June 13 Gardening and Paddling Memories.

HarborLAB volunteers, led by Niki Bali-Keyes, tended to our native shoreline restoration and canoed Newtown Creek on Sunday. The photos here are by Niki, Yan Cheng, and Luke O’Brien. Special thanks to Phillip Borbon and Mairo Notton for taking the time to help with set up and pack away! Phillip also regularly removes plastic trash that blows over our way.

Ira Gershenhorn manages our native plants. When we arrived in 2012 we set about transforming a crumbling bulkhead and bank with fresh earth made by composting cocoa husks and burlap donated by MAST Brothers chocolate and our own kitchen scraps. We protected our new waterfront with façade bricks stranded by a canceled construction project, placed to stabilize the soil and attenuate waves and wakes. We then planted a considerable amount of native milkweed and goldenrod, serviceberry (shadbush), hackberry, and American persimmon (we need to add more of these!). We’re also growing cultivars like apricot, Asian pear, and apples.

The crew also canoed the creek, using the Hunters Point South public boat launch that HarborLAB’s founder first proposed in 2003 and which our organization regularly cleans. Each week from May through October for years HarborLAB volunteers (currently Sanjay Shirke) sample water at the launch for quality testing through a NYC Watertrail Association program. The boat launch is adjacent to a coming boathouse that the City, Gotham Organization, and RiseBoro announced would be the “HarborLAB boathouse” in 2017 (we have no dock due to sailboats crowding our shore and for almost a decade HarborLAB has lacked interior space, so lack security and our equipment is weather beaten). We responded recently to a Request for Proposals asking that those partners affirm their choice of HarborLAB as boathouse operator, with a Columbia University program for NYC public school students agreeing to be HarborLAB’s educational partner to fully activate the space for community good.

Sunday, June 13: Paddle and Garden!

Register here: https://forms.gle/ZzT7L1w8w42cSLAE8

Shareable link: https://fb.me/e/zOkFZMfD

A mellow paddle on June 13 followed by light gardening to help our native plants and a few cultivars thrive! 10AM: Gather at HarborLAB.
1030AM: Launch boats!
1230PM: Return to HarborLAB.
1244PM: High water on Newtown Creek.
1PM: Get lunch and refresh.
2PM: Do an hour of weeding and possibly watering to help our milkweed, serviceberry (shadbush), American persimmon, and hackberry (plus cultivars like apples, Asian pears, and apricots).

Background:

When HarborLAB arrived in 2012, what became our waterfront home on Newtown Creek was a collapsing bulkhead covered in stranded construction materials. Then Hurricane Sandy hit, degrading the shoreline more and spurring a wave of illegal dumping of water damaged materials onto our site. We filled dumpsters will junk, donated building supplies, and partnered with Mast Brothers to create fresh soil on site by composting cacao shells along with volunteers’ kitchen scraps. Now, thanks to new neighbor FOS Development, we’ll soon have a hose!

Three Tours in a Day!

NYC City Council District 26 candidates gather for a group photo after the beach cleanup, before the paddle.

HarborLAB volunteers enjoyed a delightful day leading three kayak tours: A morning cleanup of Hallets Cove Beach in Socrates Sculpture Park (which was already in admirably good shape compared with years past) and informational tour of the western Queens waterfront with candidates vying to represent City Council District 26; a Deaf Community Paddle to seed Bushwick Inlet with native seaside goldenrod and joe pye; and then an afternoon Pride Paddle!

A huge thanks to volunteers Sally Attia, Elsie Perez-Ingabire, Sanjay Shirke, Erik Baard, Laura Picallo, Yan Cheng, Mairo Notton, Ana Chiu, Hervay Petion, Kamala Redd, Maleni Chaitoo, Dylan Geil, and Steven Chu!

June 6: Deaf Community Paddle!

An ASL inclusive environmental stewardship outing!

We’ll share a mellow paddle to Bushwick Inlet and back from LIC. As usual this program is free and seating is limited. Register here by 5pm on Saturday::

https://forms.gle/XG2j4SNfgx7Dd5ff9

Please note that we are in for a hot day, so look after yourself with proper sun protection and cold water from the tap in a reusable bottle. Also please be on time because the tides wait for no one and we have a Pride Paddle following yours! 

