Booting things back a bit.

Volunteers reported that this week’s snowstorm played havoc with personal and work schedules, just ahead of Thanksgiving travel and hosting obligations. Respecting those needs, we’re postponing this weekend’s boat building and seed gathering activities to Dec 1 and 2, respectively.
We thank volunteers for their feedback!
Happy Thanksgiving! 

Green Drinks Queens, September 17


Green Drinks at Blissville’s Bantry Bay!

Green Drinks Queens at Blissville’s Bantry Bay!
No cover. Cash bar with green drink specials!

Come welcome autumn and harvest bounty with a shared promise to work through the cold to make each spring a greener start for Queens, NYC, and our world!

Monday, September 17
6PM – 9PM

Bantry Bay Publick House
33-01 Greenpoint Ave,
Long Island City, NY 11101


Green Drinks Queens is the official local chapter of Green Drinks (, a self-organizing network of people who care about the environment and gather regularly to informally build community around this greatest cause of our lifetime. HarborLAB is a lead partner in Green Drinks Queens.

Our deep gratitude to host Bantry Bay Publick House, known for its authentic Irish New Yorker bar and spacious banquet hall (

Green Drinks Specials and Regular drink specials:

If you belong to an environmental organization or work for green company, or do environmental research, please feel free to put your literature on our community table! Please, no partisan or directly political materials.

Schedule and Speakers (tentative):

5PM: Volunteers set up.
6PM: Public gathers, networks.
Opening remarks.
Masters of Ceremonies:
Erik Baard | HarborLAB.
Mitch Waxman | Newtown Creek Alliance and Access Queens
730PM: Blissville ecology trivia game (approx. 20 minutes) conducted by Erik Baard and Gil Lopez of Smiling Hogshead Ranch urban farm and Montauk Cutoff Coalition.
730PM: Closing remarks. Networking continues.

City of Water Day with HarborLAB!


City of Water Day in Lower Manhattan and LIC!

Fun fact: City of Water Day, produced by Waterfront Alliance, was founded as the Five Borough Harbor Ramble by volunteers who went on to found HarborLAB! We’re grateful to Waterfront Alliance for growing the event beyond what we originally imagined! In each year of HarborLAB’s existence we’ve provided a central program to the event, and this year we’re doing it in two locations, thanks to Better Chinatown USA, Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, and, of course, Waterfront Alliance.

HarborLAB will provide safety support to the Con Ed Cardboard Kayak Race and then two public paddling sessions. HarborLAB’s Seaport District public paddling with Better Chinatown USA in the Seaport District will run from 1PM-4PM (line closes at 340PM).  HarborLAB’s sunset public paddling with Hunters Point Parks Conservancy at Gantry Plaza State Park will run from 7PM-9PM (line closes at 840PM).

There are no reservations required to be a public participant. Just show up!

If you want to join our volunteer crew in making these community gifts possible, please register by 5PM on Wednesday, here:

Only by registering can you volunteer.

Here are the volunteer roles for the program:

Desk assistants: help people sign waivers and distribute environmental educational materials.
Life vest fitters: help ensure that people are wearing the right size life vest and that straps are pulled tight for a safe, snug fit.
Dock hands: help launch and land kayaks. This is more physically demanding and requires a bit of training.
Water safety: Requires experience with HarborLAB and/or Red Cross and other water safety certifications.

Many thanks to Waterfront Alliance for grants to help purchase safety equipment and cover other expenses, and to our regular sponsors.

June Paddling Events!

Grab a paddle — it’s summertime!

Now is the time to splash into a memorable season of fun and service. Remember to always check our Facebook page’s events list and our website calendar for our updated schedule and for easy sharing via social media. Details for the events listed below are available on those pages. Please note that we host special programs for schools and youth groups that might not be listed on our public calendar. Contact us at to request a program or to help out, in each case with the subject “Harbor Camp.”

All events listed below are FREE unless otherwise noted.

June 2
Paddle the Bay!
Little Bay Park in Bayside, Queens.
In partnership with Waterfront Alliance.
Beginners welcome.
All ages.

June 3
Paddle at Family Earth Fair!
MacNeil Park in College Point, Queens.
In partnership with Coastal Preservation Network.
Beginners welcome.
All ages.

June 10
Plastics Pledge Paddle!
LIC, Queens to Dumbo, Brooklyn and back on the East River.
To celebrate World Oceans Day.
Intermediate skills (basic paddle strokes, comfort in water, up to three hours of steady paddling).
Adults and mature teens.

June 10
Canoe Flora Survey of Newtown Creek.
Hunters Point to Maspeth and back while photographing plants and uploading data.
In partnership with Newtown Creek Alliance and Hudsonia.
Intermediate skills (basic paddle strokes, comfort in water, up to three hours of steady paddling).
Adults and mature teens.

