‘War canoes’ will occupy Bushwick Inlet this Sunday

Picture this, but it's not real yet, and it''s full of angry canoers. via Bushwick Inlet Park
Picture this, but it’s not real yet, and it”s full of angry canoers. via Bushwick Inlet Park

When the CitiStorage building went up in flames, the physical fire was put out, but it also lit a more metaphorical fire under activists fighting for the completion of the full 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park. The park, promised to the community in exchnge for the Williamsburg waterfront rezoning, was supposed to stretch from North 9th Street to North 15th Street along the East River.

Instead, it’s sitting in development hell, with piecemeal acquisitions of parkland coming along slowly but expensively. With one more piece remianing in the puzzle, park advocates are planning on coming out in force this weekend for Occupy the Inlet, a demonstration that will fill Bushwick Inlet with human-powered watercraft in a push for the completion of their promised outdoor space.

This Sunday, August 9, Bushwick Inlet will be full of canoes and kayaks, and the fence runnung along the Kent Avenue will be lined by people who either fly kites or tie them into the fence separating the street from the polluted land that could one day be a beautiful park. The ultimate goal of the protest is to call more attention to the missing park whose costs have spiraled into the stratosphere since the 2005 Williamsburg waterfront rezoning.

We spoke with Steve Chesler of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, who filled us in on the details for the protest. For anyone hoping for a repeat of Occupy Wall Street’s madness and length, you’ll probably come away disappointed. The demonstration is scheduled to run from 12:30pm to 2pm on Sunday. “We’re occupying in spirit,” Chesler told us.

That being said, it should be quite a scene at the potential future park. Chesler said the plan is for “dozens” or human-powered watercraft like canoes, kayaks, outriggers and multi-person canoes he termed “war canoes” piloted by volunters from the North Brooklyn and Long Island City boat clubs are going to fill the inlet between North 9th Street and North 15th Street, which is the water border of the full promised acreage of the park.

Landlubbers and people who don’t want to get their flesh too close to the water in the inlet will also be involved in the demonstration, with Chesler telling is that they’ll be stringing yellow caution tape along the length of the fence and sending a human chain along it, as far as there are people to populate the line. The plan for the “protest kites” we alluded to above will probably involve weaving them into the fence along with the caution tape according to Chesler, so they don’t get caught in the razor wire along the fence.

As for Bushwick Inlet Park itself, Chesler tells us that it’s coming along. The northernmost section of the park known as the Motiva Property was bought in December, and the Bayside Fuel Depot has also been purchased and the city is waiting for the current tenants to leave. The only stumbling block at the moment is the CitiStorage building, which despite potential astronomical prices offered for the land, still doesn’t have an official price tag.

Regardless, Chesler told us that in the view of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park that it’s “Imperative the city moves on the property.” Whether the property becomes residential with room for the park carved out near the water, or becomes office and retail space which it can become under the current zoning designation, anything other than a full park is viewed as “different evils” by advocates.

Whether or not that happens depends on the mayor’s office taking action, so Chesler is hoping that the demonstration this weekend gets the attention of City Hall, which Chesler said hasn’t been receptive to park advocates so far. Whether having to answer angry boaters will change things is yet to be seen.

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