Neversink Reservoir Permit Supersized!


From keel to kitchen sink, one of NYC’s beautiful water sources.

We’re grateful and happy to announce that the NYC Department of Environmental Protection has issued a five-year permit for HarborLAB’s education and stewardship programs on the Neversink Reservoir. This follows great success with earlier annual and event permits. The longer duration allows us to better plan seasons in advance and to explore enhancements in coordination with NYCDEP.

Our innovative “ReservoirLAB” project introduces city youth to their drinking water through canoeing and kayaking on the highest elevation Catskill Mountain reservoir, the Neversink. Before heading up to paddle and hike the surrounding forest, participants are prepped with classroom talks by our volunteers. We hope to engage Catskills youth, conservation groups, universities, and other partners as we grow, subject to approval by NYCDEP.

This extension is a testament to the wonderful volunteers who’ve made this program a wonderful part of hundreds of kids’ lives. Congratulations to Patricia Menje Erickson and her crew!

HarborLAB volunteers have been trained by the NYCDEP education department as “Watershed Docents” and earn Red Cross adult and pediatric certification in AED, CPR, First Aid, Basic Water Rescue, and Safety Around Water.  Your support pays for that vital training and safety equipment. Thanks!


A short hike to learn how forests protect our water.

Giving Tuesday!

Please support HarborLAB’s growing work for estuary and watershed education and stewardship — and fun boating adventures! — with a tax-deductible donation this “Giving Tuesday” and beyond. It’s easy!

Donate Online:

Please visit our 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor, the Open Space Institute.

Be sure to specify HarborLAB as illustrated below:


Mail a check:

Make your check out to Open Space Institute with HarborLAB in the memo line.

Open Space Institute
C/O Jessica Watson, Project Manager
1350 Broadway, Suite 201
NY, NY 10018



A Thanksgiving for HarborLAB’s Future Home.


Rendering of Hunters Point South parcels F + G via Gotham Organization.


HarborLAB’s volunteers, students, and community partners are especially thankful this year to Gotham Organization, RiseBoro, NYC Housing Preservation and Development, and City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer for our inclusion into the rising Hunters Point South neighborhood. The NYC Economic Development Corporation was also very helpful with guidance and information.

The City issued a request for proposals to develop two parcels where the East River and Newtown Creek meet. In their winning bid Gotham Organization and RiseBoro included HarborLAB as the boathouse and community service tenant in a waterfront tower between a coming school to the west and 2nd Street boat launch to the east.

To HarborLAB this up-to-4,000 square foot space is a cornucopia we’ll be responsible for filling with engaging educational, recreational, and environmental stewardship activities as a gift of plenty to all. Our labor, equipment, and activities are dedicated to opening our estuary to both residents and visitors. Together with partners in universities, schools, youth and elder service groups, environmental organizations, neighborhood associations, and public agencies we’ll offer fun and informative programs throughout the year!

We’re thankful that public servants worked so hard to create this community asset. Penny Lee, formerly of the NYC Department of City Planning, heard and acted upon our volunteers’ requests — being waterfront advocates even before we formed HarborLAB — for a boat launch at 2nd Street in 2003. City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Hunters Point, then championed our request that storage be provided by developers near the launch. This was incorporated into the City’s RFP criteria. The bidders hoping to develop Hunters Point South parcels F + G then interviewed community organizations about utilizing the boathouse space, and we’re grateful to each for taking this aspect of the project so seriously. A special note of great gratitude to HarborLAB’s volunteers: It’s your loving, reliable, and excellent service to diverse communities, and the strong relationships you’ve built, that gave Gotham Organization and the City confidence that we’ll put this fantastic space to the best use.

We’re appreciative that Gotham Organization has kept such a warm and friendly ongoing dialogue with us as we shape our vision. One priority for HarborLAB is to create NYC’s most wheelchair accessible boat launch and boathouse.

HarborLAB will continue to provide programming and habitat restoration gardening at our Vernon Boulevard launch, through the generosity of Schuman Properties. We owe our success in great part to this relationship. 

A community dialogue, design work, and essential formalities between ourselves, the development partners, and the City lie ahead. But today we are simply filled with thanks.

A Great Green Drinks Gathering in Flushing!


Newtown Creek Alliance historian and Green Drinks Queens steering committee member Mitch Waxman hams it up while John Choe of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce speaks. 

Green Drinks Queens came to bustling downtown Flushing last night for a fun night of networking, sharing ideas, and gathering support to help make our borough more sustainable. Huge thanks to the Flushing Chamber of Commerce for partnering to organize the event and Leaf Lounge for providing an awesome rooftop venue and drink specials!

