PortSide NewYork BoatBox

PortSide NewYork is a non-profit organization creating diverse programs about and on the BlueSpace, the water part of the waterfront. Red Hook-based PortSide activates the waterfront through a number of innovative educational, community-based, and cultural programs, from activities on and about the Mary A. Whalen tanker (where the organization has its headquarters), to the BoatBox project, special exhibitions, harbor advocacy and others.

Design Challenge

PortSide NewYork’s BoatBox goal is to plan and convert an existing shipping container used to store kayaks in Red Hook’s Valentino Park into a park amenity that delivers educational and safety information with high design values, and provides amenities that heighten the appeal of Red Hook’s Valentino Park as a destination. The design challenge is to do this with a small budget on a site that is weather challenged and has no security in a low income community, and to package the safety information in an engaging fashion that people will seek out and want to read. The success of this project is dependent upon the support of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

Project Objectives
One goal of NYC’s new comprehensive waterfront plan, Vision 2020, is to increase launch sites for recreational boating in the five boroughs. Currently, no boating safety information is mandated, no standards exist, and most sites have no safety information. PortSide believes it is critical to provide boating safety information at these sites, and in addition plans to include educational information about local history and the sources of harbor pollution, as well as safety information about eating fish caught in local waters. The BoatBox project represents the pilot project for this mission. Included in the objectives for the BoatBox is the addition of a shading device to protect the kayaking equipment contained within the existing box (achieved through the addition of a green roof in the current design), the addition of a shade structure around the box to provide a protected gathering space within the park, and the construction of free-standing kayak racks available to the public to protect their vessels while visiting the neighborhood.

The process we as a team established for determining a budget has been to create a design that meets the PortSide criteria, then engage the Parks Department in the design process to assess their interest and their potential as a financial backer, and finally to begin fundraising for the construction of the project. The team has worked to provide a project which can, if necessary, be implemented in phases while additional funding sources are identified. The project is currently “conceptually in approval” by Parks, and we await a follow-up meeting with them to move forward.

Description of deliverables
The agreed DesigNYC scope of work is to provide schematic designs for architectural, identity, and interpretive graphics solutions for the BoatBox at Valentino Park. Deliverables are to include:

  • A project presentation fundraising brochure
  • Design Documents including:

-       Valentino Park proposed site plan

-       Scaled plan / section / elevation drawings of the container and site intervention

-       Architectural renderings

-       2 sample graphic display panels and branding components

Audience/community outreach and involvement

In the interest of making the BoatBox a locally supported and locally-fabricated project, PortSide’s community outreach has included low-income families, Hispanic minorities, local businesses, maritime associations, urban agriculture supporters, public housing residents, and businesses ashore via RHED (the small retail establishments) and SBIDC (mainly representing the industrial sector). Additionally, given that part of our planned exhibit will be about food safety (Red Hook’s low income population eat fish caught in the river), we reached out to three groups whose work relates to food: Red Hook Food Vendors (Hispanic food trucks), Red Hook Initiative (a health oriented non-profit) and Added Value (an urban farm and a 2010 DesigNYC winner). Everyone has had a very positive reaction to the proposal.

Lessons learned/obstacles/successes (of the collaboration):
A small project doesn’t necessarily mean fast realization. The involvement of the Parks Department is critical to our moving ahead with this project. A June meeting at Valentino Park indicated preliminary support and enthusiasm for the BoatBox project. We all hope that involvement with the Parks department will eventually lead to an approval of our design, and perhaps to some financial assistance with the construction, so that we can move ahead to the next phases of design and fundraising.

The collaboration between all parties has been extremely rewarding and creative. Our advisor, Paul Alter, has been absolutely instrumental to the success of this collaboration. All parties have been very dedicated to the PortSide project, and we believe our combined interests exemplify the mission of DesigNYC.

Impact at city level
PortSide believes that better boater education will lower the risk of harbor collisions as well as prevent recreational boating initiatives from being blocked from a commercial marine industry concerned by the rise in untrained recreational boaters. The included exhibit information on sources of harbor pollution is designed to get the public to reduce street litter (the source of much beach and water litter) and encourage beach cleanups.  A major goal is to make an affordable, flexibly designed BoatBox that will be a pilot project for safety and interpretive graphics, and that variations will be installed elsewhere around New York City boat launches.

2011, arts/community programs, Projects