HarborLAB Distributes 100 Fruit Trees!

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HarborLAB distributed 100 apricot, pear, and fig trees in partnership with MillionTreesNYC, New York Restoration Project, Queens Library, and Triple R Events. Our sidewalk fruit forest of baby trees was spoiled by a morning of gentle rains and an afternoon of cooing adoration from adoptive gardeners. Huge thanks to organizer Lynne Serpe of both HarborLAB and Triple R Events. Volunteers from HarborLAB included Liz Lopez and son Danny, Mairo Notton and son Tormi, Irene McLoughlin, Patricia Erickson, Roy Harp and sister Viola Anderson, Erik Baard, and Bob Din.

Trees absorb storm water that would otherwise contribute to combined sewer overflows (street water and bathroom flushes go into the same pipes) that damage our estuary. Fruit trees also sustain pollinators.

HarborLAB is restoring a section of crumbling waterfront bulkheads as a welcoming, green, and beautiful shoreline for education and passive recreation, in addition to boating. Thanks to today’s work we’ll have a new apricot and fig tree for human consumption in the edible uplands section of the GreenLaunch. The rest of the site will be devoted to indigenous species. Our intertidal area will be lush with spartina marsh grass, topping bladderwrack seaweed and mussels.  Our slopes will be resplendent with shadbush, inkberry, beach plum, and other natives. We’ll also have a hackberry tree and a tulip tree. Our upland with be edged by even more butterfly-sustaining goldenrod and milkweed than we had this year. We’re seed gathering now!

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Aboard with HarborLAB Oct 4 – Oct 11! (Tours, Events, Volunteer Opportunities)

thomas zellers,Though the public paddling season is drawing to a close, we still have fun paddles and volunteer opportunities! We’ll also have autumn and winter activities — as you’ve seen, HarborLAB is not merely a recreational paddling club, but a community organization dedicated to social good and environmental science service learning.

Here are a few events for the coming days.

Oct 5: GreenLaunch Work Day!  (POSTPONED FOR RAIN DAY)

9AM-2PM
 
53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, 11101 (directions: https://harborlab.org/location-and-directions/)
Email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line, “GreenLaunch Work Day” to participate.
Help HarborLAB create the GreenLaunch! We’ll remove bricks in the morning to donate to Build it Green. In the afternoon we’ll gather wildflower seeds, improve safety, and build planters and raised beds from wooden pallets (and other used wood) and used vinyl billboard posters. Students and artists will also make a Newtown Creek map on vinyl to permanently hang at our site, and decoratively paint the planters!
You needn’t be a big brute to help with the bricks. We’ll be hand carrying therm to two vans at the gate in small batches — don’t overdo it! And you needn’t be a Marie Cassatt to help with the painting either!
After 3PM volunteers are welcome to canoe the creek with volunteers or go for a brief skyline kayak tour!
Oct 5: Newtown Creek Photo BioBlitz!

https://www.facebook.com/events/571214066339086/
53-21 Vernon Blvd, LIC, 11101 (directions: https://harborlab.org/location-and-directions/)
Email tours@harborlab.org with the subject line, “Photo BioBlitz” to participate.
Come canoeing with HarborLAB to photograph the plants (especially spartina. milkweed, goldenrod), animals (especially ribbed mussels), and fungi that are cleaning the Newtown Creek and its shores!
HarborLAB volunteer Roy Harp will coordinate the tour, partnering with GrowNYC Environmental Educator Thomas Zellers. Sadly, because the Newtown Creek is a very polluted waterway, participating is by adult, informed consent. No minors.
We’re doing this in support of the Fall Mud Ball (https://www.facebook.com/events/1469669146637761/) bioremediation event, a fête thrown by Masters of Succession Collective at Smiling Hogshead Ranch urban farm.

To participate click “join” and email tours@harborlab.org with the subject line “Photo BioBlitz.” Roy Harp is the coordinator for this program.

We’ll map our finds bother electronically and on a community billboard at the farm that might be reused at the HarborLAB GreenLaunch.Those who arrive early can help gather milkweed seeds (this is Monarch Butterfly larvae’s sole food — http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/).

You’ll also see surprising areas of life, the city’s little-noted infrastructure, recycling plants. derelict old rail passes and bridges, egrets, herons, and other sights to delight an urban archeologist or naturalist alike. This trip requires some climbing.

