Temperance Fountains

Water Wonk Wednesdays

A weekly column on water news, tips, and innovations.

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Tompkins Square Park. Photo by Erik Baard. 

by Erik Baard

I was recently wandering through the slush of Tompkins Square Park for a vegan cherry pie when I chanced upon a fountain west of the dog run. It was topped by post and lintels, four austere friezes each bearing what I immediately recognized as Victorian Era feminine virtues: Hope. Faith. Charity. Temperance.

Temperance? That tipped me off. This fountain was a bit of gentle 19th century civic persuasion to not surrender to the animal spirits loosed by alcohol. Let cool, clean waters heal you.

This Temperance Fountain stands at the heart of what was once the “Little Germany” neighborhood. Stereotypes about the “idleness, imposture, [and] crime” of 19th century Irish and German immigrants panicked the upper crust of New York City society, who associated the immigrants’ supposed failings with drunkenness. A repugnant Nativism and religious bigotry arose, often linked to suspicions that Catholics were loyal to the Papacy and not America. Legislative measures to encourage teetotalism infamously culminated in Prohibition’s gang wars. A few sympathetic (albeit perhaps equally prejudiced) Progressive clerics and women of means strove to uplift the new, alien masses by providing an alternative to booze: reliable drinking water.

Generations of New Yorkers since Dutch colonization of Manahatta had fouled the potable springs and ponds at their feet with garbage and sewage, and so instead drank cider, beer, and hard liquor mixed with water. Immigrants participated in this pollution, and the loss of fresh, local water was a living memory for established New Yorkers in the mid-19th century.

Temperance societies — often affiliated with enlightened causes like Women’s Suffrage — grew through the latter part of that century. The activist women and philanthropists like Henry D. Cogswell (dentist to the California Gold Rush) funded Temperance Fountains, often topped with statues depicting Charity. Today few remain,  though another is in nearby Union Square Park. Another, in Washington, DC, bears the same inscription of virtues as the one in Tompkins Square Park. According to the Washington Post, a California Senator once derided the fountain as that city’s “ugliest statue.”

But in a sense, you drink from a Temperance Faucet at home every day. The temperance movement, alongside disastrous fires and a cholera epidemic, was instrumental in the creation of NYC’s world renowned waterworks. The completion of the Croton Reservoir Aqueduct in 1842 made the our city’s first such fountains possible, and continued lobbying by temperance groups helped NYC stretch its water projects into upstate mountains.Maybe the teetotalers  had a point, if not a pint: the Catskill town of Neversink, where HarborLAB’s reservoir paddling program is located, just ended Prohibition in 2015.

 

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A Night for Snow Pillows

Water Wonk Wednesdays

A weekly column on water news, tips, and innovations.

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Snow Pillow monitoring station. Photo by NYCDEP 

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SNOTEL with snow pillows. Image by USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service

The term “snow pillow” evokes a peaceful, muffling moonlit whiteness spreading a lull across the countryside. For New Yorkers, however, it’s a critical piece of hardware.

Much of the billion gallons of water used daily by nine million residents of NYC and surrounding counties arrives as snow. The white caps of the old, rounded Catskill Mountains nestling the Neversink Reservoir are a reserve bank that melts to meet our needs in warmer months. Snow melt can also swell rivers, so anticipating flood risks is very important to towns an farms. With so many lives affected by snow, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with City University of New York and National Weather Service, is constantly looking for better ways to measure it.

At the end of the last decade NYCDEP began using “snow pillows,” essentially scales that weigh snow in remote locations and transmit data wirelessly in near real-time. The technology (first developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska) is often integrated into remote sensor stations in rougher terrains out west. The NYCDEP deployed its first snow pillow at the Schoharie Reservoir in 2008, and later near reservoirs in Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink. HarborLAB operates a canoeing and kayaking program at the Neversink for NYC youth groups and public school students to learn about their drinking water sources.

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Inner workings of the NYCDEP’s latest generation snow pillow. Photo by NYCDEP. 

The NYCDEP still uses aerial surveys and good old fashioned field work to measure snowpack, but the agency plans to more than double its constellation of snow pillows to 35 stations in coming years. Another sensor used is the Gmon, which helps researchers estimate snowpack by measuring the absorption of naturally occurring radiation. Future snow data collection might increasingly rely on satellites.

