HarborLAB rocketed through its first year, providing public paddling to the metropolitan area’s two largest water ecology events, the Clearwater Festival and City of Water Day. We created unique programs for CUNY students and Hour Children kids, and helped middle school teachers participate in the Billion Oyster Project led by the New York Harbor School. Making the coming spring even more exciting, we struck an agreement with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and Catskill Watershed Corporation to bring free paddling programs to the Neversink Reservoir!
Now that we’re better situated, programs will ramp up in 2014! Some of our programs and events will be baked in long before the summer hear — City of Water Day, Clearwater Festival, Perseids Paddle, Sun Voyage, Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, Produce Paddles (to raise funds for food pantries), Cinema Paddles, South Brother Island Cleanup, Swim Across America (cancer care and research fundraising), tailored educational programs, community paddles, bird watching tours, and more! We’re turning to you to define “more.” 🙂
Below are just a few additional program ideas to speed our imaginations toward next summer. We’d love for you to vote for the ones you want to experience most — whether one or a dozen! Please also feel to add your own ideas. We’ll keep the survey running until our 2014 planning meeting.
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Division Commander Anthony Reardon.
Long Island City, HarborLAB’s home base, lost its greatest advocate for safety on the harbor on September 18. Tony Reardon was elected division commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in 2012 and served with the NYPD Harbor Unit Auxiliary, as a New York State certified safe boating instructor and teaching other classes. He was generous with his skills and encouragement, welcoming all to our local waters. He offered to provide safe boating classes to HarborLAB for free this winter. We’re saddened to not benefit from his tutelage but will follow through with his successors in his honor. Our condolences to his family and many friends.
This is a unique opportunity. Landing on South Brother Island is normally forbidden. Even NYC Parks staff rarely visits.
The Natural Resources Group of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation has kindly given us the opportunity to continue our volunteers’ tradition of removing plastic debris from South Brother Island as part of the American Littoral Society’s annual New York Beach Cleanup. We’re also grateful to our estuary stewardship and education sponsors, the United Nations Federal Credit Union, Con Ed, and the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Program (stemming from City of Water Day).
Our primary partner will be CUNY, to bring students on a roughly 1:1 ratio with volunteers. Our capacity is limited. We would welcome Rocking the Boat and Bronx River Alliance to participate if Parks approves and we can keep numbers small and manageable and stay to the same schedule.
Public paddlers will be invited to participate as new volunteers through our outreach (like here and Facebook), but must be screened, selected, and confirmed by HarborLAB — no general “walk ups” may come to the island or be waitlisted. HarborLAB participants must be over 18 years old, approved by HarborLAB (via professors, in the case of CUNY students), and bring waivers signed and dated, with the bottom note, “SBI.” Here’s our waiver: http://harborlab.org/waivers/
Participants must RSVP to email@example.com for this event. Subject line: South Brother Island. List your skills (we have needs far beyond paddling) and interests if you’re a prospective volunteer. Professors must provide student lists by Friday morning at 10:00 AM. Waitlisted guests can come to Barretto Point Park and have a great picnic if our boats are filled to capacity. We strongly encourage people on the waitlist to come, rather than have empty boats. If volunteers are willing and not exhausted, there’s a chance of a brief pleasure paddle along the Bronx coast for waitlisted people after the event.
Applicants for this event will be notified on Friday if they’re on the trip or waitlisted. Participants will receive more details via email.
South Brother Island is located between the Bronx mainland (and belongs to that borough) and Queens, twinned with the more famed North Brother Island. Also nearby are Rikers Island Prison and Randalls Island. It’s one of NYC’s most important Harbor Heron refuges and near the western extreme of the project boundary of the Long Island Sound Study. The nearest convenient park is Barretto Point Park, our launch site for the day.
Here are photos from one of the previous cleanups:
And a brief video of the Monarch butterfly migration sustained by the island’s goldenrod:
This cleanup began at our public initiative, it’s one of HarborLAB’s top service highlights, and we’re very grateful to NRG for making this unique educational opportunity possible. We make no pretense of removing most (or even much) of the plastic debris tossed by waves, wind, and wakes onto this beautiful little island. But we hope our outing will provide students of biology, environmental science, and photojournalism with experiential learning through service. Perhaps our work will also draw positive attention to the island, and thereby resources from foundations and donors.
We visit after the herons have migrated out and land our boats below the high water mark, but must remain extremely sensitive to the island’s ecosystem. NRG’s representative will provide direction or a veto in all matters regarding conservation and protection — where we land, clean, gather filled trash bags, etc.