Guardians of Flushing Bay, Transportation Alternatives, and Green Earth Urban Gardens spoke of activism needed for clean water and soil and safe bicycling. Queens historian Jack Eichenbaum was a surprise speaker who highlighted threats to street trees and Flushing’s role as home the first colonial tree nurseries in the Americas. Dan Miner of the NYC Chapter of and a Green Drinks Queens steering committee member reminded us of the bigger picture problem of climate change that our local efforts must help resolve.

Participants had a blast playing a local environmental trivia game for material and experiential prizes ranging from special theme tours to bicycle lights and local dumplings.


Sunset over Manhattan as seen from Leaf Lounge. 

Nov. 5: Canoe for Butterflies and Plants!


Black swallowtail on purple milkweed at HarborLAB. Photo by Erik Baard

Plant and butterfly survey training and optional canoe trip.

Nov. 5: 10AM-230PM.
53-21 Vernon Blvd LIC 11101

FREE. Open to all volunteers willing to teach others. This work is important to our shared goal of a greener, better understood Newtown Creek shoreline ecosystem. HarborLAB needs to develop team leaders so that we can document the creek and then remote islands of the harbor.

RSVP by Friday, Nov. 4 at 5PM to NCA:

Updated Details:

There are pollutants assaulting the Newtown Creek’s ecosystem from silt to sky, but we must never forget that this is still a living place. HarborLAB will assist Hudsonia and the Newtown Creek Alliance in a new project to survey and photo-document the plants and butterflies surrounding the creek and upload that data to iNaturalist.

This is fun and meaningful stuff, and a great opportunity for bio nerds and shutterbugs alike!

HarborLAB urgently requested that the EPA to sample plant tissue as part of its environmental study of the creek, and we were quickly supported by NCA and Riverkeeper. We plant native species and distribute seedballs throughout the creek area. Our GreenLaunch home base is rich with native grasses, bushes, trees, and wildflowers like milkweed that we’ve planted and tended to restore habitat. This Hudsonia/NCA project perfectly harmonizes with our work.

Please download the iNaturalist app. We strongly recommend that you bring an external battery to keep your phone charged or to recharge after the event.  

Schedule subject to modification by Lisa Bloodgood of NCA.

10AM-1145AM: Gather at HarborLAB (53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, NY 11101). Training and surveying done on site. Signed waivers required.
1145AM-1215PM: Lunch.
1215-2PM: Field work! Survey the area by foot and canoe! Put that training into practice to reinforce your learning.
230PM: All boats and gear stowed away.

Notes on canoeing: Preceded by a safety talk, orientation, gear preparation. Please be very cautious when using the dock, ladder, and stairs. We’re unable to properly install our larger dock and access because of squatting sailboat owners. Course will be directed by Lisa Bloodgood of NCA within the bounds of Second Street and Dutch Kills on the Queens side. All boats stay close together and near shore to avoid larger vessel traffic. Diana Szatkowski leads.

General notes: Please forgive the chaos of our sheds. Our organization day is Nov. 18. 

Full explanation by Lisa Bloodgood of Newtown Creek Alliance:


Hello Budding Botanists and new Project Leaders!

Welcome to NCA’s newest project with our partners at Hudsonia, the Plant, and Butterfly survey of Newtown Creek! Each of you either expressed an interest in being a leader or being involved in the project in some way. This email will provide you with your first introduction to the project and instructions for getting started with us this season.

Project overview: With our partners at Hudsonia and all of you we will spend the coming year identifying, collecting, and documenting all of the many plants within 100 meters of the Creek. We will create a field guide for the public and have a greater understanding of the diversity of plant species and their distribution along our beloved and beleaguered waterway.

At the training we will show you how to use iNaturalist, the app we will be using throughout the duration of the project. I strongly recommend downloading the app to your phones now and trying it out on a walk over the next few days. We have created a project titled “Newtown Creek” where the teams you will lead, will track and record observations of plants, butterflies and any other critter you happen upon. This is crucial to the project and will be the main data collection technology we will use. It is super cool and lends to a greater pool of biodiversity information.

