Boatman adds life to city's forgotten waters

With his faded Greek sailor's cap and greying beard, John Boldt has received no medals for what he has done. His reward is around him: the lazy activity of anglers, boaters and revellers seeking relief from the New York sun. His "docks of dreams", as he calls them, have come alive.

It has taken Mr Boldt, a boat builder from the Bronx, 10 years. His new domain, where he lives part-time in a converted boat-building shed, is Dyckman Marina. There are 25 boat slips on a floating pontoon, a small canteen with a deck dotted with umbrellas and a new fishing pier jutting out into the Hudson River.

On this sultry afternoon, fishermen are wandering down to the pier to try their luck with the bass and fluke lurking below. Others, just off work, are tinkering with their boats. The clientele on the deck includes, Christine Maloney, a tourist from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. "Is there any other place in New York City like this? I don't think so."

It was in 1985 that Mr Boldt decided to find a spot on Manhattan to build a boating marina, not for fat cats but for working people who had small craft but nowhere to put them. He settled on the only piece of land for four miles on the Hudson in northern Manhattan where access to the water was not blocked by roads and rail tracks. At the end of Dyckman Street, in Inwood, it was little more than a rubbish tip.

The first break in an odyssey through the reefs of government bureaucracy - that took him even to the White House for lunch with George Bush - followed the discovery of a little-known federal fund for the development of inland water facilities for boaters and anglers. Known as the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund, it offered 75 per cent of the funding for any new projects considered suitable.

"Frankly, if I'd known everything I was going to have to go through, I don't know that I'd have started," he admits. "If the choice was 10 years of going through this or 10 years in federal prison, I might have chosen the 10 years in prison."

The provisions of the fund covered 100 pages of text. "Who was going to read it all except a lunatic like myself?"

When a conference was convened in Washington in 1990 to consider new projects for the Trust, New York City refused to send anyone, saying it was too expensive. Finally, it allowed Mr Boldt to go as honorary representative. Finding himself "one of the boys", he attended meetings with senators, cabinet secretaries and eventually President Bush himself.

It took Mr Boldt four years to negotiate the development permits - with 27 city, state and federal agencies - before he could qualify for the $342,000 (pounds 213,000) he requested to begin building the fishing pier. With the remainder of the money from private investors, work began in February and was completed last month.

What he has created is a charming, scruffy oasis on the edge of one of the the city's toughest neighbourhoods. He is proudest that here is a place for locals to enjoy the resource all around New York: the water. "For decades we have made damn little use of Manhattan's waterfront and to my way of thinking that is criminal".

Nor will he stop here. An ancient crane is occupied crane is clearing more space along the water's edge for an expansion of the docks, and next year Mr Boldt hopes to build a restaurant.

He is getting some help from his customers. Sipping beer in the small barbecue area is a nurse, Virginia O'Rourke, and her husband, Jerome. They have spent $100 planting a flower bed. "We consider this place to be ours now," says Mrs O'Rourke, who with her husband has a small sailing boat at the docks. "We knew this place when we were kids and it was a boating club then. It went to ruin. And now look."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst - Prince2

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a glob...

Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Head of Maths

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week