Aboard with HarborLAB Oct 4 – Oct 11! (Tours, Events, Volunteer Opportunities)

thomas zellers,Though the public paddling season is drawing to a close, we still have fun paddles and volunteer opportunities! We’ll also have autumn and winter activities — as you’ve seen, HarborLAB is not merely a recreational paddling club, but a community organization dedicated to social good and environmental science service learning.

Here are a few events for the coming days.

Oct 5: GreenLaunch Work Day!  (POSTPONED FOR RAIN DAY)

9AM-2PM
 
53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, 11101 (directions: https://harborlab.org/location-and-directions/)
Email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line, “GreenLaunch Work Day” to participate.
Help HarborLAB create the GreenLaunch! We’ll remove bricks in the morning to donate to Build it Green. In the afternoon we’ll gather wildflower seeds, improve safety, and build planters and raised beds from wooden pallets (and other used wood) and used vinyl billboard posters. Students and artists will also make a Newtown Creek map on vinyl to permanently hang at our site, and decoratively paint the planters!
You needn’t be a big brute to help with the bricks. We’ll be hand carrying therm to two vans at the gate in small batches — don’t overdo it! And you needn’t be a Marie Cassatt to help with the painting either!
After 3PM volunteers are welcome to canoe the creek with volunteers or go for a brief skyline kayak tour!
Oct 5: Newtown Creek Photo BioBlitz!

https://www.facebook.com/events/571214066339086/
53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, 11101 (directions: https://harborlab.org/location-and-directions/)
Email tours@harborlab.org with the subject line, “Photo BioBlitz” to participate.
Come canoeing with HarborLAB to photograph the plants (especially spartina. milkweed, goldenrod), animals (especially ribbed mussels), and fungi that are cleaning the Newtown Creek and its shores!
HarborLAB volunteer Roy Harp will coordinate the tour, partnering with GrowNYC Environmental Educator Thomas Zellers. Sadly, because the Newtown Creek is a very polluted waterway, participating is by adult, informed consent. No minors.
We’re doing this in support of the Fall Mud Ball (https://www.facebook.com/events/1469669146637761/) bioremediation event, a fête thrown by Masters of Succession Collective at Smiling Hogshead Ranch urban farm.

To participate click “join” and email tours@harborlab.org with the subject line “Photo BioBlitz.” Roy Harp is the coordinator for this program.

We’ll map our finds bother electronically and on a community billboard at the farm that might be reused at the HarborLAB GreenLaunch.Those who arrive early can help gather milkweed seeds (this is Monarch Butterfly larvae’s sole food — http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/).

You’ll also see surprising areas of life, the city’s little-noted infrastructure, recycling plants. derelict old rail passes and bridges, egrets, herons, and other sights to delight an urban archeologist or naturalist alike. This trip requires some climbing.

HarborLAB is reviving a 125′ shoreline with Newtown Creek’s first true habitat restoration. Our “GreenLaunch” will have a reef of ribbed mussels at its base. We are consulting with experts at CUNY LaGuardia College and Cornel Cooperative Extension to understand how to best seed and nurture the mussels. The first step is to document where ribbed mussels are already living below the high water mark, and whether they’re thriving or struggling.