HarborLAB is reviving a 125′ shoreline with Newtown Creek’s first true habitat restoration. Our “GreenLaunch” will have a reef of ribbed mussels at its base. We are consulting with experts at CUNY LaGuardia College and Cornel Cooperative Extension to understand how to best seed and nurture the mussels. The first step is to document where ribbed mussels are already living below the high water mark, and whether they’re thriving or struggling.

We’ll map our finds bother electronically and on a community billboard at the farm that might be reused at the HarborLAB GreenLaunch.Those who arrive early can help gather milkweed seeds (this is Monarch Butterfly larvae’s sole food — http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/).
You’ll also see surprising areas of life, the city’s little-noted infrastructure, recycling plants. derelict old rail passes and bridges, egrets, herons, and other sights to delight an urban archeologist or naturalist alike. This trip requires some climbing.
HarborLAB is reviving a 125′ shoreline with Newtown Creek’s first true habitat restoration. Our “GreenLaunch” will have a reef of ribbed mussels at its base. We are consulting with experts at CUNY LaGuardia College and Cornel Cooperative Extension to understand how to best seed and nurture the mussels. The first step is to document where ribbed mussels are already living below the high water mark, and whether they’re thriving or struggling.
Oct 5: SUBMERGE! NYC Marine Science Festival 
Email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line, “SUBMERGE” to participate.
HarborLAB needs volunteer ambassadors to participate in this exciting gathering of groups active in teaching and researching our estuary. This is a great fit for students. Share HarborLAB’s work, distribute postcards, network with educators, have fun, and be inspired!
Oct 11: Tree Giveaway! 
40-20 Broadway, LIC/Astoria (east of Steinway)
Email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line, “Tree Giveaway” to participate as a volunteer, or register through this link:  http://treegiveaways.com/qnlib
Trees drink up runoff waters that would otherwise overflow sewers into the estuary. They also breathe in CO2 that might otherwise be absorbed by oceans, making them more acidic. We need more trees!
HarborLAB is happy to again distribute 100 trees in partnership with The New Yorker Restoration Project, Triple R Events, and Queens Library at Broadway (4020 Broadway, Long Island City, NY 11103 — just east of Steinway) as part of MillionTreesNYC! Many thanks to New York Restoration Project and Triple R Events for being our partners in this event.
Volunteers set up at 11AM and some meet the tree shipment on Friday.
Giveaway starts Sunday at 1PM, first for those who registered online and then for those who’ve arrived without registering. All recipients must have permission to plant the trees on private property within the five boroughs of NYC.

HarborLAB and Queens Library Tree Giveaway!

Come get your pear, apricot, and fig trees at the Broadway Library in long Island City on October 11!

Better yet, come help HarborLAB to distribute the trees to city residents as a friendly and informative volunteer! HarborLAB and Triple R Events are coordinating and staffing a MillionTreesNYC and New York Restoration Project fruit tree giveaway from 1PM-3PM on Saturday, October 11.

HarborLAB coordinates tree giveaways each spring and fall. To help, email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line “Tree Giveaway.” Lynne Serpe and Erik Baard are managing outreach and volunteer coordination.

To register for your free tree, click here:

http://treegiveaways.com/qnlib

Why is an estuary group distributing trees? Plants and the soft earth surrounding them absorb rainwater that would otherwise overwhelm our sewer system. When our sewer system reaches maximum capacity, engineers must release untreated sewage into our waterways or back up into our neighborhoods and homes. Trees do a wonderful job of soaking up that excess water and using it to grow, or shedding it into air through leaves. Locally grown fruit also reduces our city’s carbon footprint, slowing sea level rise, ocean acidification and warming, and climate chaos.

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Cordgrass in the Classroom

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Spartina nursery at the Greenhouse at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island. Photo by Erik Baard.

Our estuary is suffering great losses. In the past century, 85% of the New York and New Jersey area’s saltwater wetlands were destroyed by development and pollution. In 2012, the municipal government released its Wetlands Strategy as part of PlaNYC. The document also provides an excellent overview Independent nonprofits like the American Littoral Society, Regional Plan Association, and Riverkeeper, as well as state and federal initiatives like the Harbor-Estuary Program, have long advocated for protection and restoration through smarter growth and replanting.

