Nov. 5: Canoe for Butterflies and Plants!


Black swallowtail on purple milkweed at HarborLAB. Photo by Erik Baard

Plant and butterfly survey training and optional canoe trip.

Nov. 5: 10AM-230PM.
53-21 Vernon Blvd LIC 11101

FREE. Open to all volunteers willing to teach others. This work is important to our shared goal of a greener, better understood Newtown Creek shoreline ecosystem. HarborLAB needs to develop team leaders so that we can document the creek and then remote islands of the harbor.

RSVP by Friday, Nov. 4 at 5PM to NCA:

Updated Details:

There are pollutants assaulting the Newtown Creek’s ecosystem from silt to sky, but we must never forget that this is still a living place. HarborLAB will assist Hudsonia and the Newtown Creek Alliance in a new project to survey and photo-document the plants and butterflies surrounding the creek and upload that data to iNaturalist.

This is fun and meaningful stuff, and a great opportunity for bio nerds and shutterbugs alike!

HarborLAB urgently requested that the EPA to sample plant tissue as part of its environmental study of the creek, and we were quickly supported by NCA and Riverkeeper. We plant native species and distribute seedballs throughout the creek area. Our GreenLaunch home base is rich with native grasses, bushes, trees, and wildflowers like milkweed that we’ve planted and tended to restore habitat. This Hudsonia/NCA project perfectly harmonizes with our work.

Please download the iNaturalist app. We strongly recommend that you bring an external battery to keep your phone charged or to recharge after the event.  

Schedule subject to modification by Lisa Bloodgood of NCA.

10AM-1145AM: Gather at HarborLAB (53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, NY 11101). Training and surveying done on site. Signed waivers required.
1145AM-1215PM: Lunch.
1215-2PM: Field work! Survey the area by foot and canoe! Put that training into practice to reinforce your learning.
230PM: All boats and gear stowed away.

Notes on canoeing: Preceded by a safety talk, orientation, gear preparation. Please be very cautious when using the dock, ladder, and stairs. We’re unable to properly install our larger dock and access because of squatting sailboat owners. Course will be directed by Lisa Bloodgood of NCA within the bounds of Second Street and Dutch Kills on the Queens side. All boats stay close together and near shore to avoid larger vessel traffic. Diana Szatkowski leads.

General notes: Please forgive the chaos of our sheds. Our organization day is Nov. 18. 

Full explanation by Lisa Bloodgood of Newtown Creek Alliance:


Hello Budding Botanists and new Project Leaders!

Welcome to NCA’s newest project with our partners at Hudsonia, the Plant, and Butterfly survey of Newtown Creek! Each of you either expressed an interest in being a leader or being involved in the project in some way. This email will provide you with your first introduction to the project and instructions for getting started with us this season.

Project overview: With our partners at Hudsonia and all of you we will spend the coming year identifying, collecting, and documenting all of the many plants within 100 meters of the Creek. We will create a field guide for the public and have a greater understanding of the diversity of plant species and their distribution along our beloved and beleaguered waterway.

At the training we will show you how to use iNaturalist, the app we will be using throughout the duration of the project. I strongly recommend downloading the app to your phones now and trying it out on a walk over the next few days. We have created a project titled “Newtown Creek” where the teams you will lead, will track and record observations of plants, butterflies and any other critter you happen upon. This is crucial to the project and will be the main data collection technology we will use. It is super cool and lends to a greater pool of biodiversity information.

We will show you some of the most common plants you will find along the Creek, how to take a good photo, how to use a dichotomous key for identification, how to collect and press plants for a herbarium, and probably a few other things. We will go over safety protocols, get you ready to manage your volunteer teams, and get you ready to work by water as well – we will be working with both HarborLAB and the North Brooklyn Boat Club for our water-bound assessment work. I am attaching an overview map of the creek – we will provide you with a more detailed map at the training – and here is a link to the Biodiversity Assessment Handbook for New York City put together by Erik Kiviat of Hudsonia and Elizabeth Johnson. You are encouraged to make yourself as familiar with all of these resources as your time allows for before we meet. If you just show up ready to learn on Saturday that’s just fine too, we’re preparing other resources for you.

Next steps: Let’s all see how we do with the training, and how favorable the weather will be into November before we make too many plans for the end of fall. We want to tackle some of the accessible land access sites to get us all comfortable with the work and knock out as much as we can in English Kills by water before we lose all our foliage to the winter. English Kills is far more pleasant in this weather than in summer.

All of us at Newtown Creek Alliance and Hudsonia are so very excited for this project and to be working with you all! Please don’t hesitate to ask me any question now or in the future and if you aren’t sure if you can commit to the entirety of this project, come and try it out, we can play it by ear going forward. We know you have something great to contribute!! You can text or call me anytime (within reason of course).

Please RSVP for this coming weekends training we need to know who is coming and who can’t make it! If you know anyone else that might be interested in working on this project please share this email!

See you soon and thank you for supporting NCA and the work we do – we couldn’t do it without you!!!