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For more about NYCDEP’s work to measure snowpack, please view this PowerPoint presentation by James H. Porter, PhD, Chief of Water Systems Operations at NYCDEP:

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Catskills Boating with ReservoirLAB!

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The view from the ReservoirLAB launch Chandler’s Cove on the Neversink Reservoir in the Catskill Mountains.

HarborLAB warmly invites NYC public schools and community organizations to paddle with us for FREE on our Neversink Reservoir kayak and canoe fleet to learn about the natural and engineering wonders that make our city’s water wealth possible!

Here are our initial program dates:

June 10 and 11
July 8 and 9
August 5 and 6
Sept 10 and 11
Sept 17 and 18
Oct 8 and 10
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We’ll add dates as volunteer staffing and public demand both grow.
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To participate please email edu@harborlab.org with the subject line “Neversink Reservoir.” To volunteer for this program, please email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line “Neversink Reservoir.”

All adult participants must have free access permits from the NYCDEP. Apply here:  http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/access.shtml

No permit is required of children under the age of 16 if accompanied by a valid permit holder over the age of 18, as will always be the case with our programs. Anyone 16 years old or older must apply for a permit.

Bus transportation grants are available from the Watershed Agricultural Council for groups incorporating forestry education into their visits to the Neversink Reservoir. ReservoirLAB will take participants on forest walks and using NYCDEP materials we’ll teach how forests protect and clean our drinking water. Classroom visits by NYCDEP professional educators also cover this topic. Apply for grants here:  http://www.nycwatershed.org/forestry/education-training/urbanrural-school-based-education-initiative/bus-tours/ 

We’re grateful to HarborLAB Camping Co-Manager Ray Tan for exploring alternative affordable busing options.

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HarborLAB educator Kamala Redd and camping co-manager Ray Tan exult in the knowledge that ReservoirLAB will soon launch!

 

The ReservoirLAB program is provided by HarborLAB volunteers and was made possible by a Catskill Watershed Corporation grant and its kind donation of boat racks; the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, which taught our volunteers to be “watershed docents” and provides reservoir access (NYCDEP also provided funds to the CWC for the grant); and ExxonMobil’s community outreach program for the Greenpoint Remediation Project, which financed a dozen volunteers’ Red Cross certification in CPR, AED, and First Aid (all for juveniles and adults) and basic water rescue for all of our programs from the Newtown Creek to the Neversink Reservoir. HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Erickson is kindly allowing HarborLAB to use her mobile home as a camping base (for volunteers serving multiple days) and equipment storage site near the Neversink River and reservoir. Frost Valley YMCA has stored our five canoes and ten tandem kayaks, and our paddles and live vests, while we completed training and permits.

Below is a gallery of photos from a recent site coordination meeting of HarborLAB volunteers with NYCDEP and CWC officials at the Neversink Reservoir. Note nearby campgrounds, posters about invasive species and other environmental matters, a hiking path, Chandler’s Cove, and the boat racks donated to us by the CWC.

March 29: Reservoir Training!

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Neversink Education Training at LaGuardia Community College

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Learn about our city’s beautiful drinking water system, a wonder of nature and engineering! Share that new knowledge with NYC youth and kids!

LaGuardia Community College, Room C463.

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Please share this to build our volunteer base for this program!
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Come get trained to be a Watershed Docent, a volunteer who’ll help introduce NYC school kids and other youth to our drinking water supply. This is NOT paddling skills training and you needn’t be an expert paddler; this is a night to learn about our drinking water system and the Neversink Reservoir itself. This program will activate HarborLAB’s second boat fleet on the Neversink Reservoir in the Catskills. This program is made possible by the NYC Department of Envionmental Protection, the Catskill Watershed Corporation, and HarborLAB volunteers.
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Please email harborlab@gmail.com with the subject line “Neversink Training” to participate. Additionally, please join and share here: https://www.facebook.com/events/968029069940341/
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Volunteer candidates will be screened by our volunteer co-managers and ED.
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(If you received Red Cross certification funded by HarborLAB’s sponsors you have a special responsibility to this program. Please make every effort to ensure its success.)
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Neversink Reservoir: FREE Kayaking and Hiking Permits!

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Get your free five-year access permit to paddle and hike our reservoir system!

