79th Street Boat Basin

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Thu 28 Jul 2011 09:30

79th Street Boat Basin




Boat Basin as seen from Guttenberg, New Jersey across the Hudson River 



The 79th Street Boat Basin marina is located in the Hudson River on the Upper West Side of the New York City borough of Manhattan, on Riverside Park at the foot of West 79th Street. Maintained and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, it is the only facility in the city that allows year-round residency in boats.





History: The boat basin, first proposed in 1924, was constructed in 1937, during the tenure of Robert Moses as Parks Commissioner, to offer a place for boats to dock during the summer. It was built as part of a project to cover over the tracks of the New York Central Railroad's West Side Line which also included a grand architectural multi-level entry and exit from the Henry Hudson Parkway, all under the name of the "79th Street Grade Crossing Elimination Structure". The multi-level structure was designed by Gilmore David Clarke. The Works Projects Administration provided $5.1 million for the project, which created the Freedom Tunnel, an underground parking garage, a restaurant and the marina. By the 1960's, though the restaurant was long gone, the majority of slips were occupied by year-round boaters.

In 1979, the city sought to cancel a 1977 concession agreement with Nichols Yacht Yards to operate the marina, claiming that Nichols had underreported revenue and had acted as an "absentee slumlord". Boat owners would manage the marina until a suitable operator would be found. Though Nichols obtained an injunction blocking the dismissal in December 1979, the firm's operation of the facility ended in 1982, with Nichols having spent $250,000 in legal fees to battle the city and counter a rent strike by boat owners.

In 1992, a five-year agreement was signed with boaters and the city, tying increases of nearly 25% in docking fees to improvements in facilities at the marina, such as new docks and electrical lines. By 1996, year-round residents had complained that the 18-month long project, implemented at a cost of $1.4 million, had been done in shoddy fashion. Beez with Bear showing our pontoon at a "jaunty angle".

The city stopped issuing new year-round permits in 1994, seeking to make space available for seasonal boaters among the basin's 116 slips. After complaints were received, the Parks Department agreed to an increase to 52 year-round spots, which start at a yearly fee of $5,000, based on the size of the boat. 

Year-round residents have included Mad Magazine writer Dick DeBartolo, Malcolm Forbes, Aristotle Onassis, Mario Puzo and Frank Sinatra have all used the basin to moor their boats. In the 1960's, Roy Cohn docked his 95-foot yacht here and used it to entertain the city's political leaders. Today there is a waiting list of many hundreds. 


Filming: The Boat Basin has been a popular filming location. The Park's Department's web page for the basin even lists details for obtaining film permits among things to do at the marina. The 1998 film You've Got Mail has Tom Hanks and his relatives living on yachts in the basin.








The marina has been our home for the last 34 days. We have loved being here - yes, the dock is wiggly and we rocked and rolled on tide changes and anything big steaming by caused alarming risk of clacking masts with the boat next to us, but at the end of the day no one forced us to stay. Slack tide would see lots of debris from up river lurking around the pontoons, the odd dead dinghy from an unloving owner, odd tree stumps laying around the place. One day there was great excitement as a body drifted in; many police CSI's, crime scene tape, a flurry of activity. Sadly the body was that of a man who had jumped off the George Washington Bridge; it had taken ten days to get that short distance to here, "the first jumper of the year", the locals commented. If you are used to European splendour, this is not the marina to visit but if like us you are ready to 'muck in' it is simply the best New York has to offer. There are mooring buoys available outside for $30 a night, limited to sub forty feet sailboats - that has surely got to be the cheapest rate for the city. You can also try to anchor down river of the marina past the motor boat buoys. 


We found the staff always friendly and very helpful, looking after Beez when we went to Saratoga for the night. Thank you all.





Beez Neez seen from the Boat Basin Café





Inside the Cafe, showing Guastavino tile ceiling



Pictures cannot do justice to the café. We ate here the first night we came in to celebrate our arrival with a real New York burger and a couple of beers. The noise was off the Richter Scale. I had to keep checking my ears to see if they were bleeding. We asked the waitress how many covers they did on an average Friday night - "Around 5000". Many times we have trotted through the café as it is the main thoroughfare to get to and from the marina from Broadway, just three blocks away. Funny the place is virtually empty if it rains hard.





Many New Yorkers come here as they see it the place to eat, watch the sun go down and get a chance to glimpse the yachting world







                          REMARKABLE TO BE SO CLOSE TO THE CITY