The Gift of Greater Safety!

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HarborLAB is very happy to announce that this week we’ll be purchasing a dock ladder for Gantry Plaza State Park to make it easier, less stressful, and safer for people to climb out of the water. To our volunteers and partners, an even safer 2015 is the best holiday gift of all!

Unintended swims are a natural, if rare, part of kayaking. All participants and dock workers wear life vests, so not every dunk is an emergency. But every dunk has the potential to become an emergency should wakes, medical conditions, currents, or other factors add complications and dangers. It’s best to have a quick and safe way out of the water to where volunteers are ready to help.

HarborLAB volunteers have been advocating for public paddling programs at Gantry Plaza State Park for over a decade, even before our organization existed! We’re grateful and thrilled that through the efforts of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance that our dreams were realized. We’re also deeply grateful to the Hunters Point Point Parks Conservancy for partnering on outreach and volunteer recruitment for the public program. We pioneered public paddling and floating science programs in the park this year, to the benefit of Baruch College, Hunters Point Community Middle School, 350.org, and other environmental education partners.

The ladder we install will also be a boon to other programs at Gantry Plaza State Park, such as the recreational paddling program produced by the Long Island City Community Boathouse, which was also founded by Erik Baard, founder of HarborLAB.

HarborLAB is grateful to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation for permitting this ladder work and partnering with our skilled volunteers (contractors and mechanics) to see to the sturdiest and most user-friendly installation. We’ll look to the State to make the final determination of what ladder would be proper before we make the purchase from West Marine. We’re looking at lifting ladders and flip ladders to prevent slippery fouling of the lower rungs and damage at low tide.

And hey, if you’re wondering about water quality in Gantry Plaza State Park, we have great news! Water sampled by HarborLAB volunteers at Gantry Plaza State Park, as gauged by specific bacteria counts, routinely tests in LaGuardia Community College labs as far better than any other paddling program spot in western Queens! But though Gantry water is often swimming quality, we’re all about the boats, ’bout the boats. No treading…   😉

HarborLAB at Gantry Plaza State Park. Photo by Erik Baard.

HarborLAB at Gantry Plaza State Park. Photo by Erik Baard.

Join the Cardboard Kayak Race!

Calling all educators, campers, and community groups to join us and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance on July 12 for the 2014 Cardboard Kayak Race! Everyone comes by boat to Governors Island for City of Water Day, but only the most creative and humorous mariners make their own zany boats right at the festival. Let your team of kids be among them!

HarborLAB will be providing public paddling programs at City of Water Day and safety support for the cardboard kayak race, as we did last year. We would be happy to help teams of junior high, high school, and college students practice their paddling in the weeks before competing in this unique design-build-paddle event! We and the MWA can also connect you with swim instruction organizations.

For information and registration, please click HERE. To partner with HarborLAB, email edu@harborlab.org.

 

 

 

Support MWA’s Waterfront Action Agenda!

Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s “Waterfront Action Agenda.” HarborLAB enthusiastically supports these integrated goals for a flourishing estuarine archipelago city.

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance is our region’s most dynamic and effective advocate for reviving the economic and ecological potential of our waterways. This inclusive network promotes waterborne transportation for commuters and cargo, while also supporting habitat restoration and sustainable recreation, like paddling. The MWA’s Waterfront Action Agenda synthesizes this comprehensive vision and outlines achievable goals. This five-point program grew out of work by the MWA’s urban planning staff and from ideas that bubbled up from the hundreds of harbor stakeholders that the MWA brings together.

If you want your organization to be part of this community, sign up here to join the MWA and benefit from conferences, events, seminars, community meetings, workshops, calls to action, and Waterwire newsletter.

Please let your elected officials know you support the Waterfront Action Agenda. Not sure who represents you? The League of Women Voters’ online district locator will guide you. No need to know your nearest buoy, just punch in your zip code!

 

 

 

Clearwater Festival and City of Water Day!

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Wonderful news! Thanks to our volunteers’ fantastic service last year, the two largest annual water ecology festivals in the metropolitan area have asked HarborLAB back to provide their public programs in 2014! Join us in Croton Point State Park in the Hudson River Valley for the Clearwater Festival on June 21 and June 22 and on Governors Island in the center of our harbor for City of Water Day on July 12!

