June 6: Pride Paddle!

Photo by Inga Sarda-Sorensen

Celebrate Pride Month and to learn about our waterways!

Please let us know if you’ll be participating in this free event.by registering by Saturday, 6/4/2021 at noon here:


Please note that we are in for a hot day, so look after yourself with proper sun protection and cold water from the tap in a reusable bottle. Also please be on time because the tides wait for no one! 
We welcome you to wear rainbow regalia and to fly flags but let’s not have any of it end up in the water!  🙂
Please let us know if you’ll be participating.by registering by Friday at 9pm here:

Everyone helps carry boats and gear down to the water and up.  Please be very careful to not damage the hulls of our kayaks on rocky shores and -the rough ridge of the precast concrete slab at 2nd Street, Hunters Point South Park. 

Bring your waivers, signed or to sign on the scene: https://harborlab.org/waivers/


Trip Leader: Elsie Perez-Ingabire. Float Plan: Ride the flood back to Hallets Cove.

3pm: Gather at Second Street/Hunters Point South Park public boat launch. 
330pm: Take the place of paddlers returning from the Deaf Community Paddle.4pm: Launch for Hallets Cove. Linger for fun and photo ops by Gantry Plaza State Park.
5pm: Land at Hallets Cove. 

Everyone cleans and packs away boats. I’ll need help unloading boats back at HarborLAB. 

What to wear: Quick-drying clothing, sturdy shoes you don’t mind getting wet (water shoes and athletic sandals are best, and not flip-flops), a hat, sunglasses, environmentally responsible sunblock (Environmental Working Group recommendations here). 

What to bring: A reusable water bottle filled from the tap, snacks that minimize or eliminate one-use plastic packaging, a change of clothing and shoes if needed, aspirin or the like. 

Safety Notes: Current CV-19 protocols. Participants will be matched in tandem kayaks by HarborLAB volunteers according to the paddling needs of the group, not social affiliation. Do not lean but rather remain centered in the boat. No horseplay (the same rules apply to adults as to the kids we serve). No alcohol, smoking, or recreational drugs. The group must stay close together in a pod with HarborLAB volunteers at point (front), sweep (back), and flanks (sides). The trip leaders’ instructions must be followed immediately as you might not be aware of some dangers (hazards just below the surface, ferry and barge traffic, etc.). Please convey any safety concerns, relevant medical conditions, or ailments immediately to a HarborLAB volunteer. During the cleanup please leave anything heavy, sharp, weird, or gross and we’ll report the item to park authorities. Focus on light plastics. 


New Water Quality App

EPA announcement. Thanks to Louis Kleinman for passing it along.

WASHINGTON (APRIL 9, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an improved web-based app to help communities identify potential sources of pollution to recreational waters. This science-based and data-informed tool empowers communities and supports engagement in local decisions in protecting the health of swimmers and recreators from contaminants at lakes, rivers, and beaches while supporting the vitality of water-based economies.

“Everyone has a role in protecting public health and the environment. With EPA’s new app, community members can play a part in ensuring safer recreation and cleaner drinking water sources,” said Director of EPA’s Office of Science and Technology Deborah Nagle. “Real-time, high-quality data help improve prioritization of remediation actions and the development of models that would support same-day decisions on swimming advisories.”

EPA’s new Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters is designed to help protect swimmers and other recreators while improving management decisions that can help keep recreational waters open for use. EPA recognizes the role of community participation in supporting robust water quality datasets. This tool can help citizen scientists provide data on sources of pollution in a watershed and information on potential harmful algal blooms in surface waters that public health officials need to protect a community. These efforts can also ultimately promote safe public access to urban waterways and lead to aquatic ecosystem restoration.

While previous versions of the app focused on marine waters, this improved version has been expanded to include monitoring for fresh waters. Additionally, it has new functions including photo storage, geolocation data, and links to weather-related websites. The web-based app does not require the use of the Internet or WiFi to use. The agency will be conducting free, live training webinars between late April and late May on how to use the app. The dates and pre-registration instructions for the live training webinars are available on EPA’s Beaches website. Detailed instructions on how to access the app, as well as user manuals and training videos, will also be posted on the website.

For more information: https://www.epa.gov/beach-tech/sanitary-surveys-recreational-waters.

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. 


Erik Baard
Executive Director

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! 


Erik Baard
Executive Director

Black Lives Matter on World Environment Day.


When we invest our volunteer hours and donor funds into the environmental education of young black people, we’re implicitly saying that their lives and futures matter. When we educate the broader public about environmental impacts that hurt poorer communities first and worst, we’re implicitly saying that black lives matter. But sometimes words need to be explicit, clear, and loud so that those who are afflicted are comforted that others care, and those who afflict are shaken from the comfort that apathy will protect them.

And so:


The affliction now under the microscope of moral examination is the nexus of racism and police brutality. This matters greatly to our volunteers in their private lives, outside the HarborLAB mission scope. Perhaps our volunteer work helps to nurture that positive social movement. When a person gives their time and energy and gifts to a child’s education, a bond forms. They have a stake in that child’s growth and success. That volunteer can’t help but share the wound when injustice directly or indirectly injures that child, or the adult that child becomes.

