Volunteer Sally Attia, Esq. and Facilities Manager Pat Erickson paddling by the Domino Sugar Factory by the Williamsburg Bridge
Volunteer Sally Attia, Esq. preparing for our paddle by making sure our water bottles were packed
On Sunday April 27, 2014, three of our HarborLAB volunteers- Facilities Manager Patricia Erickson, volunteer Sally Attia, Esq. (part of our incorporation team), and yours truly, Operations Manager EJ Lee kicked off the 2014 year with a paddle from our Newtown Creek launch to Williamsburg.
Operations Manager EJ Lee and Facilities Manager Pat Erickson (and Sally Attia’s elbow) in Williamsburg, BK
The purpose of this paddle was to scout the shoreline for any changes since last year that could affect paddlers. I am happy to report that there was nothing that would disturb paddling on the East River from Long Island City to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Cormorant on an old piling by the Huxley Envelope building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
In fact, the cormorants were sunning themselves contentedly, Canada geese were floating along with their goslings, and the bladderwrack were flourishing on the rocks along the banks of the Newtown Creek and Bushwick Inlet.
Operations Manager EJ Lee watches the Canada geese fly from the Bushwick Inlet, whose banks are covered in Bladderwrack
HarborLAB will be offering longer open water paddling to the public in Mid-June, because of safety concerns due to exposure to cold water. The temperature of the East River on Sunday was 47ºF, and full length wetsuits are absolutely necessary.
Fellow paddlers out on the East River in their sea kayaks
Although we had favorable currents, there were barges and ferries on the river, and the wind was a-blowing. We learned very well that it was the first paddle of the year; our sore muscles made sure we knew the next day! As always, paddle safe and paddle smart.
Pat and Sally warming up in the car after the paddle
Boat launch property before most work hard begun. Photo by Wesley Miller.
HarborLAB volunteers cleaned up our 125′ x 21′ waterfront space and installed a boat launch so that in 2014 we can offer more frequent programming, host and assist student research projects, and bring robust community life and a richer ecosystem to the shore. We’re very grateful to Community Board 2 Environmental Chair Dorothy Morehead for storing our boats for the summer in the yard behind her Sunnyside office, with our gear and materials in her basement.
Our space, which is at the end of Vernon Boulevard, is generously provided by Schuman Properties (family owned, along with Propper Manufacturing). We have great co-tenants, including the Circus Warehouse. The chief inspiration for the site revamp was our recent purchase of a boat trailer from Jersey Paddler. Other recent funds enabled us to budget for security cameras, locks and chains, sheds, and property improvements.
The property was unusable due to Hurricane Sandy debris and recovery period dumping, as well as loose pallets of bricks and dense and extensive weed growth. The crumbling bulkhead also left us with a steep and unstable gradient. The first reclamation work was done by Wesley Miller, who single-handedly weeded much of the tract, allowing a trailer to roll in while leaving weeds that held down soil on slopes. Wesley also restacked bricks that fell from pallets.
Then came HarborLAB’s work party! Our labor was fueled by amazing Italian food from Manducatis Rustica, which is further up Vernon Boulevard. We were glad to welcome three new volunteers, Dr. Minerva Ahumada (professor of philosophy at LaGuardia Community College — and boy do her students love her!), David Pugh (a Time’s Up! activist referred to us by HarborLAB board member Joel Kupferman, founder of the NY Environmental Law and Justice Project), and artist Becky Chipkin.
Schuman Properties kindly ordered a dumpster, which ten volunteers filled rapidly with all manner of junk. We also moved thousands of bricks by hand, assembly line style, to further open up space near the gate. We also installed a mailbox, began gate repairs, and installed a wooden boat launch. LIC-based artist and sailor Ilan Averbuch creates massive sculptures, so he’s offered to help move some pallets of bricks with his forklift. HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Erickson oversaw all work, while Mairo Notton particularly focused on our boat launch.
Future plans include salt-tolerant native species to hold the shoreline together, spartina marsh grass planting, a work platform for research, a dock, shipping containers for storage once the bricks are removed this winter, and much more! We’re also working to ensure our improvements are inclusive of the sailors already present, with stronger tie-ups, stairs and paths down (also sparing planted areas), and community building activities.
Overgrown space with dumping, including heavy buckets with unknown contents. Photo by Wesley Miller.
Some of the many bricks on the site that had to be moved and stacked. In total, there are perhaps 50,000 bricks. Photo by Wesley Miller.
Now the work can begin with gusto — the dumpster arrives! Photo by Erik Baard.
Volunteer Co-Manager Caroline Walker lassos the gate post to pull it upright, while Facilities Manager Patricia Erickson directs from below and sets the line.
Sally Attia, Mairo Notton, and David Pugh install the boat ramp, which Mairo assembled out of Founder Erik Baard’s futon frame. David’s shirt also provides a great chance to salute pioneering urban environment group Time’s Up! Photo by Erik Baard.
Mairo Notton tests the repelling aspect of his boat ramp masterpiece. Photo by Erik Baard.
David Pugh and Becky Chipkin inaugurate the boat ramp, both launching and landing, while Sally Attia helps. . Photo by Erik Baard.
David Pugh, Sally Attia, and Manny Steier organize the huge task of moving bricks out our working area. Patricia Erickson was the spur and inspiration that made us believe we could do it in a day. Photo by Erik Baard.
Mairo Notton upped the ante in brick carrying, with 15 at a time. Sometimes 18, simply to show off. He also tested Erik Baard’s ability to do so — Erik passed, but this remained Mairo’s signature achievement. Photo by Erik Baard.
More bricks, bricks, bricks. We did it in a continual human chain, with specialized stackers at either end. Here camera shy Dr. Minerva Ahumada, professor of philosophy at LaGuardia Community College, scoots out of frame while HarborLAB Operations Manager EJ Lee enters. One wonders if the myth of Sisyphus prepared Minerva for this task. Photo by Erik Baard.
We still had time for love. David Pugh, Becky Chipkin, a dumpster, a sign warning of the END, and the new World Trade Center rising over the Newtown Creek mouth. Photo by Erik Baard.
In an unusual move, a seaplane used the Newtown Creek as a runway — toward Manhattan. Photo by Erik Baard.
Making us more official, Facilities Manager Patricia Erickson and Mairo Notton install a mailbox by the gate. Photo by Erik Baard.
As we feasted on Manducatis Rustica’s food, our North Brooklyn Boat Club neighbors across the Newtown Creek set off on an overnight Manhattan circumnavigation. We called out our well wishes for the canoeists, kayakers, and rowers. Photo by Erik Baard.
In daylight we saw the full dumpster. Photo by Erik Baard.
And off goes the site junk! Photo by Erik Baard.
Canoes and trailer on site and secured. Kayaks to soon follow. Photo by Erik Baard.