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A Bright Solstice Paddle!




HarborLAB welcomed summer to Gantry Plaza State Park! The longest day of the year eased down into a glorious sunset that dappled the little cove touching the growing community of Hunters Point South. We used the event to educate our many participants about solar energy.

We distributed solar energy coloring books, instructions for making solar ovens from pizza boxes, passive solar design guides for youth projects, and sheets explaining how photovoltaics work. As usual we also gave away NY State Department of Environmental Conservation educational literature and flyers from the Waterfront Alliance, American Canoe Association, The River Project, US Coast Guard, and other organizations promoting water safety and ecology.

Fittingly, when our eyes follow the sun trail across the water, they come to both the United NationsUnited Nations and the Solar One alternative energy education center. On the shore behind us were terrific volunteers with Hunters Point Parks Conservancy pulling out invasive mugwort so that native plants can thrive.

NY1 News came out to video the fun and kindly shared our mission with viewers.

Thanks to a grant plaza from TF Cornerstone we’ll soon be able to offer basic kayak paddling lessons at Gantry Plaza State Park. Our “Instruction for Inclusion”program will fund lessons to certify a number of HarborLAB volunteers as American Canoe Association level 2 sit-on-top kayak instructors. Our aim is to build skills and confidence in participants in our Gantry programs so that they join longer harbor tours. We find that our open paddles within protected areas draw more diverse participation than our longer and often even more rewarding voyages. On that note, we were also to safely share the water with sponsor New York Waterway, with its East River Ferry service docking at Hunters Point throughout program hours.

We’re grateful to Waterfront Alliance and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation for coordinating access to Gantry Plaza State Park for HarborLAB’s free public programs. As always, it’s our volunteers who ultimately make these good things happen. A special thanks goes to Josue Silvestre, EIT, our water quality manager for testing the water at Gantry Plaza State Park each week for nitrates and sulfates and bringing samples to labs at CUNY LaGuardia Community College and The River Project for fecal bacteria, our safeguard against sewer overflows. We’ve found Gantry Plaza State Park to have the cleanest waters in western Queens, usually testing within safe swimming parameters. Josue was also there at the dock during the event, introducing fellow New Yorkers to their estuary.

Volunteer Steven Chu exuberantly welcomes new volunteer and novice paddler Yemi Abioye to the East River!

Another hero was safety patrol kayaker Diana Szatkowski, PhD, who received rave reviews from novice paddlers for her patient coaching, encouragement, and keen eye for each paddlers’ needs. Designated public paddling partner Steven Chu helped visitors become paddlers too, hopping into their boats for on-board cheer and guidance.

A huge thanks also to event volunteers Yemi Abioye, Philip Borbon, Mairo Notton, Erik Baard, Patricia Erickson, Evan O’Neil, Scott Wolpow, Dorothy Morehead, May May Cheng, Wing Ho, Greg Leopold, and Katherine Bradford! May May and Wing came through HarborLAB’s 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, Open Space Institute. They staffed the education and sign in table, fit participants with life vests and conducted them safely to the dock and into boats, and kept them safe on the water. Lots of work that we believe really makes a difference in the life of our city and in each individual participant.

Please enjoy the gallery below by Erik Baard.



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