HarborLAB Founder and Executive Director Erik Baard took the crisis as an opportunity for service learning across the city. He conceived “Cordgrass in the Classroom.” This distributed program, if fully realized, would affordably empower educators and students to improve our environment in a way that might integrate in standard curricula. Many thanks to the Greenbelt Native Plant Center and Murfie, a tech startup that digitizes and streams personal CD and vinyl music collections, for making this project possible. Expert consultants from Louisiana State University have also helped greatly.

A building block species for ecosystems in our bays and inlets is spartina, commonly known as cordgrass. Both names, ancient Greek and English, refer to how this marsh grass was used to make rope in olden times. Its greater value, however, is how it stabilizes shorelines with complex rhizomatic root systems. A dense area of cordgrass is called a “baffle,” and it collects silts and organic matter like an upside broom. This builds up to a rich, mucky more terrestrial habitat for invertebrates, other plants and fungi, and the shorebirds and mammals that eat them. Without cordgrass, you won’t see herons and egrets, and water erosion will strip coastal communities of storm protection.

Cordgrass in the Classroom takes inspiration from earlier successes like Trout in the Classroom, MillionTreesNYC, and the Billion Oyster Project. Erik introduced the program at the Steinway Branch branch of the Queens Library as part of Greening Queens Libraries initiative of the North Star Fund. Here’s how it went:

1) A dozen kids and six adults gathered in the library’s community room. They received New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program posters of estuary life. Each participant was asked to name a living thing depicted in the poster until one teen said, “Grass.” The exercise highlighted how we easily overlook the organism that occupies the most space in the landscape and upon which the others depend.

2) A second page depicting wetlands let us discuss what an estuary saltwater wetlands is, as opposed to a beach or a freshwater swamp. We discussed how the complex root systems hold sand and silt together while the upper grasses feed butterfly larvae, provide shelter from predators, and are home to many creatures.

3) Modifying an idea from the Community Science Workshop Network, Erik taught the kids how to make mini-greenhouses from used CD cases donated by Murfie. Another option for local supplies for those not in a rush is NYC WasteMatch. This is a great opportunity to discuss recycling, the plaque of plastics, and how evolution is a constantly-adapting technology that doesn’t become obsolete. That said, even nature can overuse a technology to its near self-destruction; consider how the lignin that made trees possible may have later also overfed  microbes that excreted wastes that nearly smothered our world hundreds of millions of years ago.

Community Science Workshop Network (http://cswnetwork.org)

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4) The Greenbelt Native Plant Center kindly supplied guidance along with sand and seeds in brine. Many thanks to HarborLAB Operations Manager Patricia Erickson for driving. At the library, the kids mixed sand, seeds (gathered from the wild), and water. They then smoothed that mixed into CD cases and shut them. When tilted toward the sun and sitting and sitting in a shallow layer of water, the seeds will germinate and blades will shoot upward. Thanks to the CD’s thinness, kids will watch the roots and shoots in a cross-section, much like an ant farm.

5) When the grass outgrows its CD case, it will be transplanted in bunches into small, biodegradable (wood fiber, peat blend) seedling pots, covering their root crowns. When the grass seedlings reach 6′-8″ high, they’ll be ready for transplantation into nature. Among possible sites are HarborLAB’s launch or Jamaica Bay. At our site, we might fill jute rice bags from Jackson Heights will sand and slash them to receive transplants. That, along with stones, might protect the new colony from being washed away by barge wakes.

A girl draws roots onto a CD case greenhouse schematic. Photo by Erik Baard.

A girl draws roots onto a CD case greenhouse schematic. Photo by Erik Baard.

For those wanting to create more ambitious CD case greenhouses, Erik built the one below in five minutes using clear tape. It can be built taller to protect more mature plants. Like the simpler form, there’s adequate ventilation.

Cubed CD case mini-greenhouse. Photo by Erik Baard.

Cubed CD case mini-greenhouse. Photo by Erik Baard.

Some have gone hog wild with CD case greenhouses. For walk-in sized greenhouses made of reused plastics, many opt for discarded bottles.

May 18: Tree Giveaway and Algonquin Talk!

Come down to the HarborLAB launch on May 18 for FREE TREES (register HERE) and a paddling event! We started with Eastern Redbud, Tulip tree, Sassafras, and Hackberry, but they’re going fast!