We’ll map our finds bother electronically and on a community billboard at the farm that might be reused at the HarborLAB GreenLaunch.Those who arrive early can help gather milkweed seeds (this is Monarch Butterfly larvae’s sole food — http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/).
You’ll also see surprising areas of life, the city’s little-noted infrastructure, recycling plants. derelict old rail passes and bridges, egrets, herons, and other sights to delight an urban archeologist or naturalist alike. This trip requires some climbing.
HarborLAB is reviving a 125′ shoreline with Newtown Creek’s first true habitat restoration. Our “GreenLaunch” will have a reef of ribbed mussels at its base. We are consulting with experts at CUNY LaGuardia College and Cornel Cooperative Extension to understand how to best seed and nurture the mussels. The first step is to document where ribbed mussels are already living below the high water mark, and whether they’re thriving or struggling.
Oct 5: SUBMERGE! NYC Marine Science Festival 
Email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line, “SUBMERGE” to participate.
HarborLAB needs volunteer ambassadors to participate in this exciting gathering of groups active in teaching and researching our estuary. This is a great fit for students. Share HarborLAB’s work, distribute postcards, network with educators, have fun, and be inspired!
Oct 11: Tree Giveaway! 
40-20 Broadway, LIC/Astoria (east of Steinway)
Email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line, “Tree Giveaway” to participate as a volunteer, or register through this link:  http://treegiveaways.com/qnlib
Trees drink up runoff waters that would otherwise overflow sewers into the estuary. They also breathe in CO2 that might otherwise be absorbed by oceans, making them more acidic. We need more trees!
HarborLAB is happy to again distribute 100 trees in partnership with The New Yorker Restoration Project, Triple R Events, and Queens Library at Broadway (4020 Broadway, Long Island City, NY 11103 — just east of Steinway) as part of MillionTreesNYC! Many thanks to New York Restoration Project and Triple R Events for being our partners in this event.
Volunteers set up at 11AM and some meet the tree shipment on Friday.
Giveaway starts Sunday at 1PM, first for those who registered online and then for those who’ve arrived without registering. All recipients must have permission to plant the trees on private property within the five boroughs of NYC.

HarborLAB and Queens Library Tree Giveaway!

Come get your pear, apricot, and fig trees at the Broadway Library in long Island City on October 11!

Better yet, come help HarborLAB to distribute the trees to city residents as a friendly and informative volunteer! HarborLAB and Triple R Events are coordinating and staffing a MillionTreesNYC and New York Restoration Project fruit tree giveaway from 1PM-3PM on Saturday, October 11.

HarborLAB coordinates tree giveaways each spring and fall. To help, email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line “Tree Giveaway.” Lynne Serpe and Erik Baard are managing outreach and volunteer coordination.

To register for your free tree, click here:

http://treegiveaways.com/qnlib

Why is an estuary group distributing trees? Plants and the soft earth surrounding them absorb rainwater that would otherwise overwhelm our sewer system. When our sewer system reaches maximum capacity, engineers must release untreated sewage into our waterways or back up into our neighborhoods and homes. Trees do a wonderful job of soaking up that excess water and using it to grow, or shedding it into air through leaves. Locally grown fruit also reduces our city’s carbon footprint, slowing sea level rise, ocean acidification and warming, and climate chaos.

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Brooklyn Bridge Brunch Sponsor Paddle

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HarborLAB shared a wonderful day a new sponsor, which is helping fund new safety equipment and other necessities for public programs. We put in at the growing HarborLAB GreenLaunch and paddled down to Red Hook, Brooklyn, with a stop-off at the Dumbo Arts Festival for creative and physical nourishment. The weather was perfect as we paddled with the ebb past our city’s incomparable skyline. We were surprised to see a duckling line of Rocking the Boats beautiful, hand-crafted wooden rowboats empty and towed up river. A posse of cigarette boats roared past in a rare display, while sea planes touched down and helicopters whirred. One of our participants introduced novelty with his Oru origami kayak, while a guide paddled a Cooper made by the established-yet-innovating Folbot.

A special thanks to Jeff Lim for driving our trailer and to Facilities Manager Patricia Menje Erickson, for preparing the boats from her wheelchair (recently broken ankle). Even though they weren’t able to share the fun of the paddle, they gave so much to its success. The very spirit of generosity.

If you’d like your corporate team to paddle with HarborLAB as volunteers or a sponsor, email support@harborlab.org! THANKS!

A Plum of a Day!

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Beach Plum Day, September 18, was absolutely wonderful! To our friends at OppenheimerFunds, Briermere Farms, Smiling Hogshead Ranch urban farm, and Hunters Point Community Middle School, we HarborLAB volunteers can’t thank you enough! We further readied the HarborLAB boat launch area for planting, taught kids about indigenous beach plums in the classroom and outside, built nurseries from wooden pallets, and helped kids start growing beach plums in pots made from soda bottles.

