Huge Thanks to Today’s Gardeners!

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Left to right, Ira, Mary, Kieren, Zamira. Photo by Luke.

Many thanks to Ira Gershenhorn, Carolin Zayas, Meherunnisa “Mary” Jobaida, Zamira Kamal Khodjaeva, Kieren Rudge, and Luke O’Brien (not pictured in this series because he was the photographer) for coming down to organize our site, weed invasives, tend to our milkweed and other native species, monitor our oyster research station, and other important but often unsung environmental work.

HarborLAB operates from a small strip of waterfront on Newtown Creek, a US EPA Superfund site that needs all the love it can get, but which never be written off for dead. Waterfowl, aquatic mammals, migratory passerines, monarch butterflies, many species of fish, invertebrates, flowers and grasses, and more make their homes here.

Ira, Garden and Habitat Restoration Manager, and Carolin, Administration Manager, work many hours outside the public eye, so it can be difficult to attract volunteers to their projects. When folks do chip in, we are especially grateful. Today’s crew also had the opportunity to paddle and chat over snacks and drinks.

Again, THANKS!

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Ira and oysters (and other sea life along for the ride). Photo by Luke.

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Flowers and pokeberry. Photo by Luke.

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Milkweed seed pods. Photo by Luke.

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Zamira and Carolin. Photo by Luke.

Aug 18: Gardening and Paddling!

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Come garden and paddle the mouth of the Newtown Creek!

Location: 53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, NY 11101
Time: 8/18, 8-11am.

To participate, please email volunteer@harborlab.org.

Shareable event: https://www.facebook.com/events/365560090791300/

HarborLAB Gardening and Habitat Restoration Manager Ira Gershenhorn will teach you about our oyster monitoring station, lush stand of milkweed for monarch butterflies, fruit trees and bushes, sunflowers, seed balls and reef balls, and his vision for the future!

Participants can also paddle the creek from the East River to Pulaski Bridge with Carolin Zayas.

Drop by between 8am and 9am. Snacks and drinks provided. Please bring a reusable bottle. We’ll wrap up before the highest heat of the day.

Activities:

Milkweed seed harvest.
Weeding.
Biota surveying/photography.
Cleanup.
Organization.
Paddling.

2019 City of Water Day Report and Gallery

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

July 13: City of Water Day Paddling!

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2018 City of Water Day at Brooklyn Bridge Beach. Photo by Erik Baard.

Come join HarborLAB on City of Water Day for FREE KAYAKING under the Brooklyn Bridge and at Gantry Plaza State Park on the fabulous LIC waterfront! City of Water Day is produced annually by Waterfront Alliance to introduce New Yorkers to the natural and industrial life of their waterways. This citywide festival was begun on a much smaller scale in 2007 as the Five Borough Harbor Ramble by HarborLAB founder Erik Baard.

To volunteer for any aspect of HarborLAB’s programming on City of Water Day, please apply here:

https://forms.gle/Fjm8M1YQs63kLLMS8

HarborLAB volunteers will paddle from LIC to the Brooklyn Bridge in the early morning to provide public paddling from 10AM to 1PM. Then we’ll serve as the safety crew for the wacky Con Ed Cardboard Kayak Race! After the race heats conclude, we’ll paddle back to Gantry Plaza State Park to provide public paddling from 5PM to 7PM. From there we’ll paddle back to base!

We provide boats, paddles, and life vests to public paddlers. No reservations, but please understand that we close our sign-up list at least 30 minutes before our program ends. We thank our sponsors for the support to make these programs possible, especially TF Cornerstone, NYC Ferry, New York Waterway, the Hudson River Foundation’s Newtown Creek Environmental Fund, and the community outreach effort of the Newtown Creek Group of potentially responsible parties at our local US EPA Superfund site. We also thank Waterfront Alliance for their partnership and re-granting of event funds.

A special thanks to Better Chinatown USA and Hunters Point Parks Conservancy volunteers for working shoulder-to-shoulder with us to provide these programs at Brooklyn Bridge Beach and Gantry Plaza State Park respectively.

Our shareable links with event location and information are here:

Brooklyn Bridge Beach
https://www.facebook.com/events/411571429438578/

Gantry Plaza State Park
https://www.facebook.com/events/2320997341493287/

Please note that Facebook is not a means of volunteer registration.

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Gantry Plaza State Park kayaking. Photo by Erik Baard.

 

 

 

 

New HarborLAB T-Shirt Backs!

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Our new volunteer shirts will add educational value to the usual display of gratitude to our sponsors and grant givers. Two hourly panels from the 12 that make up New York Harbor’s tidal current cycle give viewers a snapshot of how water moves through our city. We hope you find it beautiful and informative!

