Volume 20 Issue 18 | September 14 - 20, 2007

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Above, with the Manhattan Bridge in the background, swimmers churned their way across the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Below, Linda Wojcik from Baltimore climbed aboard a boat after being swept off course by a strong, outgoing current.

Brooklyn is so hip that swimmers take dip in race

By Jefferson Siegel 

Usually, the phrase “Go jump in the river” is an insult. However, last Saturday, it was a call to everyone gathered Downtown in East River Park to adjust their swim caps, take a deep breath and, well, jump in the river. 

This maritime adventure was the second annual Brooklyn Bridge Swim, organized by the Manhattan Island Foundation. One hundred and twenty-three swimmers, from as close as the five boroughs and as far as Bialystok, Poland, and Curitiba, Brazil, gathered on the tiny swath of beach at the foot of Dover St. under the Brooklyn Bridge. They jumped up and down and waved their arms to limber up. The water was a warm 75 degrees for the half-mile race across the river on the south side of the Brooklyn Bridge, ending at the new Brooklyn Bridge Park. 

Boat traffic on the river was halted as first a small group, then larger groups of swimmers wearing yellow caps plunged into the waterway and stroked, paddled and kicked their way past the Manhattan-side tower of the Brooklyn Bridge. They were watched over and trailed by a flotilla of pleasure craft, a half-dozen kayakers and boats from the Police and Fire departments. 

“I train a lot, about 2,500 yards, about three times a week at B.M.C.C.,” said William Crozier, of Tribeca. Since 2003, Crozier has also participated in the Race for the River and Park to Park swims, also sponsored by Manhattan Island Foundation.

Linda Wojcik from Baltimore was one of six swimmers pulled from the water after a strong downriver current pushed her off course. Despite not finishing, she was in good spirits as she climbed aboard a boat.

“I swam the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and there were a lot of New Yorkers in that,” she said, “and they were telling me about all the swims you have in the city. There’s nothing like it in any other city.” 

Wojcik, who has been swimming all her life, found the East River’s currents stronger than expected. Still, she was thrilled with the experience.

“It was awesome, nice and salty,” she said as a green marking pen and a piece of driftwood floated by in an otherwise pristine-looking river. Wojcik said she trains by swimming a mile three times a week. 

Cathy Clarke from Brooklyn Heights also ended up off course.

“It was my first try, and now I know what to expect,” she said after climbing aboard the chase boat Due Amici. “I was way off course,” she said, pointing downriver, “and I kept trying to swim here.” Undaunted, Clarke said she’ll try again. “Next year, definitely.” 

A subtext to the swim was a “Battle of the Bridge” competition, wherein teams from Brooklyn and Manhattan battled for bragging rights and the Roebling Cup. For the second year in a row, Brooklyn beat “The City” by a minute.

A member of the Manhattan team, East Villager Matt Malina was third overall in the cross-river race — coming in behind swimmers from Seattle and Sydney, Australia — with a time of 13:25. Two weeks ago, Malina was part of the winning team in the citywide annual Lap Swim Awards, which was held at the Hamilton Fish outdoor pool on E. Houston St. 

The Manhattan Island Foundation, founded in 1993, organizes swimming events in the waters surrounding Manhattan. Its next event is the half-mile Cove to Cove swim on Sat., Sept. 29. The morning race runs from the South Cove at Battery Park City, finishing at the North Cove Yacht Harbor at the World Financial Center.

The Brooklyn Bridge Swim was sponsored by RCN Corporation.

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