HarborLAB planted thousands upon thousands of saltwater marsh grass seedlings in Jamaica Bay this summer, under the direction of the American Littoral Society. These outings instructed us in how to grow spartina at Newtown Creek, the intertidal zone of the HarborLAB GreenLaunch now in development. We also spread the word, and grow seedlings, through our “Cordgrass in the Classroom” project.
Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) is a building block of our estuary ecosystem. It shelters invertebrates upon which shorebirds feed. It might also shelter our city from the Anthropocene‘s angrier seas. HarborLAB has given school and library demonstrations and lectures about this important contributor to habitat and resilience.
HarborLAB partnered with Google for our first planting, and then returned with GLG and Hour Children, an organization serving children who were born in prison or whose mothers have been incarcerated. Hour Children has also become a neighborhood anchor in the massive public housing row of western Queens. We paired adults with kids to paddle out to sandy island where Don Riepe of the American Littoral Society directed us, with help from the Resiliency Corps and Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, in planting rows and rows of spartina plugs.
Our group of 20 Hour Children participants also enjoyed a Gateway Wildlife Refuge orientation and nature walk with the ALS before planting began.
This is a unique opportunity. Landing on South Brother Island is normally forbidden. Even NYC Parks staff rarely visits.
The Natural Resources Group of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation has kindly given us the opportunity to continue our volunteers’ tradition of removing plastic debris from South Brother Island as part of the American Littoral Society’s annual New York Beach Cleanup. We’re also grateful to our estuary stewardship and education sponsors, the United Nations Federal Credit Union, Con Ed, and the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Program (stemming from City of Water Day).
Our primary partner will be CUNY, to bring students on a roughly 1:1 ratio with volunteers. Our capacity is limited. We would welcome Rocking the Boat and Bronx River Alliance to participate if Parks approves and we can keep numbers small and manageable and stay to the same schedule.
Public paddlers will be invited to participate as new volunteers through our outreach (like here and Facebook), but must be screened, selected, and confirmed by HarborLAB — no general “walk ups” may come to the island or be waitlisted. HarborLAB participants must be over 18 years old, approved by HarborLAB (via professors, in the case of CUNY students), and bring waivers signed and dated, with the bottom note, “SBI.” Here’s our waiver: http://harborlab.org/waivers/
Participants must RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for this event. Subject line: South Brother Island. List your skills (we have needs far beyond paddling) and interests if you’re a prospective volunteer. Professors must provide student lists by Friday morning at 10:00 AM. Waitlisted guests can come to Barretto Point Park and have a great picnic if our boats are filled to capacity. We strongly encourage people on the waitlist to come, rather than have empty boats. If volunteers are willing and not exhausted, there’s a chance of a brief pleasure paddle along the Bronx coast for waitlisted people after the event.
Applicants for this event will be notified on Friday if they’re on the trip or waitlisted. Participants will receive more details via email.
South Brother Island is located between the Bronx mainland (and belongs to that borough) and Queens, twinned with the more famed North Brother Island. Also nearby are Rikers Island Prison and Randalls Island. It’s one of NYC’s most important Harbor Heron refuges and near the western extreme of the project boundary of the Long Island Sound Study. The nearest convenient park is Barretto Point Park, our launch site for the day.
Here are photos from one of the previous cleanups:
And a brief video of the Monarch butterfly migration sustained by the island’s goldenrod:
This cleanup began at our public initiative, it’s one of HarborLAB’s top service highlights, and we’re very grateful to NRG for making this unique educational opportunity possible. We make no pretense of removing most (or even much) of the plastic debris tossed by waves, wind, and wakes onto this beautiful little island. But we hope our outing will provide students of biology, environmental science, and photojournalism with experiential learning through service. Perhaps our work will also draw positive attention to the island, and thereby resources from foundations and donors.
We visit after the herons have migrated out and land our boats below the high water mark, but must remain extremely sensitive to the island’s ecosystem. NRG’s representative will provide direction or a veto in all matters regarding conservation and protection — where we land, clean, gather filled trash bags, etc.
Glossy ibis flock in Jamaica Bay. Photo by Don Riepe, American Littoral Society.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 22!
This is a wonderful chance to share a day of fun and learning with Hour Children, a nonprofit dedicated to help families get on a positive, healthy, and productive track after a mother’s incarceration. Many of the kids were born in prison, or are being mentored while their mothers are incarcerated. Hour Children also provide neighborhood services, like summer and after school programs, a food pantry, educational aid, job search and training, and thrift shops. Hour Children’s LIC neighborhood includes three large NYCHA residences.
HarborLAB is proud to participate in the annual September International Coastal Cleanup coordinated in our region by the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society thanks to the Ocean Conservancy‘s sponsorship. We’ll continue the tradition begun by Erik Baard of cleaning up South Brother Island, a harbor heron refuge, thanks to relationships with the Natural Resources Group of NYC Department of Parks and Recreation he forged through his Nature Calendar blog. We’ll also be cleaning up other shorelines as a part of regular programming. Naturally, we’ll start with our launch site!
While the great Five Gyres gathering plastics in our oceans are now beginning to capture rightful media notice, so many coastal ecosystems are harmed by plastic pollution. Many species are harmed by injecting plastic and becoming trapped in it.
We invite to join us in our cleanups and urge you to participate in other groups’ cleanups — maybe start your own! That link again: http://www.nysbeachcleanup.org/