Pride Paddle 2019 on June 28!

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Photo by Erik Baard

Come join HarborLAB at Gantry Plaza State Park for a FREE sunset paddle on Friday, June 28 (6-9PM)! We’re producing this event to celebrate the last weekend of Pride Month, and are embracing the chance to support local LGBTQ+ students in their pursuit of sustainable Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers!

When you come paddling, please consider making a donation to the scholarship fund of the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP)! Our event is entirely free and we provide boats, life vests, and paddles. If you’re moved to donate to our scholarship fund with NOGLSTP, you can bring a check made to NOGLSTP with the memo line “HarborLAB Pride Paddle” or donate online here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/harborlabpridepaddle

We hope you can join us as a paddler, or better yet, as a volunteer! We need volunteers to staff the sign-in table, fit life vests, to load and unload, and other roles.

June 28
Gantry Plaza State Park
Volunteer registration:
https://forms.gle/MUAcEGHaAv452K9Z6
Shareable promotional link:
https://www.facebook.com/events/480576862759760/

Learn more about this need:

LGBTQ+ students are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, and have a much higher drop out rate than their straight classmates.  Read more about this problem below. As an environmental organization, HarborLAB recognizes the need to cultivate and encourage all talent as we tackle the climate crisis and other challenges to our living world.

“Why is Science So Straight?”
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/05/opinion/manil-suri-why-is-science-so-straight.html

“Out of the Closet, Into the Lab.”
https://www.mskcc.org/blog/out-closet-lab-five-lgbtq-scientists-share-their-stories

“Sexual Minorities Drop Out of Science Majors at a Higher Rate.”
https://cen.acs.org/articles/96/i12/Sexual-minorities-drop-science-majors.html

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Photo by Inga Sarda-Sorensen

 

 

Solstice Weekend Happenings!

Paddle with us!

Whether you adore the skyline at sunset or exploring blissful outer reaches of the city, HarborLAB has a spot on a kayak for you!

June 21

Summer Solstice Sunset Paddle!
Gantry Plaza State Park
Volunteer registration:

https://forms.gle/XG9T2CZz5MGFDTxQ6
Shareable link for promotion:

https://www.facebook.com/events/480576862759760/

Many thanks to sponsors TF Cornerstone, Hudson River Foundation, and NY Offce of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. 

June 22

Kayak the Bay!
Little Bay Park
Volunteer registration:

https://forms.gle/RtJ7Fj2LoF1mnALD9
Shareable link for promotion:

https://www.facebook.com/events/313997426175167/

With Waterfront Alliance. 

June 23

Kayak and Coastal Cleanup!
MacNeil Park
Volunteer registration:

https://forms.gle/yA2rbZHrMF86DKWWA
Shareable link for promotion:

https://www.facebook.com/events/403400090258941/

With Coastal Preservation Network. 

June 29

Kayak the Bay!
Little Bay Park
Volunteer registration:

https://forms.gle/6jEHzUPe54nYN3DE9
Shareable link for promotion:

https://www.facebook.com/events/498029927666748/

With Waterfront Alliance. 

2019 Draft Events Schedule

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We have a fun summer ahead! Below is by no means a complete schedule of events and activities, but a running list of likely highlights. Confirmed events are in bold. Senior HarborLAB volunteers and board members will consult to confirm or eliminate those tentative events not in bold. More excitingly, they’ll add new ones!

Of particular interest are our revived gardening group, boat building, our work to launch a West Harlem program, and efforts to move our boats to the 2nd Street launch in LIC.  Stay tuned to see those show up on our calendar!

In the coming days these events will populate our website calendar, Facebook list, and registration forms.

May 4 – LIC Sweep, with Riverkeeper.

May 18 – Red Cross Safety Certifications.

May 25-27 – Memorial Day at Neversink Reservoir. Season opener on pristine Catskill Mountain water!  

May 30 – (CANCELED for thunder forecast and water quality concerns because of Tuesday’s sewer overflows. Second Henge Paddle on July 11) Henge Paddle! See the sun set through Manhattan’s grid.  

 

June through October — Neversink Reservoir Paddling. We’ll have a Doodle seeking likely available dates for volunteers and students to staff these key events.

 

June 1 – Kayak the Bay, with Waterfront Alliance at Little Bay Park

June 2 – Family Earth Fair, with Coastal Preservation Network at MacNeil Park.

June 5 – World Environment Day Evening Community Paddle. Enjoy a splash with a view at Gantry Plaza State Park.

June 8 – (POSTPONED to 2019, or until we have active Puerto Rican community partners. Paddle for Puerto Rico.) Raise funds and awareness for recovery from Hurricane Maria.