Important links:

Oct 12: Afternoon Creek Paddle!


Creek Paddle – Day in the Life of the Hudson Estuary

Oct 12, 1pm-4pm
53-21 Vernon Blvd
LIC, NY 11101

As usual, FREE. 🙂

Description of the theme from the NY DEC: “On one day each autumn, thousands of students from New York City to Troy participate in the annual “A Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor” event. Students collect scientific information to create snapshots of the river at dozens of locations, then share their data via the web so they can better understand how their piece of the river fits into the larger Hudson estuary ecosystem. “A Day in the Life” is sponsored by DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program and produced with assistance from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.”

To join HarborLAB’s paddle please read the details below and email with the subject line “Day in the Life Paddle.” Please tell us your age, affiliation, paddling experience, and any special needs. Thanks!

1PM: Gather at HarborLAB (53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, NY 11101)
130PM: Launch!

Canoe the Queens bank of the Newtown Creek. Please photograph flora, fauna, vessel traffic, environmental problems, industry and industrial relics, and other scenes you feel capture the state of the creek today.

We’ll also collect and tabulate plastic trash. We encourage students to sample water, mosses, and soil for testing.

330PM: Return. Pack away.
4PM: Done!


Side note: 7AM: Erik Baard will sample water for delivery to CUNY LaGuardia Community College for bacteria testing. Volunteers and students are welcome to join.

This water sampling is special to this event but identical to our regular NYCWTA practice. More here:

HarborLAB in the “Heroes of the Harbor” Boat Parade!


HarborLAB volunteers Dee Dee Maucher, Sanjay Shirke, and Scott Wolpow represented our organization in the Boat Parade, a highlight of Waterfront Alliance’s annual “Heroes of the Harbor” gala at Chelsea Piers.

We were represented at the dinner itself by Carolin Zayas, who took these marvelous photos, and Dorothy Morehead.

Below is our description for the Speaker’s Notes:

The “LAB” in HarborLAB stands for “Learning – Adventure – Boating” and this group of volunteers and students fulfills that calling by canoeing and kayaking our watershed and estuary, sharing meaningful fun. HarborLAB’s special focus is communities who are underrepresented in New York City’s maritime life and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) studies and careers. All educational and stewardship programs are free.

HarborLAB’s tours include informative talks about alternative energy, vital species, and indigenous history. Tours also incorporate activities including seeding native plants, weeding invasives, cleaning up plastic pollution, documenting wildlife, and sampling water and soil for testing. HarborLAB also provides classroom activities and lectures, and works with students to build bat and bee houses and unique boats made from upcycled waste materials and invasive plants like bamboo and phragmites reeds.

HarborLAB is based on the Newtown Creek and actively educates about that Superfund waterway’s cleanup needs. HarborLAB volunteers and students have planted a 140’-long habitat restoration at their launch and will in 2018 install a learning laboratory. HarborLAB provides children’s programs at nearby Gantry Plaza State Park and in suitable waters throughout the city. HarborLAB’s second boat fleet is on the Neversink Reservoir in the Catskill Mountains, so that NYC public school classes and youth groups can experientially learn about – and care about — their drinking water sources.




“Teachers and Elders Paddle” Memories

IMG_9042 (1)

Honoring the mother-in-law and grandmother at the Teachers and Elders Paddle.    🙂

HarborLAB closed our season of open paddles at Gantry Plaza State Park with a Teachers and Elders Paddle, honoring the formal and informal ways wisdom and knowledge are transmitted down the generations. See our gallery below.

Our theme was inspired by this week’s International Day of Older Persons and UNESCO World Teachers’ Day.  We can’t recommend this series of videos enough:

Forces of Nature
Environmental Elders Speak

The day went smoothly, with good cheer spilling over from the nearby Hunters Point block party to raise awareness about funds to combat breast cancer. Families joined us for intergenerational fun afloat under a clear and sunny sky. Paddlers left with environmental and safe paddling literature provided by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, the American Canoe Association, and HarborLAB itself. Throughout the event volunteers Diana Szatkowski and Scott Wolpow gave kayaking instructions and tips to newbies. As always our experienced paddlers shared tandems with novice ones who requested it.


Scott Wolpow taking new paddlers through basic strokes. 

“This event has special meaning for me because my mother is a teacher,” said volunteer Filoma Fung-Khee, who staffed our education table with Xianmiao Zhang. Yan Cheng’s mother paired with him as volunteers for the event, carrying  boats and seeing that all paddlers had snugly fit life vests.

One unseen but now not unsung hero was Jessica Grable, who installed the safety ladder HarborLAB purchased for Gantry Plaza State Park.


New flip-up aluminum safety ladder funded by HarborLAB and installed by Jessica Grable, improving safety for all at Gantry Plaza State Park. 

Many thanks also to volunteers Patricia Erickson, Kenny Unser, Cameron Fearey, and Emanuel “Manny” Steier for making this event such a heartwarming success. Our gratitude to the NY State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, to Waterfront Alliance, and to our sponsors for enabling us to provide this meaningful service to all.