June 13 Gardening and Paddling Memories.

HarborLAB volunteers, led by Niki Bali-Keyes, tended to our native shoreline restoration and canoed Newtown Creek on Sunday. The photos here are by Niki, Yan Cheng, and Luke O’Brien. Special thanks to Phillip Borbon and Mairo Notton for taking the time to help with set up and pack away! Phillip also regularly removes plastic trash that blows over our way.

Ira Gershenhorn manages our native plants. When we arrived in 2012 we set about transforming a crumbling bulkhead and bank with fresh earth made by composting cocoa husks and burlap donated by MAST Brothers chocolate and our own kitchen scraps. We protected our new waterfront with façade bricks stranded by a canceled construction project, placed to stabilize the soil and attenuate waves and wakes. We then planted a considerable amount of native milkweed and goldenrod, serviceberry (shadbush), hackberry, and American persimmon (we need to add more of these!). We’re also growing cultivars like apricot, Asian pear, and apples.

The crew also canoed the creek, using the Hunters Point South public boat launch that HarborLAB’s founder first proposed in 2003 and which our organization regularly cleans. Each week from May through October for years HarborLAB volunteers (currently Sanjay Shirke) sample water at the launch for quality testing through a NYC Watertrail Association program. The boat launch is adjacent to a coming boathouse that the City, Gotham Organization, and RiseBoro announced would be the “HarborLAB boathouse” in 2017 (we have no dock due to sailboats crowding our shore and for almost a decade HarborLAB has lacked interior space, so lack security and our equipment is weather beaten). We responded recently to a Request for Proposals asking that those partners affirm their choice of HarborLAB as boathouse operator, with a Columbia University program for NYC public school students agreeing to be HarborLAB’s educational partner to fully activate the space for community good.

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