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.

Aug 21 & 22: Weekday Paddling!



Aug 21 & 22: Volunteers Needed for Gantry Plaza State Park “Partner Paddles” for Kids!

Come share the joy of the water with western Queens kids on Monday or Tuesday and have a ball! We need volunteers to work the dock, fit life vests, help newbies learn to paddle and stay safe, lift and carry boats, and more. Bonus: The waterfront is a great place to view the eclipse through a pinhole camera!

Aug 21 9AM-230PM for Hour Children
Aug 22 9AM-230PM for Minor Miracles

To help please email with the subject “Hour Children Paddle” or “Minor Miracles” paddle. Tell us a bit about your experience, abilities, and interests. Thanks!

This program will be led by American Canoe Association certified instructor Steven “Mr. Chuubie” Chu! Additional safety support provided by volunteers with pediatric and adult Red Cross certification in CPR/AED/First Aid/Safety Around Water/Basic Water Rescue.

Hour Children is dedicated to kids who were born in prison or whose mothers are in the criminal justice system and getting their lives on a better track. The organization also serves youth in NYCHA Ravenswood Houses and Queensbridge Houses and the surrounding community. More here:

Minor Miracles is deicated to fighting childhood obesity:

HarborLAB produces children’s programs directly with partners and someties through the Waterfront Alliance’s Harbor Camp referral program. At Gantry Plaza State Park, this is made possible by the NY State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, our volunteers, and our sponsors — especially TF Cornerstone and Hudson River Foundation.

Participants all leave with with kids’ environmental literature published by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. HarborLAB believes strongly that beautiful experiential learning will inspire reading about related topics, especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects. After all, nature is the best teacher!


9AM: Volunteers gather at HarborLAB (53-21 Vernon Blvd)
920AM: Leave for Gantry.
930AM: Set up at Gantry (dock at the 50th Ave pier)
10AM: Safety talk and orientation.
1030-1PM: Paddling.
130PM: Conclude, pack. All adults help carry boats.
2PM: Leave park.
230PM: Finish at HarborLAB

Tides for Hunters Point, Newtown Creek

M 21 Low 3:33 AM -0.5 6:12 AM Rise 5:53 AM 1
21 High 9:58 AM 4.8 7:45 PM Set 7:50 PM
21 Low 3:43 PM -0.3
21 High 10:13 PM 5.3

Tu 22 Low 4:21 AM -0.5 6:13 AM Rise 7:01 AM 0
22 High 10:46 AM 4.9 7:43 PM Set 8:26 PM
22 Low 4:33 PM -0.3
22 High 11:00 PM 5.2

Harbor Camp Memories: 8/10 at Gantry



New volunteers Yasaman Alibabaee and Sharon Shum introduce Upper Manhattan kids to paddling and our estuary environment.

HarborLAB volunteers Steven Chu, Diana Szatkowski, Katherine Bradford, Greg Leopold, Yasaman Alibabaee, Sharon Shum, Erik Baard, and Maribel Rodriguez Egipciaco were delighted to provide a group of children from Upper Manhattan with another Harbor Camp day at Gantry Plaza State Park. Throughout the summer Waterfront Alliance refers groups to HarborLAB to provide free introductory paddling lessons and more academic education in the park.

Steven is an American Canoe Association certified kayak instructor and led the on-water event. Steven is truly a gifted teacher, with a natural ability to connect and make learning fun and excellent instructor training by Prime Paddlesports. Erik Baard, Diana Szatkowski, and Katherine Bradford are Red Cross certified in AED, CPR, First Aid, Basic Water Rescue, and Safety Around Water.

Diana holds a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University and gave the kids a background in how kayaking plays a central role in Inuit and other Arctic cultures. The “Greenland stick” paddle she made herself was a great show-and-tell exhibit to enter that conversation with the kids. A discussion of the origins of kayaking was especially fitting this week, with the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9. The United Nations served as a visual backdrop for our day of learning.

Yasaman, a CUNY biology student, distributed copies of Conservationist Magazine for Kids (a New York State DEC publication) at the conclusion of paddling.

This program was made possible by TF Cornerstone, Hudson River Foundation/Newtown Creek Environmental Funds, Newtown Creek Group, Patricia Menje Erickson, Schuman Properties, and other HarborLAB sponsors and volunteers. A special thanks to HarborLAB’s water quality monitoring volunteers (coordinated by Patricia Vidals-Aquino), NYC Water Trail Association, and CUNY LaGuardia Community College Environmental Science Program (directed by HarborLAB Board Member Holly Porter-Morgan, PhD) for working to ensure we operate with knowledge of safe water conditions.

What a wonderful day!

July 30 Paddle Against Human Trafficking!



Instructions for participation as a paddler are on our Facebook event page:

Below is a press release for you to be more fully informed, and to share with media who might care about this issue and our community involvement. Thanks! 



