To all the Gerry Blackstone Manhattan Kayak Circumnavigation family and friends: First, we hope that all of you are well and staying safe by following all the published guidelines in your state.
In this constantly evolving situation, we wanted to give you an update on the 2020 Gerry Blackstone Manhattan Kayak Circumnavigation; a program of the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club. Our primary concern is always the health and safety of our volunteers, staff and participants in this event. We have been following all the New York State health bulletins as they are published and have consulted the Coast Guard, New York City Parks, New York City Harbor Patrol and New York City officials about holding the event this July.
As of today, the Coast Guard is not accepting any Marine applications for events in June; New York City is not allowing any permits for events in public parks in June.
The Circumnavigation is scheduled to take place on July 25, 2020. With this level of uncertainty; we feel it is in the best interest for everyone involved to CANCEL the Gerry Blackstone Manhattan Kayak Circumnavigation for this year.
We are all heartbroken especially since the event was cancelled for the first time in 15 years last year due to the extreme heat and New York City canceling ALL outdoor events that weekend.
We realize that this is a tremendous disappointment for the many participants who have dreamt of this opportunity for years, as well as for those who see this as an annual get-together with paddling buddies from near and far.
To those of you who had carried over a $70.00 credit to be applied to this year; we will be REFUNDING the money. If you do not receive it by 6/13/2020; please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope everyone gets safely through these unique times and we look forward to holding a bigger and better event in 2021.
The Gerry Blackstone Manhattan Kayak Circumnavigation team
It was only fitting that Eric Nelson, of the Palisades Interstate Park, gave a presentation at the Dobbs Ferry Library on “The Unknown Palisades” on Thursday, June 7. One of his last slides showed Gerry Blackstone, a member of the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club, in his kayak at the Alpine Boat Basin, on the western shore of the Hudson.
“It was always good to see Gerry—whether he kayaked over from Yonkers alone or with a group of teens,” said Nelson, describing Blackstone as a man with the same indomitable spirit that led to the saving of the Palisades. “He was also the nephew of Leo and Jack Schwarzstein who ran the Yonkers to Alpine Ferry from 1923 to 1956.”
There was a catch in his voice as he said this. Gerry Blackstone had died that day. He was 79 years old.
Blackstone’s mom had changed their family name from Schwarzstein, Nelson recalled Gerry telling him, because she didn’t want her son to be saddled with such a Jewish name.
“I knew Gerry since 1967, having him as a chemistry and psychology teacher back at Eastchester High,” said Jack Gilman, a member of Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club’s Advisory Board. “He was a great teacher then as well as now. I don' think he had any regrets. He lived his life the way he wanted to.”
Gerry joined the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club in 2003 and threw his energy into his twin passions of chemistry and youth empowerment. He was an innovator; starting initiatives that would have a lasting difference in Yonkers, in people’s lives, and in public policy.
Gerry started a public paddling program at Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club in 2007 with a big idea and a cell phone. He made calls to paddle club members asking them to volunteer and to local organizations such as Greystone Community Gardens inviting them to bring the children they worked with. He introduced thousands of children, teens, and adults to the Hudson River.
In more recent years, he contributed the seed money for the public program, now named RiverRiders, to be run by trained local young adults.
Gerry championed area parks; urging the City of Yonkers to support and expand places for area youth and residents to enjoy the outdoors. As an active member of the Hudson River Community Association (HRCA) he pushed for quality of life improvements on the west side of Yonkers. Gerry was recognized for this work in 2016 by HRCA.
Gerry pushed for the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club to participate in a citizen science water quality initiative to test Hudson River water under the guidance of the New York City Water Trail Association. He tested the water himself and often drove the sample down to Pier 40 in New York City. He started the conversation with Beczak Environmental Education Center, next door to the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club, to create their own wet lab. Today this initiative is part of Center for the Urban River at Beczak, a Sarah Lawrence program.
Gerry also co-founded Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club’s Manhattan Circumnavigation, an event which celebrates its 15th year this summer with almost two hundred participants from around the world.
Those at Eric Nelson’s Palisades presentation who did not know Gerry Blackstone saw him as an environmentalist with a fascinating family lineage. Those in the audience who had the joy of knowing and paddling with Gerry carry a more robust image of him in their hearts—as a paddler who dressed like he was at South Beach who loved to laugh and talk about “what ifs;” as a generous spirit who welcomed newcomers to Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club BBQs—often trying to enlist them to help in his latest plan; and as generous, tireless, passionate and unforgettable friend.
“Even while courageously battling illness during this past year, Gerry remained deeply engaged in his community work, including plans for this year's public kayak program,” said Bill Dennison, Commodore of YPRC. “Gerry will be greatly missed by his many friends throughout the Yonkers community.”
Jon Richer shared his passion for boat-building by leading a West Greenland Kayak workshop. Frames shown here were created in 2 1/2 days of work.The West Greenland Kayak:
The West Greenland kayak is characterized by a flat low deck with graceful upsweeping ends, hard chines and a pronounced vee bottom. This is the premier boat if you want to learn Greenland style rolling. This is a sporty boat, typically low volume, well suited for playing in waves and surf. This boat has a small, ocean cockpit. These are designed to be form fitting, performance crafts- best suited for more experienced paddlers.