director Erik Baard decided that waiting for funding to purchase a prefabricated dock might result in delays that compromised safety and access for educational and environmental canoe and kayak programming. But HarborLAB volunteers had never built a dock. David Kistner of sponsor Green Apple Cleaners recommended getting a used dock. Erik agreed, reasoning that even a very rotted dock could serve as an outline to replicate with modifications. On Friday, the two went out to the Stony Brook Yacht Club, Long Island, for a dock that was kindly offered for free. David’s partner at Green Apple Cleaners, Chris Skelley, generously loaned his powerful pickup truck.
The dock, described as 5′ x 26′, turned out to be 6′ x 30′. David backed a boat trailer into the water while Erik went into the chilly water to guide the giant dock onto the trailer’s rollers. Once ashore, David devised a masterful tie-down scheme to safely transport the giant, barnacle-encrusted and rotting monster despite wind sheer and vibrations.
The dock was greeted in the evening with great skepticism by several volunteers, including Joe Block, Mairo Notton, and Alessandro Byther. As we considered our next steps, we removed mussels and oysters from the flotation billets and put them into the Newtown Creek rather than dry o dearth in the sun for days. Patricia was unfazed by the mechanics of what lay ahead, embracing the intellectual challenge.
That work started on Sunday morning, with a morning crew of Emmanuel “Manny” Steier, Alessandro, Jenna Nugent, Phillip Borbon, and Erik taking to tasks at Patricia’s direction. We replaced deck boards immediately to stabilize the dock for deeper work. Most of the wood was replaced, braced, or otherwise reinforced. Old wood was cleaned of nails for reuse in our GreenLaunch’s raised bed gardens. Pat, Phil, and Erik worked into evening. By the end, the 30′ dock was halved and the first deck planking was done!
A larger crew of builders and movers regathered on Tuesday, this time adding Mairo Notton (whose skills as builder were invaluable), his bright son, Tormi, EJ Lee, Pat’s son, Mike Menje, and delightful newcomers Alex Sramek and Aremi Ruiz. We completed all of the dock construction and recovered more wood for later use in the garden.
Then Pat’s genius shown. One of the biggest, unsolved challenges was how to get the heavy dock into the water. Attempts to line up large mechanical help didn’t succeed. The dock was too hefty to lift, and once at the water’s edge, how would we get it safely in the water, face up? Pat had us saw the PVC piping inside the original dock (run through for water, electricity, and such at the Stony Brook Yacht Club) into sections to act as rollers. The dock moved easily, upside down along the street and the HarborLAB GreenLaunch’s earth. Pat identified and enhanced a ridge that, along with ropes, would allow us to control the dock for a final flip. Erik scheduled the dock launch to coincide with high tide on the Newtown Creek. It worked without a hitch! We attached cleats once afloat in holes we drilled ashore.
A job well done by all!