HarborLAB: Erik Baard

Beauty for Freedom, Monica Watkins

Paddle Against Human Trafficking!
Survivors, Advocates, Students Launch East River Tour in View of United Nations
An Event for the UN World Day Against Trafficking in Humans

When:            Sunday, July 30, 2017 (8AM in LIC, 10AM in Dumbo)
Where:          Gantry Plaza State Park (50th Avenue and Center Blvd, LIC, NY 11101)
Dumbo Cove (between Main Street Playground and Jane’s Carousel)

On the 2017 UN World Day Against Trafficking of Persons (July 30) HarborLAB, Beauty for Freedom, other women’s advocates (UN Women Metro NY,WomankindMentari), survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and students will launch what will become an annual kayak tour to raise awareness and funds to combat this crime against humanity and to help its survivors heal.
8AM in LIC: Shandra Woworuntu, Founder and Executive Director of the Mentari Human Trafficking Survivor Empowerment Program and a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. Ms. Woworuntu is a survivor of human trafficking and forced prostitution.
10AM in Dumbo: TBA (City representative)

We’ll launch from Gantry Plaza State Park, across from the UN, and land in Dumbo, across from City Hall and One Police Plaza, and then return. Following through on this event, HarborLAB will provide special programs to human trafficking survivors based on the therapeutic value of time in nature and the confidence-building opportunity of mastering aa novel challenge like kayaking. Beauty for Freedom continually empowers these women through art.

“HarborLAB sums up its mission up as ‘Paddling for environmental and social good.’ When volunteer kayak instructor Steven Chu, a wonderfully creative person, shared this idea with the group, it was a natural fit,” said HarborLAB Executive Director Erik Baard. “Waterways have carried people to slavery and exploitation, but waterways can also carry people to healing and growth. Kayaking is one of the best ways to experience nature in New York City, and research has shown great psychological benefit from that.”

“The crisis of human trafficking is a global issue that affects us all and we can all be a part of eradicating slavery. Educating ourselves on the implications of sex trafficking and labor trafficking by advocating for stricter laws and knowing where and how our clothes are made and our food is cultivated is a good start, but we can all do more. Supporting incredible organizations like UN Women, Womankind and MENTARI are paramount to supporting the modern day abolitionist movement and it is an honor to take part in the “Turning the Tide on Human Trafficking” event with HarborLAB supporting survivors on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.”

Float Plan/Schedule:

Launch: Gantry Plaza State Park.

Schedule set by tidal currents:

715am: Leave HarborLAB with boats and gear.
730am: Gather at Gantry Plaza State Park (South Pier/50th Ave). Load in boats, fit life vests, etc.
8am: Remarks by Erik Baard, Monica Watkins
805am: SPEAKER: Shandra Woworuntu of Mentari Human Trafficking Survivor Empowerment Program (
820am: Safety talk.
830AM: Launch for Dumbo!
Photo op: Students in kayaks, possibly with banner, with UN in background.
930AM: Land at DUMBO Cove.

Brunch, speaker from NYC government. Remarks by Giselle Bowyer (UN Women), Yinan Xia (Womankind)

12PM: Launch for return.
130PM: Land. Load boats and return gear.
3PM: Done!

About the sponsors:

HarborLAB is a student and volunteer organization affiliated with Open Space Institute dedicated to environmental service, education, and social good. HarborLAB provides free boating, field trips, and classroom programs, especially for communities underrepresented in local maritime life and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.  HarborLAB  has two kayak and canoe fleets, one on New York Harbor and another on the Neversink Reservoir, to provide comprehensive experiential learning of NYC’s water systems.

Beauty for Freedom (BFF), a 501(c)(3) Non-profit foundation, whose mission is to battle the crisis of human trafficking and empower survivors, raises revenue for survivors in the developing world with a fresh approach of self-worth and empowerment through the arts. We engage the industries of Beauty and Fashion as powerful allies in the fight to end human trafficking through public campaigns, our travel-abroad arts therapy workshops for survivors and events.

Liberty Over the Waves!


July 4 weekend is our time to reward the volunteers who’ve contributed so many hours of hard work to providing free educational programs on our waters and in classrooms. We found it fitting to honor the national holiday with a paddle looping around the Statue of Liberty from our launch in LIC on the Newtown Creek. What a blast!

Our theme for the day was set by this Union of Concerned Scientists report about how rising sea levels as a result of anthropogenic (human caused) climate change will threaten our national monuments. A United Nations report agreed that the damage to the Statue of Liberty and other World Heritage Sites will be “incalculable.”

The day shared by volunteers, however, was gorgeous. We’re grateful for each day of peace and plenty before CO2 emissions’ mounting toll is gravely felt, and hope we can work to prevent the worst.


The East River was glassy as we glided on the ebb past Brooklyn, easily rounding The Battery and crossing to New Jersey and drifting down to the Statue. We were well ahead of schedule. We paused at the “Wunder Bar,” a secret little submerged island of sorts where one can stand in the center of New York Harbor. We landed in the Jersey City canal community of Port Liberté.

Our return was both fun and challenging. We stopped for a dip at a beach sardonically nicknamed “Chromium Beach” for Jersey City’s industrial legacies. Instead of retracing our morning course through much busier afternoon ferry traffic, we crossed the choppy harbor to Governors Island and scooted under its south point to ride the flood up Buttermilk Channel and then onward to Brooklyn and home to Queens.