A perhaps even more pervasive and dangerous assault on black lives is environmental injustice. Pollution in a child’s water or air robs that child of brain development. It dims the brilliance of the person that child was to be. And yes, environmental injustice can kill as surely as a bullet or a choke hold. The New York Times has assembled an excellent reading list on “Links Between Racism and the Environment.” The paper invites you to add your suggestions too.

Please also let us know how we at HarborLAB can improve our work or organizational culture to better meet our mission and evidence the truth of our declaration that Black Lives Matter.

Thank you. Be safe.

Erik Baard
Executive Director

Earth Day @Home SeedBalling!


April 22, 330pm-5pm
Online (registrants will receive teleconference info).
Shareable Link:


Format: Video (participants can opt to be heard but not seen)
Cost: Free (seeds can be sent for free too)
Instructions: Live demonstration and information to be sent to registrants.

Celebrate Earth Day with an activity you can do indoors and then follow up safely outside! HarborLAB will even send you seeds to make seedballs at home, either virtually together or by watching our instructional video.

To join, please register here:


Background: Seedballs are small clumps of compost or nutritious soil with native seeds (you can use ours, buy your own native seeds, or even use seeds from organic blueberries). They replicate frugivorous endozoochory, or the scattering of seeds in nutritious poop! 

Seedballs are bound together with natural clay powder or flour, or even newspaper and corn starch! HarborLAB volunteers, students, and public participants kayak to habitat areas identified by conservation agencies as needing milkweed, goldenrod, pitch pine, little bluestem, or other important species. Clay and flour balls can be simply tossed, while paper balls are lightly buried. By next season, pollinators like butterflies and bees feed from them, and birds like black skimmers nest among them. Their root systems also strengthen shorelines and the denser vegetation mitigates storm surges.

Or you can distribute seedballs, strolling or biking to abandoned lots and tossing them over fences, or scattering them in the corners of your yard or garden. 

Materials needed for clay or flour seedballs:

  • Natural clay or flour.
  • Water. 
  • Top soil or compost. 
  • Regionally appropriate seeds – HarborLAB’s, or blueberries and sunflowers are native. 
  • A bowl of water. 
  • A work surface. 
  • A shallow cardboard box, like a pizza or bakery box. 

Materials needed for paper seedballs:

  • Prep time of about three hours before the activity. 
  • Newspaper.
  • Corn starch.
  • Water.
  • Top soil or compost (optional).
  • Regionally appropriate seeds – HarborLAB’s, or organic blueberries and sunflowers are native. 
  • A jar or two.
  • A spoon or whisk.
  • A bowl.
  • A work surface. 
  • A shallow cardboard box, like a pizza or bakery box. 

We hope you can join us! 

Warm regards,


Erik Baard
Executive Director

Newtown Creek Bath Bombs!


Housebound by COVID-19 and missing your estuary? HarborLAB has you covered, from head to toe, with our Newtown Creek bath bombs! Soak and sooth your pandemic worries away in a truly authentic New York City kayaker way!

Each 6.66 oz ball is made from what biologist John Waldman describes as “black mayonnaise,” a viscous sedimentary silt infused with invigorating industrial toxins, petroleum, and a vital culture of anaerobic bacteria. Guaranteed to dissolve your stress along with your limbs.

Newtown Creek bath bombs are a sustainable product. If used during a rainstorm in lower Manhattan or North Brooklyn, your bath water returns to Newtown Creek along with flushed toilets, street runoffs, and all other wastewater in combined sewer overflows.

Even if you’re not a paddler, you can experience the tingle enjoyed by kayakers and canoeists who capsize while clearing plastic trash or seeding oysters in our local Superfund site!

Order yours today by clicking HERE!

Hope in a Time of COVID-19.

Dear Friends, When the first humans arrived in what is today New York City, there was no East River and mastodons still squelched about in the swamps of Hunters Point. We’ve prospered through change, challenge, and yes, a bit of … Continue reading

January 10: Seedball Making!



We’ll have two events for local youth in LIC on Friday, Jan 10. One is at a school at 10am and the next at a youth service organization at 230pm. If you’d like to assist, please register via the form linked and you’ll receive details.

We’ll have a family event, open to the public, later this season. Please stay tuned.

Register here (a Facebook click isn’t registration):


Shareable link:


Our fun work will help green and strengthen NYC shorelines in 2020 with Little Bluestem, Joe Pye, Goldenrod, and Milkweed seeds gathered by HarborLAB volunteers and local students.

Seedballs are simple to make and contribute to STEM education through service. We just mix natural clay powder, compost or potting soil, seeds, and water into a cookie dough-like consistency. Then we roll the “dough” into penny-wide balls and place them in a single layer in a pizza box or other similarly wide and shallow box.

PLEASE help clean up.