We will show you some of the most common plants you will find along the Creek, how to take a good photo, how to use a dichotomous key for identification, how to collect and press plants for a herbarium, and probably a few other things. We will go over safety protocols, get you ready to manage your volunteer teams, and get you ready to work by water as well – we will be working with both HarborLAB and the North Brooklyn Boat Club for our water-bound assessment work. I am attaching an overview map of the creek – we will provide you with a more detailed map at the training – and here is a link to the Biodiversity Assessment Handbook for New York City put together by Erik Kiviat of Hudsonia and Elizabeth Johnson. You are encouraged to make yourself as familiar with all of these resources as your time allows for before we meet. If you just show up ready to learn on Saturday that’s just fine too, we’re preparing other resources for you.

Next steps: Let’s all see how we do with the training, and how favorable the weather will be into November before we make too many plans for the end of fall. We want to tackle some of the accessible land access sites to get us all comfortable with the work and knock out as much as we can in English Kills by water before we lose all our foliage to the winter. English Kills is far more pleasant in this weather than in summer.

All of us at Newtown Creek Alliance and Hudsonia are so very excited for this project and to be working with you all! Please don’t hesitate to ask me any question now or in the future and if you aren’t sure if you can commit to the entirety of this project, come and try it out, we can play it by ear going forward. We know you have something great to contribute!! You can text or call me anytime (within reason of course).

Please RSVP for this coming weekends training we need to know who is coming and who can’t make it! If you know anyone else that might be interested in working on this project please share this email!

See you soon and thank you for supporting NCA and the work we do – we couldn’t do it without you!!!

Important links:

Oct 12: Afternoon Creek Paddle!


Creek Paddle – Day in the Life of the Hudson Estuary

Oct 12, 1pm-4pm
53-21 Vernon Blvd
LIC, NY 11101

As usual, FREE. 🙂

Description of the theme from the NY DEC: “On one day each autumn, thousands of students from New York City to Troy participate in the annual “A Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor” event. Students collect scientific information to create snapshots of the river at dozens of locations, then share their data via the web so they can better understand how their piece of the river fits into the larger Hudson estuary ecosystem. “A Day in the Life” is sponsored by DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program and produced with assistance from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.”

To join HarborLAB’s paddle please read the details below and email with the subject line “Day in the Life Paddle.” Please tell us your age, affiliation, paddling experience, and any special needs. Thanks!

1PM: Gather at HarborLAB (53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, NY 11101)
130PM: Launch!

Canoe the Queens bank of the Newtown Creek. Please photograph flora, fauna, vessel traffic, environmental problems, industry and industrial relics, and other scenes you feel capture the state of the creek today.

We’ll also collect and tabulate plastic trash. We encourage students to sample water, mosses, and soil for testing.

330PM: Return. Pack away.
4PM: Done!


Side note: 7AM: Erik Baard will sample water for delivery to CUNY LaGuardia Community College for bacteria testing. Volunteers and students are welcome to join.

This water sampling is special to this event but identical to our regular NYCWTA practice. More here:

HarborLAB in the “Heroes of the Harbor” Boat Parade!


HarborLAB volunteers Dee Dee Maucher, Sanjay Shirke, and Scott Wolpow represented our organization in the Boat Parade, a highlight of Waterfront Alliance’s annual “Heroes of the Harbor” gala at Chelsea Piers.

We were represented at the dinner itself by Carolin Zayas, who took these marvelous photos, and Dorothy Morehead.

Below is our description for the Speaker’s Notes:

The “LAB” in HarborLAB stands for “Learning – Adventure – Boating” and this group of volunteers and students fulfills that calling by canoeing and kayaking our watershed and estuary, sharing meaningful fun. HarborLAB’s special focus is communities who are underrepresented in New York City’s maritime life and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) studies and careers. All educational and stewardship programs are free.

HarborLAB’s tours include informative talks about alternative energy, vital species, and indigenous history. Tours also incorporate activities including seeding native plants, weeding invasives, cleaning up plastic pollution, documenting wildlife, and sampling water and soil for testing. HarborLAB also provides classroom activities and lectures, and works with students to build bat and bee houses and unique boats made from upcycled waste materials and invasive plants like bamboo and phragmites reeds.

HarborLAB is based on the Newtown Creek and actively educates about that Superfund waterway’s cleanup needs. HarborLAB volunteers and students have planted a 140’-long habitat restoration at their launch and will in 2018 install a learning laboratory. HarborLAB provides children’s programs at nearby Gantry Plaza State Park and in suitable waters throughout the city. HarborLAB’s second boat fleet is on the Neversink Reservoir in the Catskill Mountains, so that NYC public school classes and youth groups can experientially learn about – and care about — their drinking water sources.




