Memorial Day Volunteer Paddling Orientation.

HarborLAB paddling past the skyline in a panorama by Manny Steier.

HarborLAB paddling past the skyline in a panorama by Manny Steier.

HarborLAB had a fantastic volunteer and CUNY student paddling orientation on Memorial Day, which included launch site evaluations. We have much work to do and are grateful to those who’ve already helped us achieve so much. The kayaks are great, and the weather was perfect for a little Roosevelt Island circumnavigation. Rounding the Four Freedoms monument seemed to be a fitting commemoration of the honored fallen, who committed themselves to our freedoms of speech and worship, and to freeing us from want and fear.

HarborLAB is especially grateful to TF Cornerstone (growing neighborhood development in background) for being its first top-tier sponsor!

HarborLAB is especially grateful to TF Cornerstone (growing neighborhood development in background) for being its first top-tier sponsor! Photo by EJ Lee.

Photo by EJ Lee.

Photo by EJ Lee

We’re busy scheduling service days throughout the region. Stay tuned for summer programming for the general public!

Keep New York State’s Beaches Clean!



South Brother Island trash. Photo by Erik Baard.

South Brother Island trash.


HarborLAB is proud to participate in the annual September International Coastal Cleanup coordinated in our region by the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society thanks to the Ocean Conservancy‘s sponsorship. We’ll continue the tradition begun by Erik Baard of cleaning up South Brother Island, a harbor heron refuge, thanks to relationships with the Natural Resources Group of NYC Department of Parks and Recreation he forged through his Nature Calendar blog. We’ll also be cleaning up other shorelines as a part of regular programming. Naturally, we’ll start with our launch site!

While the great Five Gyres gathering plastics in our oceans are now beginning to capture rightful media notice, so many coastal ecosystems are harmed by plastic pollution. Many species are harmed by injecting plastic and becoming trapped in it.

We invite to join us in our cleanups and urge you to participate in other groups’ cleanups — maybe start your own! That link again:

HarborLAB is Afloat!


Our maiden voyage returns. Patricia Menje Erickson in the stern with Tiffany and Virginia on their first ever canoe paddle! Photo by Frank Christopher of Water Blues Green Solutions.

HarborLAB had a wonderful Saturday supporting the Bronx River Alliance’s 2013 Amazing Bronx River Flotilla! It was a thrill to help the Bronx River Alliance continue its traditions while launching our fleet for the very first time! As an eco-educational success story, the Bronx River Alliance holds many lessons for HarborLAB. Our boats and volunteers, together with volunteers from other groups, including Sebago Canoe Club and North Brooklyn Boat Club, augmented the Bronx River Alliance’s program to provide scores of canoe adventures for South Bronx residents.

For this event we used our Old Town Saranac 160 canoes, which are nearly luxurious with their back support, cup and rod holders, dry storage compartments, and other amenities. We enjoyed a full event day without rain — it fell in the morning and poured right after closing. The fun was captured on video and in photos by local media and Water Blues Green Solutions, an interactive documentary about community responses to flooding, pollution, and scarcity produced and directed by Frank Christopher.

The Bronx River Alliance had a neat system of allowing the public to choose between two docks — one for beginners wishing to share a canoe with an experienced volunteer, the other for those ready to set their own course. Volunteers paddling solo acted as shepherds for all. An especially sweet experience for HarborLAB volunteers was taking face-painted elementary school-aged kids up river in one canoe with their moms paddling in our other canoes. The kids made observations that naturally led to scientific inquiry. When one boy named A.J.noticed that trees were leaning low over the water, he asked if they’d fallen. But a girl named Isis noticed that the trees seemed healthy and green. What followed was a discussion about how trees “eat sunlight,” after a fashion, and compete for that energy by bending and stretching toward it.

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Photo by Sally Attia.

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Family outing on a HarborLAB canoe. Photo by Sally Attia.


Tiffany and Virginia return from their first canoe paddle. HarborLAB volunteers Patricia Menje Erickson in the stern, Erik Baard stabilizing the boat, and Sally Attia working the dock. Photo by Frank Christopher of Water Blues Green Solutions.

Part of HarborLAB’s mission is to extend other worthy organizations’ missions, so we were overjoyed to assist the Bronx River Alliance. Let us know if we can help your group by augmenting a water event or by extending your services onto the water!

The Young Man and the River.




HarborLAB met a very helpful young man named Andre at the Amazing Bronx River Flotilla. When asked if he lived near the river, he answered, “just a few blocks away!” He urged us to check out this video about his relationship with the water, which he credited with turning his life around. The Bronx River Alliance and its South Bronx partners do amazing work for youth and local ecology. HarborLAB has much to learn from the Bronx River Alliance!

Passing 400… Gulp!



Dr. James Hansen, who for decades led NASA’s most important climatology work, has often remarked that rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels will end the conditions in which civilization flourished — relatively stable weather patterns and cycles. CO2, along with water vapor, methane, and other emissions generated by industry, traps solar heat within the atmosphere. Hansen argues that we can bring our ancestors’ enviable conditions back for future generations by reducing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to less than 350 parts per million (before the Industrial Revolution it was about 275 ppm). One of the world’s most important CO2 monitoring stations, located in Hawaii, has detected average CO2 levels of 400 ppm.

Jansen’s not alone in his alarm. A consensus of scientists attributes severe and erratic conditions, from fires to floods in different regions, to the “greenhouse effect” of greater atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The oceans are straining too, absorbing so much CO2 that they are becoming too acidic for shellfish and corals to thrive. Hansen’s solution is simple but requires discipline and creativity: knock back human industrial and agricultural production of CO2 through better practices, especially in the production and conservation of energy.

All points of the Earth benefit from our decisions to conserve energy and to develop new sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and small hydro.

New York City’s Longest-Running Light Display?

The beautiful comb jelly. Credit: Clockwise from top left: L.L. Moroz & M. Citarella/Univ. of Florida; Dimijian Greg/Getty Images; © Ingo Arndt/Minden Pictures/Corbis; Boris Pamikov/Shutterstock; Dimijian Greg/Getty Images; Casey Dunn/Brown Univ.

For several summers, paddlers circumnavigating Manhattan at night have been delighted to spot comb jellies at the NW end of the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse on Swindler Cove. The Harlem River’s murkiness dulls the brilliance of these invertebrates with ferris wheel bioluminescence, but it’s still magical to see constellations light up below. Now, according to this article by Amy Maxmen, it seems this creature might radically revise our understanding of evolution. Does the comb jelly, and not the sponge, point to Earth’s first animals? Could animal life have become complex so rapidly? Did the animal kingdom arise twice?

HarborLAB will visit sites with comb jellies this summer. We hope such astonishing creatures will excite young people about science and the value in preserving our local natural environment.