Everyone helps carry boats and gear down to the water and up.  Please be very careful to not damage the hulls of our kayaks on rocky shores and -the rough ridge of the precast concrete slab at 2nd Street, Hunters Point South Park.

Bring your waivers, signed or to sign on the scene: https://harborlab.org/waivers/

Float Plan: Ride the diminishing ebb to Bushwick Inlet and then the burgeoning flood back.
1130am: Gather at Second Street/Hunters Point South Park public boat launch. 12pm: Take the place of paddlers returning from the candidates’ paddle. 1230pm: Launch for Bushwick Inlet. 130pm: Seeding and cleaning in Bushwick Inlet.215pm: Launch to return to LIC. 330pm: Land at  Second Street/Hunters Point South Park public boat launch. 

What to wear: Quick-drying clothing, sturdy shoes you don’t mind getting wet (water shoes and athletic sandals are best, and not flip-flops), a hat, sunglasses, environmentally responsible sunblock (Environmental Working Group recommendations here). 

What to bring: A reusable water bottle filled from the tap, snacks that minimize or eliminate one-use plastic packaging, a change of clothing and shoes if needed, aspirin or the like. 

Safety Notes: Current CV-19 protocols. Participants will be matched in tandem kayaks by HarborLAB volunteers according to the paddling needs of the group, not social affiliation. Do not lean but rather remain centered in the boat. No horseplay (the same rules apply to adults as to the kids we serve). No alcohol, smoking, or recreational drugs. The group must stay close together in a pod with HarborLAB volunteers at point (front), sweep (back), and flanks (sides). The trip leaders’ instructions must be followed immediately as you might not be aware of some dangers (hazards just below the surface, ferry and barge traffic, etc.). Please convey any safety concerns, relevant medical conditions, or ailments immediately to a HarborLAB volunteer. During the cleanup please leave anything heavy, sharp, weird, or gross and we’ll report the item to park authorities. Focus on light plastics. 

June 6: Pride Paddle!

Photo by Inga Sarda-Sorensen

Celebrate Pride Month and to learn about our waterways!

Please let us know if you’ll be participating in this free event.by registering by Saturday, 6/4/2021 at noon here:

https://forms.gle/j4CU2u19fZ1CxsybA

Please note that we are in for a hot day, so look after yourself with proper sun protection and cold water from the tap in a reusable bottle. Also please be on time because the tides wait for no one! 
We welcome you to wear rainbow regalia and to fly flags but let’s not have any of it end up in the water!  🙂
Please let us know if you’ll be participating.by registering by Friday at 9pm here:
https://forms.gle/j4CU2u19fZ1CxsybA

Everyone helps carry boats and gear down to the water and up.  Please be very careful to not damage the hulls of our kayaks on rocky shores and -the rough ridge of the precast concrete slab at 2nd Street, Hunters Point South Park. 

Bring your waivers, signed or to sign on the scene: https://harborlab.org/waivers/

PRIDE PADDLE

Trip Leader: Elsie Perez-Ingabire. Float Plan: Ride the flood back to Hallets Cove.


3pm: Gather at Second Street/Hunters Point South Park public boat launch. 
330pm: Take the place of paddlers returning from the Deaf Community Paddle.4pm: Launch for Hallets Cove. Linger for fun and photo ops by Gantry Plaza State Park.
5pm: Land at Hallets Cove. 

Everyone cleans and packs away boats. I’ll need help unloading boats back at HarborLAB. 

What to wear: Quick-drying clothing, sturdy shoes you don’t mind getting wet (water shoes and athletic sandals are best, and not flip-flops), a hat, sunglasses, environmentally responsible sunblock (Environmental Working Group recommendations here). 

What to bring: A reusable water bottle filled from the tap, snacks that minimize or eliminate one-use plastic packaging, a change of clothing and shoes if needed, aspirin or the like. 

