Party celebrates boathouse arrival after difficult trip
Jun 18, 2004
By Lisa Chamoff
June 18, 2004
NEW YORK — Newly arrived from Norwalk Harbor, Bette Midler’s boathouse received an official welcome on the Harlem River last night at the New York Restoration Project’s star-studded annual spring picnic.
The actress-singer, along with her “Stepford Wives” co-star Glenn Close, “Sex and the City” actress Sarah Jessica Parker and musician Yoko Ono streamed into a tent erected just a few yards away from the bright green and yellow boathouse, built by Midler’s nonprofit organization. The 85-foot-long, two-story building — constructed and stored in Norwalk for the past year — will provide low-income high school students in New York with access to rowing.
The structure made a 60-mile trip on Monday from Norwalk Harbor to Swindler Cove Park, near 208th Street at the tip of Manhattan, a journey that Midler waited out with baited breath. The boathouse floated through several narrow bridge openings, the Metro-North Bridge in Norwalk providing the tightest squeeze.
“Of course we were worried,” said Midler last night, after posing for photographers gathered near an entrance ramp to the boathouse. “This is never done. In Vancouver, where the barge was built, they do this all the time. In Amsterdam, they float whole houses. This was really a step forward.”
The $2.8 million structure did sustain some damage to its wood trim and metal roof, but it sat intact in a pouring rain along the Harlem River. Named for Peter Jay Sharp, a New York real estate developer and philanthropist, it is the first boathouse anchored off Manhattan in 100 years.
Over the last decade, Midler’s organization has transformed a section of the Harlem River shoreline next to a public elementary school that was once littered with household refuse and abandoned boats.
Gossip columnist Liz Smith was the event’s master of ceremonies, and New York Gov. George Pataki showed up long enough for the official ribbon-cutting. Parker, who along with Pataki was the event’s honorary co-chairman, quickly rushed past reporters.
Ono, one of the first people to contribute funds to construct the boathouse, arrived at the tent as the last of the guests sat down to dinner. The Manhattan resident said she was approached by Midler’s organization about supporting the project.
“I was excited about the whole idea of it,” said Ono, dressed in black and wearing a Dior charm in the shape of a guitar pick around her neck. “I’m so glad that Bette is doing this. She was very courageous.”
The tent sat just behind a gate decorated with large metal oars, at the head of a path that led to the boathouse.
The structure , constructed at Norwalk Marine Contractors Inc., off Harbor Avenue, was supposed to be moved to New York City last October. Delivery of the boathouse has been hampered by delays due to bad weather and problems with the device that carried the structure.