Link here:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/access.shtml

If you want to volunteer for HarborLAB’s Watershed Wonder Tours (aka ReservoirLAB), or even just participate, you’ll need this permit. Our watershed programs at the Neversink Reservoir begin Memorial Day, but we’d like volunteers, and potential partners and participants, to square this paperwork away early.

It’s quick and easy! Learn more from the full NYC Department of Environmental Protection Neversink Reservoir brochure and the watershed boating website. Watershed Wonder Tours are made possible by NYCDEP permission and a grant from the Catskill Watershed Corporation.

After completing the form, please email edu@harborlab.org with the subject line “Watershed,” telling us that you’ve applied for your permit and how you’d like to help. We also have a Facebook event for the permits. We’ll have educational partnerships fostered by the NYCDEP and perhaps eventually community “walk-up” days with educational and activity booths promoting other water ecology causes.

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Free Reservoir Access Permit!

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Photo by Watershed Post (http://www.watershedpost.com/).

Get your free five-year access permit (
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/access.shtml) to paddle and hike our NYC reservoir system!

If you want to volunteer for HarborLAB’s Watershed Wonder Tours (aka ReservoirLAB), or even just participate, you’ll need this permit. Our watershed programs at the Neversink Reservoir begin Memorial Day, but we’d like volunteers to square this paperwork away early.

It’s quick and easy!

Please go to this link:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/access.shtml

And here’s our Facebook “event” promoting sign permit applications:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1405827916313561/

After completing the form, please email edu@harborlab.org with the subject line “Watershed,” telling us that you’ve applied for your permit and how you’d like to help. We’ll have both educational partnerships fostered by the NYC DEP and community “walk-up” days with educational and activity booths promoting other water ecology causes.

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Photo by Google Maps/Google Earth.

Watershed Wonder Tours!

Neversink Reservoir. Photo by Catskill Watershed Corporation.

Neversink Reservoir. Photo by Catskill Watershed Corporation.

HarborLAB will launch a second fleet of ten tandem kayaks and five canoes on the Neversink Reservoir at the start of the new school year! Students on our free Watershed Wonder Tours will enjoy unforgettably beautiful experiential and curricular learning about the water that flows out of their faucets. While at the reservoir they’ll also have opportunities to participate in educational hikes through the forests that maintain the purity of our drinking water, and to visit local farms and historic sites.

Few New York City residents realize that their drinking water is delivered largely by gravity from gorgeous, blue mountain lakes via a network of hundreds of miles of tunnels. Watershed Wonder Tours will happily awaken them to this reality and, we hope, a commitment to stewardship. We also look forward to building urban and rural bonds through partnerships with watershed educators that bring kids from both regions onto the water together.

We’re immensely grateful to the Catskill Watershed Corporation for making Watershed Wonder Tours possible through its recently announced education grant. The CWC stated in a press release that its goal is to “heighten awareness and understanding of the New York City water system and its vast Watershed West of the Hudson River.”

The CWC highlighted HarborLAB’s pioneering public program.  “Another grant will support an exciting new venture by the NYC-based HarborLAB to maintain a fleet of kayaks and canoes on the Neversink Reservoir for use by city students and their Watershed peers in conjunction with lessons about water quality and environmental protection.”

Educators and community organizations wishing to schedule Neversink Reservoir Watershed Wonder Tours with us can reduce transportation costs through a Watershed Agricultural Council Bus Tour Grant. Applications are due July 15. 

We’re also deeply grateful to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for its support of our CWC grant application, its creative engagement with such a novel program, and especially for its environmental education expertise. In 2012 the NYC DEP first allowed kayaking on some of its reservoirs. ReservoirLAB is the first public fleet to be stationed at a reservoir. The concept of introducing the free public paddling model (shaped in NYC primarily by the Downtown Boathouse) to the reservoir system was born in 2011, when HarborLAB Founder Erik Baard toured Catskill Mountain villages as the state’s “Greenest New Yorker.”

Neversink from the air. Photo by Kwaree.com.

The CWC is a non-profit, local development corporation responsible for several environmental protection, economic development and education programs in the New York City Watershed West of the Hudson River. For more information, go to www.cwconline.org, or call toll-free 877-928-7433.

Teachers, parents and school administrators will find information on Watershed and environmental education resources and programs at www.watersheducators.org.