BoatUS Special Report


Can A Grassroots Organization Save A Boatyard From Condo Creep?

By Ryck Lydecker
Published: June/July 2012

A few passionate boaters strive to save a working waterfront on Long Island Sound. Their experience may provide inspiration to other communities around the country.

Photo of the fuel dock at Brewer’s Yacht Haven West
A familiar sight to many, the fuel dock at Brewer's Yacht Haven West closed when the company lost its lease on the boatyard site last fall.

Just when you thought the real-estate market downturn had slowed the forces that a few years ago swallowed up marinas and other working waterfronts nationwide, one of the largest full-service boatyards in the Northeast is now closed. It appeared to be a casualty in the "gentrification" of the harbor in Stamford, Connecticut. Brewer Yacht Haven West, tenant on the site for 15 years, officially ceased operations last October 31 when the land's owner, one of the biggest developers in the region, wouldn't renew the boatyard lease.

Workers razed the 10-shop buildings left there in December. Thus, with the cold decisiveness of demolition, boaters lost water access, 350 slips closed, and so did essential haul-out, repair, and winter storage on a finger of land that had been the centerpiece of Stamford's maritime heritage for nearly a century. Some 60 skilled jobs in the marine trades went by the wayside as well.

"Right now, if I need my boat hauled, I have to run 10 miles east to Norwalk or 15 miles west to Mamaroneck, New York," says Henry Marx, owner of Landfall Navigation, a boating supply, marine safety, and nautical chart retailer headquartered a few miles from the boatyard site. "And if she's leaking, I'll never make it. This is a safety issue as well." It's a business issue for the local economy, too, he notes. "We had a billboard at one of the I-95 exits to Stamford but when they pulled the boatyard out, I decided it wasn't worth the expense because there's nobody going to the boatyard anymore," Marx explained. "I think in five years, there will be no marine businesses left in Stamford if they don't get that boatyard back."

Is there any chance of getting it back? Well, if three determined Stamford boaters have anything to say about it, yes, a full-service boatyard will reopen, and with the same level of service as before. In fact, they've been saying a lot about it, and with an ever louder voice, as more boaters and Stamford residents get behind the grassroots organization they formed even before Brewer Yacht Haven West closed: Save Our Boatyard.

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Getting Organized? BoatUS Can Help

The famous expression, “All politics is local,” is so true, especially when it comes to waterway issues. Local citizens and local governments are very protective of their waterways, and for good reason; these are the lifeblood of many communities. Boat owners have a big stake in what goes on in their community so it’s important to organize and speak with one voice. For tips on how to develop an effective organization, contact

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