Our canoe tour of the Newtown Creek will feature an Algonquin lecture and blessing of our boats! Our speaker will be Evan Pritchard, founder of the Center for Algonquin Culture.

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HarborLAB Helps Tree Giveaways!

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Forest Hills tree giveaway. Photo by Erik Baard. Tulip tree saplings in the foreground.

Seven HarborLAB volunteers helped make the Forest Hills Tree GIveaway organized by Michael Perlman at the Forest Hills Jewish Center and MacDonald Park on October 13 a great success. Help get more trees planted in western Queens with the Queens Public Library! Both events were coordinated with campaign leaders New York Restoration Project and MillionTreesNYC.

If you’d like to join our team in supporting the western Queens tree giveaway, please email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line “Broadway LIbrary Trees.” It also helps to join through our Facebook event. Please indicate if you’d like to work the entire event, or the first shift (noon-2PM) or the second shift (2PM-4PM). The program runs from 1PM-3PM.

This is a MillionTreesNYC event coordinated by New York Restoration Project and its local partner, Queens Library at BroadwayGreening Queens Library. HarborLAB volunteers will follow their directions. Our help was requested by Greening Queens Library.

Here’s the link to register for your tree, or to register a tree for the HarborLAB launch site:  http://treegiveaways.com/qnlib. Here’s a general page for NYRP-coordinated tree giveaways in all five boroughs.

Trees and other plants reduce combined sewage overflows, which raise pathogen levels in local waterways. Let’s do all we can as advocates and greeners to make Hallets Cove and other NYC inlets safer, especially for kids. The ability of these trees to absorb CO2 also reduces ocean acidification, perhaps the world’s greatest looming threat to food supplies and ecosystems.

HarborLAB enjoyed great success helping the Forest Hills tree giveaway. Let’s do it again! This is also a great opportunity for HarborLAB to earn salt-tolerant fruiting trees for our launch! We have shadbush (aka service berry) trees for our launch now, and will add persimmon. Maybe some tulip trees, which were the trunks of choice for the first canoes of this harbor?

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The Forest Hills tree giveaway’s cutest volunteers (Harpo the pooch puts it over the top). Photo by Erik Baard.

UNFCU Sponsors Estuary Education Gear!

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HarborLAB is thrilled to announce on 2013 World Environment Day, and just in time for World Oceans Day, that the United Nations Federal Credit Union has sponsored our purchase of estuary learning gear! HarborLAB will enhance its paddling programs with handheld and stationary video microscopes, waterproof cameras, waders, seines and traps, organism models, educational guides, and other materials thanks to the United Nations Federal Credit Union. (UNFCU).. City University of New York faculty, who sit on HarborLAB’s Board, will select these purchases along with advisers and Executive Director Erik Baard, who was the UNFCU 2012 World Environment Day keynote speaker.

Celestron handheld video microscope.

Celestron handheld video microscope. An example of the type of gear we will use.

HarborLAB will debut some of this learning gear at the Clearwater Festival, where it will be the sole provider of “walk-up” paddling programs. HarborLAB will make the UNFCU-sponsored items available to the Environmental Science program of CUNY LaGuardia Community College to maximize their educational value throughout the year, and so that CUNY students are best trained to serve with us as estuary and watershed ecology docents and rising leaders.

Long Island City, NY-headquartered UNFCU is a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative institution that serves the financial needs of the United Nations staff, UN Specialized Agencies, former international civil servants, and their families globally. It has members located in more than 200 countries and territories, and summarizes its mission as “Serving the People Who Serve the World.” Both HarborLAB and UNFCU are members of LIC Partnership.

HarborLAB is deeply grateful that UNFCU’s sponsorship is allowing us to ignite a love of environmental science in the young people we serve. For a glimpse of this kind of gear in action, here’s Erik Baard’s brief video of the New York Restoration Project‘s environmental education program seining in the Harlem River:

UNFCU joins Con Ed and TF Cornerstone as top tier financial sponsors of HarborLAB. Tax deductible donations are made through HarborLAB’s 501(c)(3) fiscal agent, Earth Day New York, to which we’re grateful for this service. HarborLAB is currently seeking a $5,000 sponsor for a Trailex UT-1200-16-04 boat trailer and related insurance to better enable its programs for youth throughout the NYC metropolitan region. Please email support@harborlab.org with your interest.