June 16 & 17
Paddle at the Clearwater Festival!
Croton Point Park in Westchester.
To support estuary and watershed education.
Beginners welcome.
All ages.
*Public participants must pay a festival fee. HarborLAB volunteers selected to work the event go for free.

June 21
Summer Solstice Sunset Paddle!
Gantry Plaza State Park in LIC, Queens.
Beginners welcome.
All ages.

June 23
Paddle the Bay!
Little Bay Park in Bayside, Queens.
In partnership with Waterfront Alliance.
Beginners welcome.
All ages.

Earth Week Activities!

Earth Week Events with HarborLAB and Friends!

Give a little Earth love to the Newtown Creek and East River in the coming weeks with walking and canoe tours, shoreline cleanups, and planting native saplings and seeds!
April 22, 12PM-4PM

Earth Day Festivities on Kingsland Avenue
(Newtown Creek Alliance)
Plant native flowers and learn about how to make soil healthy! 

April 24, 630PM-830PM

NYC Stormwater Management Plan Release – Manhattan
(NYC Water/NYC Department of Environmental Protection)
Though not Queens, our waterways are directly impacted. 

April 28, 12PM-1PM

Hunters Point South Walk and Celebration
See HarborLAB’s launch, the City’s new launch, and our coming boathouse site!

April 28, 1PM-3PM

Clean the Shore at Hunters Point South Park!
(with Hunters Point Parks Conservancy)
Remove plastic trash from our precious park shores! Participants who are 21+ are welcome to join us after at Skinny’s Cantina for a round of Mother Earth Margaritas sponsored by Sombra Mezcal, a 1% for the Planet brand.


April 29, 8AM-430PM
Canoe (or bike, stroll) for a Botanical Survey of Newtown Creek
Paddle the length of the creek, noting the plants living along its shores! Shore support by bicycle and foot are welcome too!


March 29: Volunteer Meeting

HarborLAB Annual Volunteer Meeting

If you volunteered in 2017 or by March 27, 2018 inquired about volunteering for the 2018 season, please come to our annual volunteer meeting. We’ll discuss outcomes from our annual Board meeting, what we’ve accomplished as volunteers, and what goals we have for 2018.

Thursday, 03.29.2018, 6-8PM


Open Space Institute
1350 Broadway, Suite 201
New York New York 10018

Agenda here

RSVP ASAP (agenda suggestions welcome) to

Another Take on Water as Women’s Work


Gitanjali Rao at her home lab. Photo by Bharati Rao.

On this International Women’s Day we celebrate the girls and women who are advancing water ecology and safety. As we noted last year, women are the primary water providers for many impoverished rural families throughout South Asia, Latin America, and Africa. This requires walking miles each day, carrying water, and even then this precious resource is often fouled by pollution or disease.  Women are also the primary gatherers of shellfish and edible sea plants in many cultures, where again natural  resources are impacted by plastics, agricultural runoffs, spills, and sewage.

But women and girls are also leaders in finding solutions through science and engineering. Today we celebrate one example: Gitanjali Rao, who at 11-years old won the Discovery Education 3M Science Challenge for her invention to detect lead in water and relay results instantly to a cell phone. Gitanjali, a student at a STEM school in Colorado, was inspired when her parents (both engineers) tested for the toxin with a conventional kit. Such kits yield results in days, not seconds, because samples must be sent to a lab. She realized that in Flint, Michigan and other places affected by lead in water supplies that was unacceptably slow.

The young scientist’s system measures resistance in carbon nanotubes after uptake of lead from the water, though she’s refining the method because other materials can mimic that result. Gitanjali aims to become an epidemiologist or geneticist. No doubt Gitanjali will contribute advances to those fields too, and we hope she inspires generations of girls who follow.

HarborLAB aims to expand the inspiration and tools of science to include all youth, especially those without the monetary and educational resources that come with having engineers for parents. We need all the brains we can get on water issues, and too many NYC girls are being sidelined by sexism, poverty, and nature deficit disorder.  Whether aboard our boats or in the classroom, join HarborLAB in encouraging future scientists!

Free Kayak Lessons in a Pool!


HarborLAB is happy to offer free introductory kayaking lessons by our American Canoe Association certified instructors and kindly hosted by Variety Boys & Girls Club of Astoria. This is part of HarborLAB’s Instruction for Inclusion program to safely welcome underrepresented communities into NY Harbor’s maritime life and careers, marine biology, and to inspire STEM studies through boating adventures in nature.

