by Jack Silbert
Whenever you’re working on a project, it never hurts to take a step back and look at the big picture. When you’re the Hoboken grassroots organization Fund for a Better Waterfront, that means getting on a boat and touring down the Hudson. On Saturday morning, April 23, that’s exactly what they did, in the group’s first-ever “Connect the Waterfront” Benefit Brunch Cruise.
Guests of the sold-out event arrived at Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, where they boarded Classic Harbor Line’s 1920s-inspired, 80-foot yacht The Manhattan. They were greeted by FBW’s affable president Jim Vance (the aviation aficionado temporarily transformed into a nautical nut).
The two-hour cruise served two main purposes. FBW was raising much-needed funds for its ongoing efforts. But the trip also allowed FBW’s supporters to get a first-hand look at those various projects. They include:
- The Monarch — FBW is in litigation to stop the construction of two residential towers on the pier east of the Hudson Tea Building.
- Union Dry Dock — FBW advocates for the purchase of this parcel of land between 9th and 10th Streets, to transform it into a 3-acre public park.
- Central Waterfront — FBW wants to extend the successful, public-friendly elements of the south waterfront beyond 4th Street, in part by restoring the original boundaries of Stevens Park.
As The Manhattan made its way downriver on the grey but cheery morning, FBW founder and executive director Ron Hine explained each project. (The group’s past successes, such as Pier A Park and Maxwell Place Park, were also discussed.) FBW’s longtime architect Craig Whitaker added key details and history along the way.
Another big purpose of the cruise was simply to have fun. Guests enjoyed a full buffet brunch (including those multi-color bagels that are all the rage these days) and an open bar. The special guest was Arthur Platt of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). As co-chair of AIANY’s Architecture Tour Committee, Platt was the ideal person to point out notable buildings along the New Jersey and — on the voyage back north — New York City waterfronts.
Passing Jersey City, Hine relayed the story of FBW’s kindred spirits in the Friends of Liberty State Park. Sam Pesin and that organization are currently involved in a struggle to keep the park public.
Seeing the Jersey City and Weehawken waterfronts up-close, it was clear that we shouldn’t take FBW’s work for granted. By state law, those cities do have public walkways along the river. But faceless residential complexes come right up against them, practically telling the public to stay away. Meanwhile, in Hoboken, for more than a quarter century, FBW has fought to keep our waterfront open to all, fully accessible, and smartly and attractively designed. Here’s to smooth sailing ahead.
The next FBW benefit will be the May hMIXER, to be held at Little City Books. (Stay tuned for details.) To learn more about FBW, or to get involved or donate, please visit http://betterwaterfront.org.