Safety Notes: Current CV-19 protocols. Participants will be matched in tandem kayaks by HarborLAB volunteers according to the paddling needs of the group, not social affiliation. Do not lean but rather remain centered in the boat. No horseplay (the same rules apply to adults as to the kids we serve). No alcohol, smoking, or recreational drugs. The group must stay close together in a pod with HarborLAB volunteers at point (front), sweep (back), and flanks (sides). The trip leaders’ instructions must be followed immediately as you might not be aware of some dangers (hazards just below the surface, ferry and barge traffic, etc.). Please convey any safety concerns, relevant medical conditions, or ailments immediately to a HarborLAB volunteer. During the cleanup please leave anything heavy, sharp, weird, or gross and we’ll report the item to park authorities. Focus on light plastics. 

THANKS! 



New Water Quality App

EPA announcement. Thanks to Louis Kleinman for passing it along.

WASHINGTON (APRIL 9, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an improved web-based app to help communities identify potential sources of pollution to recreational waters. This science-based and data-informed tool empowers communities and supports engagement in local decisions in protecting the health of swimmers and recreators from contaminants at lakes, rivers, and beaches while supporting the vitality of water-based economies.

“Everyone has a role in protecting public health and the environment. With EPA’s new app, community members can play a part in ensuring safer recreation and cleaner drinking water sources,” said Director of EPA’s Office of Science and Technology Deborah Nagle. “Real-time, high-quality data help improve prioritization of remediation actions and the development of models that would support same-day decisions on swimming advisories.”

EPA’s new Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters is designed to help protect swimmers and other recreators while improving management decisions that can help keep recreational waters open for use. EPA recognizes the role of community participation in supporting robust water quality datasets. This tool can help citizen scientists provide data on sources of pollution in a watershed and information on potential harmful algal blooms in surface waters that public health officials need to protect a community. These efforts can also ultimately promote safe public access to urban waterways and lead to aquatic ecosystem restoration.

While previous versions of the app focused on marine waters, this improved version has been expanded to include monitoring for fresh waters. Additionally, it has new functions including photo storage, geolocation data, and links to weather-related websites. The web-based app does not require the use of the Internet or WiFi to use. The agency will be conducting free, live training webinars between late April and late May on how to use the app. The dates and pre-registration instructions for the live training webinars are available on EPA’s Beaches website. Detailed instructions on how to access the app, as well as user manuals and training videos, will also be posted on the website.

For more information: https://www.epa.gov/beach-tech/sanitary-surveys-recreational-waters.

Vernon Blvd at Newtown Creek

What does Queens Deserve?

Dear Friends,

Municipal agencies have ignored years of direct communication from stakeholders, including HarborLAB, about how the Newtown Creek end of Vernon Boulevard might be improved when needed reconstruction takes place, Because we’ve reached a point where our silence will allow a wasteful plan to proceed, Newtown Creek Alliance has posted a public petition

I encourage you to read it. There’s an opportunity to sign, as I did, if you choose. 

HarborLAB is deeply grateful to the NYC Economic Development Corporation for its partnership at Hunters Point South and other shorelines, and to the NYC Department of Transportation for its work to improve ferries and widen the reach of bicycling in areas HarborLAB serves. So it pains us to see years of our work ignored in the agencies’ planning for the street end where our canoe fleet is based and where we continue to restore habitat on private land. To appreciate the degree to which Queens has been disrespected, please contrast the most recent community proposal with the plan poised for implementation (above), and contrast our Vernon Boulevard site in LIC with its twin street end yards away across Newtown Creek, Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue Park (below).  

 

I’ve participated in community visioning efforts for the betterment of this potential safe access point to Newtown Creek for two decades. Though designs have evolved, core recommendations have been remarkably consistent. We want kayak launches, temporary docking, habitat restoration, shaded sitting areas, and resilience in the face of increasing climate chaos. All the while the City neglected deteriorating infrastructure on the Newtown Creek waterfront of Queens, let violent crime and property damage go largely unchecked, and turned a blind eye to squatting. None of these conditions are endemic to the Brooklyn side of the creek. 

If the NYCEDC/NYCDOT plan goes forward, it will be impossible to later integrate the elements we require. The supposed rush to build is solely born of the City’s negligence to date. New residents are coming to Hunters Point South and commercial developments could stretch east to Vernon Boulevard .The malignancy of this asymmetry between Vernon Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue is a shameful disservice to people living and working in Queens today and those who’ll follow. I hope we and our community partners like Newtown Creek Alliance can work with elected officials and our friends in these city agencies to prevent this wrong and leave a fitting legacy. 