Much of this summer has been dedicated to creating a welcoming, green shore that fosters boat access, provides a peaceful oasis of indigenous flowers and fruits, and is a safe and useful space for educators. We call this the HarborLAB GreenLaunch.

A special thanks to HarborLAB volunteers Dorothy Morehead (interim chair of the Newtown Creek Alliance and Chair of the Queens CB2 Environmental Committee), who drove to Riverhead on Long Island’s East End to pick up beach plums, beach plum jam, and wintered-over beach plum pits. She also provided us with cacao shells to aerate soil and become compost. Briermere Farms owner Clark McComb donated the fruits and seeds, and is advising us each step of the way. Gil Lopez, HarborLAB’s edible landscaping designer and president of Smiling Hogshead Ranch, led the gardening portion while volunteer Mairo Notton, a skilled designer and fabricator, oversaw the assembly of our new shed, including leveling the ground. In both cases, 18 OppenheimerFunds employees formed the bulk of the work teams, and many of the materials were found on site. HarborLAB volunteer Lynne Serpe, who initiated and directed the Greening Queens Libraries program, was a guide and manager for the day’s volunteers. We also thank Hunters Point Community Middle School Principal Sarah Goodman for growing such a strong relationship with HarborLAB over the past two years and to science teacher Mary Mathai for engaging two of her classes — 50 students — in Beach Plum Day!

Why beach plums? As grassroots environmental pioneer Dave Lutz puts it, “Maybe New York City shouldn’t be called ‘The Big Apple,’ but ‘The Little Plum.'” When European explorers arrived in this Algonquin nation, the shores were resplendent with white flowers in spring and fat cherry-sized plums in late summer. In their journals, both Giovanni da Verrazzano and Henry Hudson remarked on this aspect of our estuary’s beauty. The fruits are a favorite with birds migrating through our region, and those that stay. These hardy plums still grow, even in sand dunes, in wealthy retreats like the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, and Cape Cod. Why not on the Newtown Creek?

Enter the HarborLAB GreenLaunch project! Beach plums are a central component of this unique grassroots engineering and conservation endeavor. Schuman Properties generously provides HarborLAB with 125’ of waterfront on the Newtown Creek. Using our own creativity and guidelines published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, we’re creating the Newtown Creek’s first marine-to-uplands native habitat restoration! This work also stabilizes the shoreline, resiliently securing the property and its surroundings. Other elements of the GreenLaunch include a Field Station for student observations and experiments, butterfly-supporting meadow flowers, indigenous fruit trees, boat storage, a composting toilet, water collection systems, raised beds and containers (for fruits for human consumption), and scientific innovations for alternative energy, water purification, an estuary library, and more. HarborLAB volunteer Roy Harp is heading up many technology efforts.

HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Menje Erickson is overseeing the implementation of the GreenLaunch project. Citizens Committee for NYC was the GreenLaunch’s first funder, and we seek support from the Hudson River Foundation, local elected officials, sponsors, and other grant giving organizations. Erik Baard conceived the GreenLaunch and drew its rough, working design. We continue to strongly urge New York City to turn the dead end of Vernon Boulevard into a bioswale pocket park to extend the contiguous green shore.

Ten Boats, Will Travel!

Roy Harp and assistant trailer engineer, Blue.

Roy Harp and assistant trailer engineer, Blue.

A huge thanks to HarborLAB volunteer Roy Harp for modifying our boat trailer to carry all ten of our tandem kayaks! That work, aided by the currently injured (no, not from kayaking!) Facilities Manager Patricia Menje Erickson, will enable us to increase our service to Gantry Plaza State Park and other locations where water is clean enough for kids and where youth and students can perform environmental service learning activities. For example, this summer HarborLAB paddled with Hour Children and CUNY students to remote islands to plant spartina and remove plastic trash.

Our thanks again to Jersey Paddler for the discounted purchase price and to Patricia’s crew, especially Mairo Notton, for improving the trailer upon receipt. Many thanks also to those who drive the trailer to make community programs possible — Patricia, Jeff Lim, Gil Lopez, and Roy.