We thank our volunteer instructors and coordinators, Steven Chu, Dee Dee Maucher, and Scott Wolpow, and instructor training by Prime Paddlesports.

Students must agree to participants in all four lessons. Those who are assessed as successfully mastering Level One paddling skills will be sponsored for an introductory American Canoe Association membership. To express interest, please email with the subject “Paddling at Variety Boys and Girls Club.” Include your name, age, and a statement of why you wish to begin paddling (for example, to see more nature, get exercise, overcome fear of the water, explore the city, make new friends, etc.).


Open House on March 4! Come try the boats, meet the instructors and coordinators, and learn while playing.

The first cohort session will consist of four Sundays, from March 11 through April 4, with classes for ages 8-12 running 3PM-4PM and ages 13-adult from 430PM-6PM. Each class will be followed by unstructured fun time to practice new skills independently, though instructors at their discretion can extend teaching as needed.

First Cohort (10-12 students, divided into A and B groups of 5 or 6).
March 4, 3-6PM: Open House! HarborLAB volunteers will introduce you to the boats, some paddling strokes, and how you or your kids will learn.
March 11: Dee Dee, Scott, Steven and all assistant candidates (many just observing).
Group A (5 younger students)
3PM-4PM: Lesson 1/Games
4PM-430PM: Unstructured pool time and/or volunteer training.
Group B (5 teen-adult students)
430PM-530PM: Lesson 1/Games
530-6PM: Unstructured pool time  and/or volunteer training.
March 18: Dee Dee or Steven and assistants and assistant candidates.
Group A (5 younger students)
3PM-4PM: Lesson 2/Games
4PM-430PM: Unstructured pool time and/or volunteer training.
Group B (5 teen-adult students)
430PM-530PM: Lesson 2/Games
530-6PM: Unstructured pool time  and/or volunteer training.
March 25: Scott Wolpow and assistants and assistant candidates.
Group A (5 younger students)
3PM-4PM: Special Games to Refresh and Reinforce.
4PM-430PM: Unstructured pool time and/or volunteer training.
Group B (5 teen-adult students)
430PM-530PM: Special Games to Refresh and Reinforce.
530-6PM: Unstructured pool time and/or volunteer training.
April 1: Easter and Passover Break.
April 8: Dee Dee or Steven and proven assistants.
Group A (5 younger students)
3PM-430PM: Review and Level 1 Assessment.
Group B (5 teen-adult students)
430PM-6PM: Review and Level 1 Assessment.
Hope to see you there!

HarborLAB Adds AEDs.


HarborLAB has added AEDs with waterproof casings to our event leaders’ “go bags” of emergency supplies on NY Harbor and the Neversink Reservoir. As with all emergency gear, we hope to never depend on them.

An automated external defibrillator (AED) delivers a shock that’s calibrated to reset a malfunctioning heart into its normal rhythm. There are a number of deadly myths about heart attacks. Two are that the heart simply stops beating during a typical event and that manually compressing the heart with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) will revive a victim. The reality is that the heart is usually quivering ineffectively rather than full-stopped, and that CPR buys mere minutes of brain function by extending circulation. A rule of thumb is that for each minute that passes before heart functioning can be restored a victim’s chances of reviving with nearly-normal brain function decreases by 10%. So instead of losing the person in a handful of minutes, with CPR you have at most 10 minutes to use an AED.

HarborLAB requires the presence of a volunteer at each paddling event who’s certified in adult and pediatric AED, CPR, First Aid, Basic Water Rescue, and Safety Around Water. We make note before events of AED units in park offices, nearby apartment buildings, restaurants, schools, and other places with easy access. In the chaos of an incident, however, having our own AED would allow us to act faster. We also paddle to remote beaches and islands where outside help, even from mobile first responders like the NYPD, FDNY, or US Coast Guard might not arrive in time. Remember: 10 minutes, tops.

On the positive side, contrary to popular belief one can use an AED on a wet victim. They shouldn’t be in standing pools of water but they can be pulled onto a dry surface, quickly toweled off around the chest, and treated. They needn’t be entirely dry.

It’s a bit unusual for a paddling organization as small as HarborLAB to have AEDs, chiefly because they’re expensive. Our $5000 AED budget covered the two Defibtech Lifeline AED units with extra pads, a medical oversight contract required by NY State law, durable waterproof housing, and Red Cross adult and pediatric certification for 15 volunteers  We thank the Newtown Creek Group and Exxon Mobil for grants covering these costs. These companies are identified by the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency Superfund program as “potentially responsible parties” for legacy industrial contaminants in the Newtown Creek and who’ve agreed to work with the agency in studies toward a cleanup. The companies provide grants for community environmental education and projects in parallel to the formal effort.