Sincerely,

Erik Baard
Executive Director
HarborLAB

Support HarborLAB’s Growth!

HarborLAB’s volunteers wish you and your loved ones a safe, peaceful, and hopeful holiday season. Hope helps us look past the pandemic, and we ask you to contribute to HarborLAB’s role in building that great future. With our Hunters Point South boathouse in Gotham Organization’s new development just over the horizon and calls for our services throughout the NYC metropolitan area, we need to purchase boats, safety gear, educational materials, and secure storage to meet these needs.

Please consider donating to HarborLAB here: https://harborlab.org/donateorsponsor/

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at support@harborlab.org.

HarborLAB volunteers caring for White Island and South Brother Island.

HarborLAB has refocused on environmental stewardship and online education during the pandemic because public paddling programs aren’t safe. This summer and autumn we partnered with the Natural Resources Group of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and Riverkeeper to clear shorelines of plastics and invasive plants, and seed them with native species on White Island in Brooklyn, South Brother Island in the Bronx, and Newtown Creek in LIC, Queens. We’re now gathering seeds to make seedballs to continue strengthening coasts and habitats in 2021. Each week from May to October we sampled water from Gantry Plaza State Park and the Hunters Point South Boat Launch at 2nd Street for our partners at the NYC Watertrail Association to test for sewage bacteria. At Vernon Boulevard on Newtown Creek our native garden produced milkweed, goldenrod, and sunflowers for butterflies and other essential pollinators, and we transferred oysters that were struggling with pollution to a Hudson River site in West Harlem.

In 2021 we’ll continue this work, expand upon it, and gradually and safely reach out to include the general public, environmental groups, and college students in our field work and tours, following COVID-19 protocols. 

HarborLAB’s volunteers have provided free educational and recreational programs since 2012, often working on rough and rocky beaches in areas lacking boathouses. In addition to our open paddles at the Gantry Plaza State Park dock, we’ve served thousands at locations as diverse as under the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, northern Queens at Little Bay Park and MacNeil Park, Coney Island Creek at Kaiser Park, and Willow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Our boats have taken a beating, so for safety’s sake we need to replace a number of them. The pandemic has also made our Vernon Boulevard dead end at Newtown Creek a more desolate and dangerous place, with recent assaults gaining media attention. A few of our boats and gear items have been stolen and damaged by trespassers. Our replacement boats will not go to this site, but rather be stored securely until we move into the Hunters Point South Boathouse and begin programming in coordination with Gotham Organization, RiseBoro, and other community partners. 

Thank you again for your participation in HarborLAB programs, and we hope you can support our renewed growth for a happier era! 

Sincerely,

Erik Baard
Executive Director
HarborLAB 

Black Lives Matter on World Environment Day.

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When we invest our volunteer hours and donor funds into the environmental education of young black people, we’re implicitly saying that their lives and futures matter. When we educate the broader public about environmental impacts that hurt poorer communities first and worst, we’re implicitly saying that black lives matter. But sometimes words need to be explicit, clear, and loud so that those who are afflicted are comforted that others care, and those who afflict are shaken from the comfort that apathy will protect them.

And so:

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

The affliction now under the microscope of moral examination is the nexus of racism and police brutality. This matters greatly to our volunteers in their private lives, outside the HarborLAB mission scope. Perhaps our volunteer work helps to nurture that positive social movement. When a person gives their time and energy and gifts to a child’s education, a bond forms. They have a stake in that child’s growth and success. That volunteer can’t help but share the wound when injustice directly or indirectly injures that child, or the adult that child becomes.

A perhaps even more pervasive and dangerous assault on black lives is environmental injustice. Pollution in a child’s water or air robs that child of brain development. It dims the brilliance of the person that child was to be. And yes, environmental injustice can kill as surely as a bullet or a choke hold. The New York Times has assembled an excellent reading list on “Links Between Racism and the Environment.” The paper invites you to add your suggestions too.

Please also let us know how we at HarborLAB can improve our work or organizational culture to better meet our mission and evidence the truth of our declaration that Black Lives Matter.

Thank you. Be safe.

Erik Baard
Executive Director