June 15, 16 – Clearwater Festival! Join water ecology heroes and music mavens for a joyous weekend.

June 21 – Solstice Paddle. Celebrate the longest day while paddling in Gantry Plaza State Park.

June 22 – Kayak the Bay! Little Bay Park.

June 23: Clean Air Day Power Paddle. Paddle to see East River electricity plants (past, present, and emerging tech) to learn about how energy production has generation by generation gotten cleaner. 

June 29 – Kayak the Bay! Little Bay Park.

June 30 – Pride Paddle: Close LGBTQ Pride Month with a Manhattan Circumnavigation to support LGBTQ students in STEM fields.

 

July and August — Harbor Camp. We’ll have a Doodle seeking likely available dates for volunteers and students to staff these key events.

 

During the weekdays of July and August we aim to serve even more community centers and youth groups with special paddling programs at Gantry Plaza State Park and Neversink Reservoir. We also seek to serve schools when NYCDOE policies allow.

July 4: Volunteer Reward Fireworks Paddle.

July 11 – Henge Paddle. See the sun set through Manhattan’s grid.  

July 13 –  City of Water Day, with Waterfront Alliance, Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, and others. Paddle for our region’s largest annual harbor festival! Brooklyn Bridge Beach and Gantry Plaza State Park shoreline cleanup and paddle, plus paddles linking the locations.

July 14 – City of Water Weekend at Neversink Reservoir. Paddle on the source of your drinking water!

August 17 – Overnight Circ Volunteer Reward Paddle. See our city by kayak at night, with a sharp eye for bioluminescence and crepuscular creatures.

September 10 – Life Affirmation Paddle. Paddle in the morning to support organizations who aid those might otherwise lose their lives or love ones to suicide.

September 21 – Peace Lanterns Festival. Our annual celebration of World Peace Day with paddling, contemplation, and arts.

September 22 – South Brother Island seeding and cleanup.

October 5 – White Island seeding and cleanup with Pratt Institute’s Blue Week crew.

Oct 12-14 – Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day at Neversink Reservoir. Season closer.

Red Cross AED, CPR, First Aid Training Registration.

redcrossMay 18, 8AM-2PM.
LaGuardia Community College, room TBD.

Registration link: CLICK HERE.

Enrollment: 12.
Proven volunteers and critical programs will be prioritized, but we’ll consider inclusion of committed newer volunteers. If funding permits, we’ll strive for additional training to grow our ranks of qualified volunteer leaders.

Please respond by May 13 at 3PM.
Please, no cancellations after May 16 at 3PM.

HarborLAB’s insurance requires program leadership by volunteers with Red Cross certification in adult and pediatric AED, CPR, and First Aid, along with a water safety class (to be offered this summer). The land-based certifications expire after two years, so if you were certified in 2017, you must renew now.

Note: Completion of a water safety class is good for life. We’ll offer that class to volunteers this summer.
Note: We have a particular need of certified volunteers for our weekday Harbor Camp and Neversink programs.
Note: HarborLAB has a limited ability to reimburse individual training sessions elsewhere, but these are more expensive and require more administrative work.

This safety training is funded by ExxonMobil as part of a community outreach effort associated with cleaning up its Newtown Creek pollution, centered in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

How White are Green and Blue?

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a useful day to reflect on how the environmental movement manifests our nation’s civil rights goals. We’ve certainly increased awareness of environmental injustices that disproportionately hurt people of color and women, and serve a wider community with educational programs. But we’ve done so while our own leadership has backslid toward less diversity and inclusion, according to a recently released annual audit by Green 2.0.

Grist further examines the report and the issues it raises.

The assessment relied on voluntary self-reporting, and several notable environmental charities declined to participate. The central thrust, however,  is confirmed by our volunteers’ observations. Because of historic racism that excluded African Americans and others from public swimming pools and beaches (and costs associated with maritime recreation) leadership in waterways groups tends to be white, even in a multicultural hub like New York City. HarborLAB itself was founded with a mission of inclusion in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields by a white man who serves as Executive Director, and the majority of our Board is the same. We’re very encouraged that HarborLAB’s rising volunteer leaders include more women and people of color than is typical among on-water programming groups without paid staff.

As HarborLAB explores paths forward toward adding paid professional staff, independently with a larger Board or through affiliation with a higher education institution, we commit to growing our diversity and inclusion. We’ll always seek ways to bring free educational and recreational opportunities to all, especially those who have traditionally been underrepresented in maritime life and environmental science. Thank you for joining us in these efforts, and sharing the joyful fruits of progress.