“Teachers and Elders Paddle” Memories

IMG_9042 (1)

Honoring the mother-in-law and grandmother at the Teachers and Elders Paddle.    🙂

HarborLAB closed our season of open paddles at Gantry Plaza State Park with a Teachers and Elders Paddle, honoring the formal and informal ways wisdom and knowledge are transmitted down the generations. See our gallery below.

Our theme was inspired by this week’s International Day of Older Persons and UNESCO World Teachers’ Day.  We can’t recommend this series of videos enough:

Forces of Nature
Environmental Elders Speak

The day went smoothly, with good cheer spilling over from the nearby Hunters Point block party to raise awareness about funds to combat breast cancer. Families joined us for intergenerational fun afloat under a clear and sunny sky. Paddlers left with environmental and safe paddling literature provided by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, the American Canoe Association, and HarborLAB itself. Throughout the event volunteers Diana Szatkowski and Scott Wolpow gave kayaking instructions and tips to newbies. As always our experienced paddlers shared tandems with novice ones who requested it.


Scott Wolpow taking new paddlers through basic strokes. 

“This event has special meaning for me because my mother is a teacher,” said volunteer Filoma Fung-Khee, who staffed our education table with Xianmiao Zhang. Yan Cheng’s mother paired with him as volunteers for the event, carrying  boats and seeing that all paddlers had snugly fit life vests.

One unseen but now not unsung hero was Jessica Grable, who installed the safety ladder HarborLAB purchased for Gantry Plaza State Park.


New flip-up aluminum safety ladder funded by HarborLAB and installed by Jessica Grable, improving safety for all at Gantry Plaza State Park. 

Many thanks also to volunteers Patricia Erickson, Kenny Unser, Cameron Fearey, and Emanuel “Manny” Steier for making this event such a heartwarming success. Our gratitude to the NY State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, to Waterfront Alliance, and to our sponsors for enabling us to provide this meaningful service to all.



Volunteer for the 2017 Peace Lanterns Festival!

Peace Lanterns Festival 2017 (2) (1)

HarborLAB, The Buddhist Council of New York, Interfaith Center of New York, and Global Movement for the Culture of Peace invite you to celebrate the UN International Day of Peace ( with a day of meditation, yoga, teachings, Afrodancercise by Siren Protectors of the Rainforest, face painting, lantern making and decorating, a lantern ceremony, crafts, and kayaking!

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Please email to help with any aspect of the program. We’ll forward your information to the most suitable partner. Some needs include:

* artists and graphics professionals (helping the public to decoate lanterns, face painting, sign making, henna tattooing, making postcards and flyers, and more)
* water safety crew (experienced kayakers, certified life guards, certified kayak instructors)
* general help (desk attendants, messengers, food distributors to feed volunteers, people to carry boats, enabling inclusive physical access, etc.)

There will be volunteer opportunities in the weeks leading up to the event as well as the dayitself!

Share our event via Facebook here:

See the 2016 event here:

Bonus: We’ll try to partner with companies to educate on UN International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer:

The fun-filled and fulfilling day at Gantry Plaza State Park culminates in prayers and reflections from interfaith clergy, civic leaders, and scientists, followed by a beautiful floating lantern ceremony on the East River, across from the United Nations.


12PM: Volunteers gather at HarborLAB (53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, NY 11101) to finalize preparations for the day.

1230AM: Volunteers begin set up in Gantry Plaza State Park.

2PM-6PM: Free kayaking, guided meditation, yoga, lantern decorating, arts and crafts, and more.

6PM: Afrodancercize with Siren Protectors of the Rainforest.

630PM: Interfaith prayers, Philosophical, and Civic Speakers.

730-830PM: Floating Lanterns Ceremomy.

830PM-10PM: Volunteers clean up and pack away, return to HarborLAB.


Aug 26: White Snake Paddle!



Here We Go Again” but never on our own! Come toss White Snakeroot seedballs we made with students and community members, to restore this important native species to our Jamaica Bay shorelines!

To participate, please email with the subject “White Snake Paddle!”


10AM: Those traveling with the van meet at HarborLAB.
11AM: Depart for Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
12PM: All meet at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to unload and prepare boats.
1230PM: Launch!
Toss seedballs at spots as directed by habitat conservation professionals with the National Parks Service. Paddle to visit islands, includings ones we have planted earlier with spartina. Beach cleanup on islands. Paddle and explore more.
530PM: Return to launch spot. All help pack and load.
6PM: Leave.
7PM: Return to HarborLAB.
8PM: Done!

Let’s ty to arrange carpooling. Folks in southern Queens and Brooklyn can meet us by mass transportation.

Details will be sent to confirmed participants. This trip is open to mature teens with parental consent.