We’ll put the trailer to work this Sunday in a fundraising paddle to support our environmental education work!

UN Climate Paddle!

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HarborLAB teamed up with the Hunters Point Community Middle School, the Environmental Cooperation Organization of CUNY Baruch College, and Lamar Outdoors to deliver a message in support the People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21. Our goal was simple:  to display a “350” banner in the water with the United Nations as a backdrop. Our civilization grew in an atmosphere that was composed of 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Because we’ve been burning so much carbon-loaded fossil fuel, currently we’re over 400ppm. The attendant consequences of releasing CO2, which traps heat, are ocean warming and acidification, sea level rise, chaotic weather patterns, air temperature rises, and the loss of whole species and ecosystems. NASA atmospheric scientists calculated that our best hope for the future is to quickly reduce the CO2 content of our air below 350 parts per million.

The banner was conceived by Erik Baard of HarborLAB and painted by Hunters Point Community Middle School students under the direction of art teacher and environmentalist Lucinda Kalin. The banner was the back of a used billboard advertisement donated by Lamar Outdoors. HarborLAB will permanently display the banner at its site for viewing by those crossing the Pulaski Bridge. The floats will be reused as safety perimeter lines.

Security concerns are high in the East River while world leaders are visiting the UN. Indeed, HarborLAB heard over its marine radios how divers were swimming beneath the waterline at the UN to check for bombs. Despite this heightened alert, the US Coast Guard and New York Police Department’s Harbor Unit were extraordinarily courteous and supportive of our effort, escorting us from the Newtown Creek to Gantry Plaza State Park. Within the cove of the park, we unfurled the banner for the public to view and take a moment to think about what’s at stake in the UN Climate Summit and in our daily decisions.

Many thanks to those who helped!

The United Nations Federal Credit Union supports HarborLAB with annual grants. So does TF Cornerstone, whose residents could see the banner from their windows, and Con Ed, which has made energy efficiency a core mission.
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HarborLAB volunteers conceived the idea, inspired by Bill McKibben (who paddled with us earlier), and the simplicity and necessity of the 350 message.
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Hunters Point Community Middle School painted the banner in a very readable way, on of the back of a used vinyl billboard ad donated by Lamar Outdoors.
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Baruch College student-led ECO (Environmental Cooperation Organization) provided the HarborLAB team to display the banner by kayak.
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Ron Kleiman, a member of the National Canoe Safety Patrol and a retired banner maker, led the banner float preparation and provided expert kayak safety assistance.
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The US Coast Guard reviewed and discussed plans with us in a very friendly and supportive way.
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The NYPD Harbor Unit continued this spirit of friendliness and help, going so far as to provide a very patient and professional safety escort.
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Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance worked with NY State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to welcome paddling into Gantry Plaza State Park.
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Ron Kleinman helping to pack away the banner and its floats. Hunters Point Community Middle School is the grey building at right in the background.

Ron Kleinman helping to pack away the banner and its floats. Hunters Point Community Middle School is the grey building at right in the background.

Hunters Point Kingfisher

There might be a Belted Kingfisher burrow in the earthen face of Hunters Points, where it drops into the East River and Newtown Creek mouth. HarborLAB spotted one last weekend while paddling with a group of CUNY Baruch College students from the Environmental Cooperation Organization. These beautiful, fish-eating, shallow diving birds typically nest 3′ to 6′ into a steep bank like that of Hunters Point, but can go as deep as 15′. They’re not often seen in these parts. It’s worth investigating whether development will be destroying its habitat, or if the coming park will restore slopes for this and other burrowing birds. It’s also very possible that this fellow was migrating south, given the season, and another sighting on the Bronx River just days before.

Looking carefully at these two photos (click to enlarge), you can see the bird on a bare branch overhanging the water.

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Okay, that distant silhouette has got to be a bit frustrating. Here’s a closer view of another of the species, on the Bronx River, taken by Charles Berenguer, Jr. at about the same time. Notice the beautiful composition.

beltedkingfisher

Still not satisfied? Here’s a closeup from the Cornell ornithology page. Note that coloring varies from blue to slate to near black. Females have more red banding beneath and, according to some sources, are slightly larger.

