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Eco docked: Ridge’s floating classroom may not open this year

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Bay Ridge’s newest waterfront attraction may be off limits this summer because of a faulty design.

A gangway connecting the Eco Dock to 69th Street’s American Veterans Memorial Pier is busted — and it may not be fixed in time to reopen the floating public space for the summer because the city say it has to review the design, according to a local pol who was a driving force behind the aquatic amenity.

“What that redesign means is we have to get funding for it, and it probably — almost certainly — means it won’t be open on time,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) who kicked in $800,000 for the $1.08-million dock. “I’m just worried it may take too long to salvage the season.”

Buffeting waves from a late-season storm broke bolts fastening the walkway to the dock — even though Parks officials crowed during a 2013 grand opening that the structure could stand up to the most punishing storms.

“And with lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, we have built the dock to stand up to future storms,” Parks Department commissioner Veronica White said during the opening.

But a Parks spokeswoman clarified that the commissioner was referring to the dock itself — not the walkway connecting it to the pier.

“The Eco Dock at the 69th Street Pier is structurally sound,” said Parks spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson. “The dock was designed to withstand events like Hurricane Sandy. The four pilings which secure it in place were increased in size and height, and the robustness of the piling collars was also increased.”

Representatives from Ocean and Coastal Consultants, which designed the dock, did not return calls for comment.

The city doesn’t know how much the study or repairs will cost, a spokeswoman said.

The breakage should not have come as a surprise, given the dock’s position near the Narrows, according to maritime sources.

“Everyone going into it knew it was one of the tougher locations,” said Roland Lewis, president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, which hosts programming at the Eco Dock.

A charter boat captain with 50 years of experience in New York Harbor said the location is great for user access — but it’s not an ideal place for an Eco Dock.

“For the people who use it, it’s a perfect area and it serves a great purpose, but I think it’s a tough location — there are prevailing winds, no wave break, and boat traffic causes wakes and waves,” said charter boat captain Jim Chambers, who was critical of the plan for the dock when it was floated in 2012. “It’s a wide-open area.”

But the fact that only the gangway failed is a good sign for the dock’s future, Lewis said.

“We’re very reassured that Parks Department experts came to conclusion that the gangway is worth repairing,” he said.

Last year, 3,000 people visited the Eco Dock, according to the Parks Department. The pier will remain open while engineers determine how to shore up the gangway, according to an agency spokeswoman.

Lewis said his group will host events on the pier itself while Parks works out the next steps for the Eco Dock.

“We’re in a wait-and-see mode,” he said. “We’re still hoping to do as much as possible, and are working on alternate ideas on the pier. We don’t want to lose the momentum and great spirit that was out there last year.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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