08/16/2013 01:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

There Was a We in We (Part III)

"So you want to take girls who can't swim and put them in narrow boats on my lake, in my park?"

"Ummm, yes, but..."

"And who is going to pay for this?"

"I am, well, not me personally, I don't have any money. I'm going to get money. I mean, raise money."

"And who is responsible if someone falls in the water? What if they die?"

"I am. I mean, nobody is. I mean, nobody is going to die."

I was not prepared for this meeting. I couldn't answer these questions with any confidence. So, I stumbled through my first sit down with the Assistant Parks Commissioner in Queens who was going to say "yes" or "no" to my request to put kids who could not swim in narrow, tippy (she didn't know that part) boats on her lake in her park. Technically, it was (and is) the city's park, not hers, but I didn't quibble.

This is where I have to back up even more in the story of Row New York's early days. Although there was technically speaking no "we in we" because it was my name on the forms for the IRS and the incorporating document, for all intents and purposes there was a WE. His name is Michael Smith and he was my boyfriend at the time and is now my husband. He was also my cheerleader, confidante, ass kicker, erg fixer, pick me up off the floor guy for those tough early days. So, it was Mike who drove around New York City with me for 10 hours on a Saturday looking at every body of water we could find to determine whether or not it was suitable for Row New York.

I might be the only person who can say they felt like they had discovered heaven on earth upon parking in front of Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Here was a LAKE with a BOATHOUSE in New York City. Boathouse might be too strong a word.


There was a boarded up building surrounded by feral cats in front of the lake. But, it's all about the vision, right? The next step was convincing the NYC Parks Department that it would be a good idea to have kids on water in narrow boats who can't swim.

This brings me back to the assistant commissioner's office where things were not going all that smoothly. Perhaps she took pity on me or thought I wasn't serious, but for some reason, I left that office with a "yes." It took another 8 months to secure the key to the actual "boathouse", but in my mind, this was a huge step towards starting Row New York. We had rowable water and a building. Little did I know how many more huge steps lay ahead of us.