Interestingly, the species prefers riffles, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We lack those here, but perhaps the shallows and light turbulence of tidal currents passing through areas of rip rap rock, such as those that foot Hunters Point, might simulate it?

Newtown Creek Mussels Canoe Tour!

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SUNDAY, Sept 14
1PM (you must be on time)-6PM
53-21 Vernon Blvd.
LIC, NY 11101
Newtown Creek Mussels Tour:
Come canoe the Newtown Creek and photograph its fringe of hardy inhabitants, especially ribbed mussels.

You’ll also see surprising areas of life, the city’s little-noted infrastructure, recycling plants. derelict old rail passes and bridges, egrets, herons, and other sights to delight an urban archeologist or naturalist alike. This trip requires some climbing.

To participate click “join” on Facebook (event link above) and email tours@harborlab.org with the subject line “Mussel Tour.”
Roy Harp is the coordinator for this program.

Background:

HarborLAB is reviving a 125′ shoreline with Newtown Creek’s first true habitat restoration. Our “GreenLaunch” will have a reef of ribbed mussels at its base. We are consulting with experts at CUNY LaGuardia College and Cornel Cooperative Extension to understand how to best seed and nurture the mussels. The first step is to document where ribbed mussels are already living below the high water mark, and whether they’re thriving or struggling.

CAMPAIGNS:
Support Earth Day NY’s school gardening initiative!
Mark the 25th anniversary of Earth Day NY, our fiscal sponsor, by donating to its terrific new school nutrition and gardening program!
Join Citizens Committee for NYC, the first sponsor of the HarborLAB GreenLaunch project, in taking the BYOBag Challenge! Any paddler or marine biologist can tell you that one-use plastic bags are as much of a plague on our estuary as plastic bottles. Please join the effort to spare our waterways!

September 20: South Brother Island Cleanup!

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Come clean one of New York City’s most beautiful, forbidden realms. South Brother Island is a Harbor Heron refuge and therefore normally off-limits to landing. It’s a vital migratory stop for Monarch butterflies and home to egrets, cormorants, night herons, and many perching birds. The island is anchored by a wonderful eruption of 400-million year old bedrock with flows and folds that look like lava that cooled just yesterday. 

This service event also includes a thrilling kayak tour back to Hunters Point through Hell Gate and along the midtown skyline.

Sadly, the South Brother Island is also subjected to a wind-driven and tide-carried plague of plastics. HarborLAB volunteers are proud to clean the island each year as part of the New York State Beach Cleanup of the American Littoral Society and under the direction of the Natural Resources Group of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

If you can’t paddle to the island with us, you can take action to reduce plastic waste by eschewing one-use plastic water bottles and joining Citizens Committee for NYC in taking the BYOBag Challenge

Seating is limited. Proven volunteers, environmental group representatives, and students have priority. To request participation, please email tours@harborlab.org with the subject line “South Brother Island.” Additionally (but not instead of emailing) click “join” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1402448670007226/

Below are photos of South Brother Island by Erik Baard:

September 7 Saturday Science Stumper!

 

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It was a scientific triumph last spring when an instrument at the South Pole apparently detected gravity waves emanating from the Big Bang. But what instrument is this pictured above, that detects gravity beneath the waves? 

ANSWER TO LAST EDITION’S SATURDAY SCIENCE STUMPER:

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When the Benjamin Franklin and John Adams truce party crossed over the beach to meet British Admiral Richard Howe at a Staten Island estate, they may have stepped on glacially transported pebbles that held Favositid fossils from hundreds of millions of years ago. These honeycomb corals grew between roughly 300 million – 500 million years ago. The peace talks were doomed to failure, but perhaps they might have less agitated to revolution if they’d found this souvenir. After all, doesn’t it put the rush of human desires into perspective? Instead, this fossil was left to American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Carl Mehling to find at the estate, now the Conference House park, during his remarkable (and successful) quest to find fossils in all five boroughs in one year.