$90M project to renovate deteriorating docks at 79th Street Boat Basin moves ahead
The city is moving forward on restoring the Upper West Side’s 79th Street Boat Basin as a waterfront resource for the community. In December 2019, the Parks Department unveiled a $90 million proposal to reconstruct docks damaged by previous storms, add additional boating berths to increase capacity, make the area more resilient to climate change, and expand ecological research and education. To make this possible, the entire marina will be dredged to enable vessels to navigate it at all tidal cycles. With support from the local Community Board and many residents, the plan is now moving ahead, with construction expected to commence in 2023.
Current layout of the Boat Basin (top) and the reconstruction rendering (bottom). Courtesy of NYC Parks.
Operated by the city, the 79th Street Boat Basin is the only marina that has a year-round houseboat residency in New York City. At its peak, according to West Side Rag, the basin was home to more than 100 boats. But after the city prohibited houseboats from docking at the Basin in 2010, just about 10 out of 116 slips are currently occupied year-round, according to Parks. And there’s currently a 14-year waitlist of more than 780 people to land a lease at the marina. To address the long wait, the city wants to increase the number of docks from five to nine.
A study performed in conjunction with the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) showed that the basin’s wooden dock framework and concrete foundation have excessively deteriorated. Therefore, “Parks must accelerate the timeline for closure to ensure safety of all in advance of construction and all vessels will vacate the marina by November 2021,” according to a press release. “Parks will assist all permittees in relocating their vessels to area marinas until the project is completed–all current permittees will be given priority to return to the Boat Basin.”
2020 rendering of the elevated dock house, courtesy of NYC Parks
In addition to expanding the marina’s capacity, the city wants to upgrade the docks to meet climate resiliency guidelines and repair those damaged from previous storms. Existing timber will be replaced with steel and concrete support structures, and the floating dock pilings and dock house structure will be elevated to protect against storm surge. A previous design plan called for the dock house to get an elevated addition with a public green roof.
The plan also focuses on ecology, with additional space added for visiting educational tall ships and marine-based research. And finally, for the first time in its 80-year history, the marina will be ADA-accessible.
The project is part of a larger plan to reconstruct the West 79th Street rotunda and the surrounding area, which connects the neighborhood to the West Side Highway. The construction work, expected to take at least four years, will force UWS favorite Boat Basin Cafe to permanently shutter.
Currently, the project is in the final design stages and undergoing City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2023. It’s being funded by $60.9 million from Mayor Bill de Blasio and $28.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Editor’s note: This story was originally published on January 2, 2020, and has been updated with new information.