Voter’s Guide to the Waterfront

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Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday! The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance has updated its guide to reflect results from the primaries. This is NOT an endorsement list, but rather a questionnaire allowing candidates to more thoroughly explore harbor and estuary issues than in any other forum.

Find the Guide here:

http://www.waterfrontalliance.org/votersguide

 

Polls are open from 6AM to 9PM. More information voting from the NYC Board if Elections can be found here:

http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/home/home.shtml

HarborLAB Acquires a Dock!

HarborLAB's dock at its current Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club home. HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Erickson seated, YRPC Commodore John Maggiotto in waders.

HarborLAB’s dock at its current Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club home. HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Menje Erickson seated, YRPC Commodore John Maggiotto in waders. Lovely Hudson River and Palisades in background. Photo by Erik Baard.

HarborLAB’s first season is closing with continued burgeoning growth. We agreed with Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club to purchase its dock as that storied organization (over a century of paddling tales!) upgrades and expands. HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Menje Erickson will oversee the refurbishing of the dock, which floats level, has new floats, and is decked with durable recycled plastic timber. We’re very grateful to NRG Energy and TF Cornerstone for their renewed sponsorships, which will make this work possible. We’ll also have budget transportation of the dock from the Hudson River to Hunters Point. We’re also grateful to YPRC and its Commodore John Maggiotto for this arrangement to foster our safe growth.

We will move the dock to our launch in November.

The dock is among those built through a program coordinated by Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance in 2000, under the direction of Carter Craft.

Newark Riverfront Revival!

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Come help Newark reclaim its riverfront for recreation and education! Along with other water access allies, we’re answering the call for help to make this a great introduction to the estuary. This is an event HarborLAB volunteers can happily assist but it’s not managed by us.

Here’s our Facebook event for a HarborLAB contingent of volunteers (including a Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance offer for a free ride to Newark from Manhattan):

https://www.facebook.com/events/637262316284756/

More here:

http://newarksriver.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Newark-Riverfront-Revival/174945239233944

We need not bring our boats to this event! The Newark City government will offer 10 of the county’s sit-inside (decked) kayaks for public use for three hours. They need volunteers to welcome the public and help keep the program safe and smooth on the storied Passaic River.

On the water, you should have experience rescuing paddlers in decked kayaks. Here’s a video posted by one of our suppliers (http://www.oldtowncanoe.com/resources/safety_and_rescue/kayak_rescue_methods/), while some of our volunteers and CUNY faculty board members have received training through the American Canoe Association, nonprofit paddling groups, and outfitters like NY Kayak Co.

On the dock, life guards and first responders are especially valued. Volunteers with experience fitting life vests, giving basic paddling tips, bracing boats for entry and exit, and other forms of assistance would be of great help.

If water quality permits responsible use of sit-on-top kayaks, HarborLAB will gladly return with its own tandem fleet, team, and learning tent soon. We can also bring canoes!

Let’s make friends across state lines and the reaches of the estuary!

The HarborLAB East River Ferry!

HarborLAB's morning crew of volunteers and supporters. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

HarborLAB’s morning crew of volunteers and supporters. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

HarborLAB is very grateful to NY Waterway for its exceptional generosity in providing a special City of Water Day ferry for our boats and volunteers to reach Governors Island in time to provide services. Storms threatened to disrupt the day, according to forecasts earlier in the week. Because we were to commence the public kayaking program on Governors Island at 11AM, we didn’t have the scheduling luxury of “playing it by ear.”

NY Waterway is a sponsor of both HarborLAB and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, which produces City of Water Day. The company also runs special ferries from Manhattan to Governors Island in support of City of Water Day.

When HarborLAB Founder Erik Baard called NY Waterway CEO Arthur Imperatore and Operations Chief Alan Warren to explain our worries, they kindly offered a special East River Ferry to get our volunteers, educational literature, boats, tables, canopy, and other needed items to the island before 10AM. This also saved us the trouble of delivering some items to City of Water Day producer Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s offices in Manhattan. HarborLAB extended this offer to Green Shores NYC, LIC Community Boathouse, Newtown Creek Alliance, North Brooklyn Boat Club, and other waterfront and environmental groups. We were happy to bring longtime Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park and Hunters Point Library community leader Mark Christie among our fellow passengers, along with Claudia Coger, President of the Astoria Houses Tenants Association (thanks to NYCHA Community Outreach professional Howard Hemmings).

