2017 Year-End Summary

 Fall 2017 & Year End Summary

Water Ecology & Engineering Field Trips

NYC H2O wrapped up the fall season of free outdoor field trips for New York students on December 1st, 2017. This fall, NYC H2O provided 64 free Water Ecology & Engineering Field Trips reaching over 1,600 students from underserved Title I and III schools. In total, in 2017, 4,780 students participated in 173 field trips. Since starting our program in 2014, NYC H2O has taken over 12,000 students on free field trips. We are encouraged by the growing number of students that we have been able to serve, made possible by leveraging our expanding educator network and by increasing individual, corporate, foundation and governmental support by 50%.

Our STEM education programs provide a scientific and historical understanding of New York City’s water system and infrastructure. We engage students of all abilities in grades 2 – 12 at eight inspiring water infrastructure sites and wetlands in the five boroughs:

  • Ridgewood Reservoir (Queens / Brooklyn)
  • Baisley Pond (Queens)
  • Central Park Reservoir (Manhattan)
  • Jerome Park Reservoir (Bronx)
  • Silver Lake (Staten Island)
  • High Bridge (Manhattan / Bronx)
  • Lemon Creek (Staten Island)
  • Plumb Beach (Brooklyn)

Progress at the Ridgewood Reservoir

NYC H2O wrote and submitted the successful Historic Register application for NY State that is now pending approval for the National Register. Executive Director Matt Malina gave testimony on December 7 at  the NY State Historic Review Board in Albany in support of listing the Ridgewood Reservoir on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

We successfully advocated for the long overdue designation of  the Ridgewood Reservoir as a Class 1 – freshwater wetland to protect the ecology of its basins for future generations. Public hearings will be held by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation in January 2018.

We are moving forward with our efforts to install a permanent pedestrian-activated signal on Vermont Place to make crossing that street safer for students and families visiting the Ridgewood Reservoir. Installation began on December 14th 2017. NYC H2O worked for 18 months on this initiative which required the support of elected officials, and the NYC Department of Transportation and NYC Parks Department. Stay tuned for the ribbon cutting ceremony in January 2018!

We thank the elected officials who advocated for the Ridgewood Reservoir, allowing the voices of many diverse community groups to be heard on both sides of the Brooklyn-Queens border. These include Deputy Brooklyn Borough President  Diana Reyna, Council Members Elizabeth Crowley and Rafael Espinal, Assembly Members Catherine Nolan and Mike Miller, State Senators Addabbo and Gianaris, and Congresswoman​ ​Nydia​ ​M.​ ​Velázquez​.

NYC H2O facilitated two community listening meetings about the Ridgewood Reservoir on May 23rd and June 1st 2017. Our community partners included Cypress Hills LDC, North Brooklyn YMCA, Brooklyn Bird Club, Queens County Bird Club, Community Board 5 Queens and Brooklyn, and others. To foster the discussion at these meetings, dcap Architects and RAFT Landscape Architects developed a Vision Plan for the Reservoir. Let us know what you think!

Their renderings – based on community input – highlight the need for protecting the Ridgewood Reservoir ecological and cultural treasures and its potential for better serving New York’s communities.

We invite you to attend more meetings in 2018 as the project develops! As of now, NYC H2O is conducting an ongoing survey about the Ridgewood Reservoir. Over 350 people have taken the survey: the results to date can be seen here.

On April 23, we organized a volunteer landscaping event at the Reservoir. We removed invasive species like mugwort and planted native shoots like white pines, red oaks, milkweed, goldenrod, black-eyed susans & fleeting boneset at the Ridgewood Reservoir.

NYC H2O’s work at the Ridgewood Reservoir was generously funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Patagonia, and City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. Yet, 2018 reminds us that there is always more good work ready to be done!

NYC H2O Thanks the Community

Thank you to all who supported our free school programs through donating, or by participating in NYC H2O adult activities such as kayaking, biking, and walking tours, or by attending our teacher education programs. A sincere thanks to the 80 individuals who helped us meet our matching grant goal of $10,000 sponsored by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, a grant opportunity that ultimately raised $30,000 for NYC H2O. We think that exposing students to natural settings to learn science is the best way to get students interested in their ecology.

Our 2017 field trips were made possible by the generous support of these sponsors:

  • Lily Auchincloss Foundation
  • Sloan Foundation
  • Rauschenberg Foundation
  • Awesome Foundation
  • NYC Department of Environmental Protection
  • Catskill Watershed Corporation
  • City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley
  • NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs
  • Clif Bar
  • Captain Planet
  • Aggreko
  • City Council Manhattan Delegation
  • City Council Brooklyn  Delegation
  • City Council Member Andy King
  • City Council Member Alan Maisel
  • City Council Member Joe Borelli

Know Your H2O Fundraiser

On November 8, 2017, NYC H2O hosted its first annual fundraiser at the Interboro Distillery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Supporters came together to celebrate a major milestone: Since 2014, over 12,000 students citywide have received free Water Ecology and Engineering Field Trips.

NYC H2O supporters packed the space enjoying homebrews and tasty bites while raising over $10,000, celebrating with 100+ people, and hearing humorous drops of wisdom from our honorees, Steve Duncan and Korin Tangtrakul.

Thank you to all of our guests, auction participants and winners, and generous donors! And  our event sponsors:

  • Interboro Distillery
  • Queen of Falafel​
  • Naturally Delicious
  • House of Yes
  • Ancolie
  • Campbell Cheese & Grocery
  • Doughnut Plant
  • Bread & Tulips
  • The Green Table
  • Cleverhood
  • