HarborLAB and the Buddhist Council of New York produced a very happy Peace Lanterns Festival for thousands of participants of all faiths, philosophical traditions, and cultures to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace. Our venue was Gantry Plaza State Park, directly across the East River from the United Nations. HarborLAB Founder and Executive Director Erik Baard and Buddhist Council of New York President Rev. TK Nakagaki, D.Min. partnered to conceive and organize this henceforth annual Peace Day event, which builds upon the lantern ceremonies they began together in 2002, in response to the attacks of 9/11/01.
The day, dedicated to the relationship between peace and the environment, was also the largest ever public, on-water event within the Newtown Creek Superfund zone (.5 mile radius of the creek).
Our volunteers put over 200 people on the water for afternoon kayaking, distributed environmental education literature, painted faces, gave henna tattoos, and helped people decorate lanterns. The Origami Therapy Association instructed newbies in the contemplative art. Mambo Tse of Siren Protectors of the Rain Forest, a Brooklynite born in Cameroon and new HarborLAB volunteer, even led scores of people in a session of Afrodancercise! The public enjoyed these programs and our art supplies for free.
This joyful activity was accompanied by peaceful meditation practices led by recognized leaders in the field, and followed by interfaith prayers and remarks on the topic of peace and the environment by clergy, UN officials, and CUNY LaGuardia Community College biologist Sarah Durand, PhD (who collaborates on waterways ecology projects with HarborLAB). It all culminated in public participants setting afloat the 100 lanterns they decorated with messages and images honoring peace and the beauty of nature.
HarborLAB and the Buddhist Council of New York thank the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; the Interfaith Center of New York; the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace; United Nations Environment Programme; Vspot Latin Vegan Comfort Food (which provided snacks at cost); Fairleigh Dickinson University (which provided a speaker system); and as always, our sponsors (at this location, especially founding sponsors TF Cornerstone, the United Nations Federal Credit Union, Schuman Properties, Con Ed, and NY Waterway Ferry). We thank the Newtown Creek Group of companies in administrative settlement agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency for supporting HarborLAB through its outreach program for communities impacted by pollution legacies. We also thank Waterfront Alliance for helping negotiate the opening of this park to paddling and NYC Department of Parks and Recreation for accepting spillover viewing crowds.
HarborLAB volunteers Scott Wolpow, Diana Chang, Katherine Bradford, and Alex Sramek deserve special thanks for coordinating active sites throughout the day, and all of our volunteers — staff and event newcomers — did amazing work for public good. Thasnk you, thank you, thank you, volunteers!
Gallery by Diana Chang
Gallery by Erik Baard
Gallery by the Buddhist Council of New York and Stephen Whitley
Gallery by Sabrina Cruz
Gallery by Isabella Gomes