The ferry captain and crew members were very courteous and kind, and quick!  Our gratitude to them too!

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HarborLAB Operations Manager EJ Lee exults in the morning sun and breeze aboard the special East River Ferry provided by NY Waterway. Somewhere Celine Dion is smiling. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

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HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Menje Erickson shows her Con Ed pride! Not only is Con Ed a HarborLAB sponsor and a City of Water Day sponsor, but it’s also her employer. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

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A beaming Mrs. Coger represents NYCHA residents, specifically the Astoria Houses. We’re very grateful to Howard Hemmings for helping HarborLAB learn directly from the community about needs and goals.

 

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Boats below deck while volunteers enjoyed fresh morning air. Photo by Erik Baard.

Cardboard Kayak Race!

The fierce First Heat. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

The fierce First Heat. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

Contestants awaiting the start signal. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

Contestants awaiting the start signal. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

This year the City of Water Day gathering on Governors Island featured the inaugural cardboard kayak race — a bit of lunacy that drew an enormous flood of spectators to the Pier 101 basin. HarborLAB provided paddles and life vests to the contestants and safety kayaks should anyone have needed rescuing.

Kayak blogger Chris Schiffner captured the fun on video from the viewing area, as did HarborLAB volunteer and CUNY LaGuardia Community College photo student Daniel Callaway. HarborLAB board member Scott Sternbach (CUNY LaGuardia Community College photo director) snapped away from his kayak and HarborLAB volunteer Daisy Hope Benjamin (an ER nurse who added safety to the day) took photos from the dock.

The cardboard bodyboard. HarborLAB volunteer Omar Barrios dubbed this team, "the best bromance ever." Photo by Daisy Hope Benjamin.

The cardboard bodyboard. HarborLAB volunteer Omar Barrios dubbed this team, “the best bromance ever.” Photo by Daisy Hope Benjamin.

The competition was organized into several rounds — or, appropriately for the scorching day, “heats” — past a buoy across the embayment, culminating in a mad dash for the medal. Designs ranged from efficient to fanciful. One North Brooklyn Boat Club entry looked like a Balangay, while another was ready to join the New York Water Taxi fleet. A few sank, though the prize for tenacity had to go to North Brooklyn Boat Club for recovering from a keel-over collision in Heat 2 to complete its buoy circuit. Erik Baard pulled the soggy canopy from their boat and carried it on a HarborLAB safety Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 XL for the duration of the heats. 

In the end, triumph went to Stevens Institute of Technology engineering students whose sleek and sturdy boat reflected weeks of planning. It seemed they could have paddled back to New Jersey in that thing!

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Disorderly fun. Photo by Daniel Callaway.

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An early favorite starts to dissolve. Photo by Daisy Hope Benjamin.

All hail the taxi! Photo by Daisy Hope Benjamin.

All hail the taxi! Photo by Scott Sternbach.

A team from Stuyvesant Cove ran a strong second before sinking. They sportingly swam their craft in. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

A team from Stuyvesant Cove ran a strong second before sinking. They sportingly swam their craft in. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

The go-go Greenpointers of the North Brooklyn Boat Club who impressed us all with determination and filled us with envy that they got to take a swim. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

The go-go Greenpointers of the North Brooklyn Boat Club who impressed us all with determination and filled us with envy that they got to take a swim. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

To the victors go the As. Steven's Institute of Technology students with their winning cardboard kayak.

To the victors go the As. Stevens Institute of Technology students with their winning cardboard kayak. Photo by Scott Sternbach.

City of Water Day Grant!

Wonderful news!

We have received a grant for $500.00 for our participation at the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s harbor and water environment celebration:  City of Water Day.

Funds were generously provided by the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program , the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, and the  The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.

HarborLAB will provide the free public kayaking program on Governors Island for City of Water Day, and will be a resource for learning through our education tent thanks in great part to CUNY LaGuardia Community College. This generous grant makes those contributions much less of a strain on our new and growing organization. Administration of this grant is made possible by our 501(c)(3) fiscal conduit, Earth Day New York. We are very grateful to NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Program, the New England Water Pollution Control Commission, and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance!