2019 City of Water Day Report and Gallery



Brooklyn Bridge Beach. Photo by Yan Cheng.

HarborLAB volunteers had a wonderful time partnering with Waterfront Alliance and Hunters Point Parks Conservancy to produce two programs for City of Water Day, one at Brooklyn Bridge Beach and the other at Gantry Plaza State Park. See our photo gallery here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/qHexPHCF4ABfDiWE6

City of Water Day was a great chance to debut some new materials. We had new t-shirts with sponsor logos and an educational tidal current chart on the back; “mushroom anchors” for our buoys; and a high tech inflatable kayak. The shirts got rave reviews and  the buoys worked well yet were easy to deploy and haul in, even from a kayak. Both volunteers and public paddlers loved the new kayak, which could point to new directions for us. A special thanks to HarborLAB Administrative Manager Carolin Zayas and Captain Margaret “Maggie” Flanagan for helping to keep resources and people organized ahead of event and as it was underway.

Volunteers gathered at 7AM to organize and launch on the ebb to paddle from our home base on the Newtown Creek to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. the beach under the bridge is normally forbidden to the public, from shore or landing from water. HarborLAB Founder Erik Baard was one of the organizers of a fanciful ‘protest luau’ on the beach well over a decade ago to encourage the City to reconsider its policies. Beginning last year Waterfront Alliance has obtained access permits for City of Water Day events from the NYC Economic Development Corporation, which operates the property in the public trust. Waterfront Alliance also provided a small grant to cover HarborLAB’s expenses for the day.

Thanks to HarborLAB’s diversity, a large contingent of our volunteers are speakers of various Chinese dialects, strengthening our ability to serve the public so near Chinatown. A special hat tip to Jeff Lim and Yan Cheng for the outreach that built that part of our volunteer community.

HarborLAB provided free public kayaking at Brooklyn Bridge Beach during the first half of the day. Recognizing the stronger currents and ill-defined boundaries of the area, HarborLAB assigned a regular volunteer to the stern of each boat, taking a public paddler at the bow and often a child in between. We placed buoys between the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge and paddled between them in an endless loop, swapping out public paddlers at the beach. In the afternoon we were the safety support team for the annual Con Ed Cardboard Kayak Race, which was as zany as ever. Competition was comic yet fierce, resulting in a few thoroughly wet participants. Safe fun for all, shattering outdated myths about our waterways.


East River paddling to Gantry. Photo by Laura Picallo.

The paddle back was smooth and enjoyable, with some great chop as we passed the Williamsburg Bridge. We were grateful for the safety and courtesy of the NYC Ferry and NY Waterway captains, both sponsoring companies, who slowed for our passage and communicated with us by marine radio.

Landing at Gantry Plaza State Park made set up super easy, with boats already in place to serve the public. We’re very grateful to Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, especially Casey Chamberlain, for helping us on the dock, and to TF Cornerstone, which is a primary supporter of programming at Gantry Plaza State Park.


Gantry Plaza State Park. Photo by Casey Chamberlain of Hunters Point Parks Conservancy.

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Photo by Erik Baard.

At last volunteers shared a final paddle back to base toward sunset, again on the ebb. One of the volunteers who put in a whole day — aiding all programs — was Yue Chan, who also leads weekly water sampling at Gantry Plaza State Park and Hunters Point South Park for quality testing at LaGuardia Community College through a NYC Watertrail Association program, in cooperation with Riverkeeper. Yue Chan is also helping HarborLAB grow its LGBTQ+ programming. Stay tuned for that!