By Sally Curtis
“I am a coxswain, a boat’s steersman, and leader,” says Haymar Lim, age 23, “and as our crews row in the very busy waterway that is the New York [Harbor], I assume great responsibility. I take the lives of everyone on my boat into my hands whenever I [bring] a crew out onto the river. Changing tides, ferry and barge traffic, crews with different levels of stamina and experience, and fickle weather conditions are all factors I…contend with when coxing a boat. I must exercise good, safe judgment in dealing with these dynamic conditions and bring my crew back safely.”
Haymar is an alumnus of Village Community Boathouse’s High School Rowing Program. The Village Community Boathouse (VCB) is an all-volunteer, donation-based nonprofit that has occupied a space on the south side of Pier 40 for almost 20 years. Utilizing a fleet of traditionally designed wooden boats, mostly built in the boat shop on Pier 40, VCB volunteers take thousands of local residents, students, and international visitors out rowing all over New York Harbor every year. All of VCB’s programs are free and open to the public.
VCB’s programming is informed by the belief that small boat recreation provides the public with a physical connection to the water and nature that can lead to a sense of stewardship. In addition, VCB promotes awareness of the harbor’s history, the value of the waterfront, and the fragile ecosystem of the Hudson River Estuary.
VCB’s most enthusiastic constituency is its high school rowers. Haymar, the child of immigrants from Mexico and South Korea, began rowing at Pier 40 seven years ago as a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School.
“My friends strongly recommended rowing and told me it was a lot of fun. I was a bit confused at first, as I had no idea what kind of watercraft high school kids could conceivably take out on the Hudson River. Upon hearing a description of a Whitehall Gig, with a single oar per person, my mind leapt to thoughts of the Odyssey, which I had been reading in class. I gave it a shot and soon found myself spending every Wednesday at the boathouse. I loved how engaging it was to work together to move the boats through the water. I loved the inclusiveness and sense of community that came from the entire process: checking, launching, rowing, and maintaining the boats together. Most of all, I loved how it felt real. The Hudson River is a living, dynamic system that we had to respect. We had to learn to chart our course based on the wind and tides. We had to coexist with the traffic on the river. It was all quite novel in a way I didn’t really appreciate until years later. VCB exposed me to the natural environment at an incredibly impactful period of my life and has helped shape who I am today.”
This summer, Haymar ran VCB’s satellite program in Prospect Park and has secured a job teaching with AmeriCorps. He is just one of scores of young people who serve the mission of VCB as volunteer program coordinators, coxswains, rowers, boat builders, and waterfront activists. VCB has done well with the resources provided by the Hudson River Park Trust and has proven to be of great value to the Hudson River Park and the neighboring community. As plans for the redevelopment of Pier 40 are considered, VCB, with the support of Haymar and others like him, will continue to actively fight to keep what it has—a boathouse and shop on the south side of the Pier from which to provide free public rowing.