Vernon Blvd at Newtown Creek

What does Queens Deserve?

Dear Friends,

Municipal agencies have ignored years of direct communication from stakeholders, including HarborLAB, about how the Newtown Creek end of Vernon Boulevard might be improved when needed reconstruction takes place, Because we’ve reached a point where our silence will allow a wasteful plan to proceed, Newtown Creek Alliance has posted a public petition

I encourage you to read it. There’s an opportunity to sign, as I did, if you choose. 

HarborLAB is deeply grateful to the NYC Economic Development Corporation for its partnership at Hunters Point South and other shorelines, and to the NYC Department of Transportation for its work to improve ferries and widen the reach of bicycling in areas HarborLAB serves. So it pains us to see years of our work ignored in the agencies’ planning for the street end where our canoe fleet is based and where we continue to restore habitat on private land. To appreciate the degree to which Queens has been disrespected, please contrast the most recent community proposal with the plan poised for implementation (above), and contrast our Vernon Boulevard site in LIC with its twin street end yards away across Newtown Creek, Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue Park (below).  

 

I’ve participated in community visioning efforts for the betterment of this potential safe access point to Newtown Creek for two decades. Though designs have evolved, core recommendations have been remarkably consistent. We want kayak launches, temporary docking, habitat restoration, shaded sitting areas, and resilience in the face of increasing climate chaos. All the while the City neglected deteriorating infrastructure on the Newtown Creek waterfront of Queens, let violent crime and property damage go largely unchecked, and turned a blind eye to squatting. None of these conditions are endemic to the Brooklyn side of the creek. 

If the NYCEDC/NYCDOT plan goes forward, it will be impossible to later integrate the elements we require. The supposed rush to build is solely born of the City’s negligence to date. New residents are coming to Hunters Point South and commercial developments could stretch east to Vernon Boulevard .The malignancy of this asymmetry between Vernon Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue is a shameful disservice to people living and working in Queens today and those who’ll follow. I hope we and our community partners like Newtown Creek Alliance can work with elected officials and our friends in these city agencies to prevent this wrong and leave a fitting legacy. 

Sincerely,

Erik Baard
Executive Director
HarborLAB

Support HarborLAB’s Growth!

HarborLAB’s volunteers wish you and your loved ones a safe, peaceful, and hopeful holiday season. Hope helps us look past the pandemic, and we ask you to contribute to HarborLAB’s role in building that great future. With our Hunters Point South boathouse in Gotham Organization’s new development just over the horizon and calls for our services throughout the NYC metropolitan area, we need to purchase boats, safety gear, educational materials, and secure storage to meet these needs.

Please consider donating to HarborLAB here: https://harborlab.org/donateorsponsor/

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at support@harborlab.org.

HarborLAB volunteers caring for White Island and South Brother Island.

HarborLAB has refocused on environmental stewardship and online education during the pandemic because public paddling programs aren’t safe. This summer and autumn we partnered with the Natural Resources Group of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and Riverkeeper to clear shorelines of plastics and invasive plants, and seed them with native species on White Island in Brooklyn, South Brother Island in the Bronx, and Newtown Creek in LIC, Queens. We’re now gathering seeds to make seedballs to continue strengthening coasts and habitats in 2021. Each week from May to October we sampled water from Gantry Plaza State Park and the Hunters Point South Boat Launch at 2nd Street for our partners at the NYC Watertrail Association to test for sewage bacteria. At Vernon Boulevard on Newtown Creek our native garden produced milkweed, goldenrod, and sunflowers for butterflies and other essential pollinators, and we transferred oysters that were struggling with pollution to a Hudson River site in West Harlem.

In 2021 we’ll continue this work, expand upon it, and gradually and safely reach out to include the general public, environmental groups, and college students in our field work and tours, following COVID-19 protocols. 

HarborLAB’s volunteers have provided free educational and recreational programs since 2012, often working on rough and rocky beaches in areas lacking boathouses. In addition to our open paddles at the Gantry Plaza State Park dock, we’ve served thousands at locations as diverse as under the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, northern Queens at Little Bay Park and MacNeil Park, Coney Island Creek at Kaiser Park, and Willow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Our boats have taken a beating, so for safety’s sake we need to replace a number of them. The pandemic has also made our Vernon Boulevard dead end at Newtown Creek a more desolate and dangerous place, with recent assaults gaining media attention. A few of our boats and gear items have been stolen and damaged by trespassers. Our replacement boats will not go to this site, but rather be stored securely until we move into the Hunters Point South Boathouse and begin programming in coordination with Gotham Organization, RiseBoro, and other community partners. 

Thank you again for your participation in HarborLAB programs, and we hope you can support our renewed growth for a happier era! 

Sincerely,

Erik Baard
Executive Director
HarborLAB