Hard Times Rolling Down The River

Boathouse project delayed further by faulty float
By John Nickerson
Stamford Advocate Staff Writer
June 3, 2004

NORWALK — New York is going to have to wait a little bit longer for its new boathouse.

A day before it was to make its maiden voyage out of Long Island Sound to its new home on the Harlem River, Bette Midler’s boathouse has again run aground because of engineering problems.

In the latest setback to the project, now seven months delayed, an air tank used to buoy one end of the $2.8 million boathouse sheared off, scuttling plans to move it out of the harbor today.

Yesterday, a diver inspected the underside of the boathouse for damage and checked brackets on six other floatation tanks for signs of stress.

The boathouse has been under construction on the Norwalk River for the past year. It will house rowing programs for Harlem youths.

A spokeswoman for the New York Restoration Project, which commissioned construction of the boathouse with money from its founder, Midler, as well as Paul Newman and Yoko Ono, said a metal bracket was to blame for the failure.

“One of the brackets on one of the flotation tanks has a problem. They are reattaching that bracket. The divers are undoubtedly checking all the brackets and reattaching the one that needs reattaching,” said Roberta Greene, Restoration Project spokeswoman.

Greene said that the bracket holding the metal tank wrenched loose sometime Tuesday evening or yesterday morning.

Greene said she expected the tank to be reattached yesterday. But by the end of the afternoon, boathouse workers looked no closer to making necessary repairs than they did in the morning.

Boathouse builder Alex Foglietta of Greenwich declined comment yesterday morning, saying that he and his son were too busy for an interview.

Foglietta faces a tightening deadline to finish the project.

Two weeks from today, the boathouse is due to be set up and moored at Swindler Cove on the Harlem River where it will be the main attraction for the Restoration Project’s annual spring picnic.

Scheduled to attend the boathouse’s grand opening are “Sex in the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker and New York Gov. George Pataki.

Greene said she was confident that the boathouse will make it to New York in time.

“It will be in New York on the 17th, if I have to push it there,” Greene said yesterday morning.

Over the past two weeks, workers for Norwalk Marine Contractors attached the air tanks to the boathouse to correct a miscalculation in the boathouse’s design that left it tipping to one end.

Two weeks ago, Foglietta said the weight of the boathouse was misjudged, causing it to sit too low in the water.

According to one source close to the project, the tanks were designed to raise the end of boathouse 20 inches higher to keep the deck above the waterline.

It was the largest of the round metal tanks that broke loose.

Yesterday morning, the tank was tied to the Norwalk Marine Contractors’ bulkhead, where the 85-foot long boathouse is being completed, about a quarter-mile north of Interstate 95’s Yankee Doodle Bridge.

Thick I-beam brackets welded to the tank could be seen bent and torn along the length of the tank.

When the tanks are filled with air, as they were during the latest failure, they exert considerable pressure upward to make the boathouse more buoyant.

From information provided by a dockworker last week, a local naval architect was able to determine the upward force of those tanks onto the boathouse.

Given the tank dimensions, it was calculated that when underwater the tanks on the boathouse exert a force of 25,360 pounds vertically upwards, said Stephane Leveel of Norwalk-based Tripp Design.

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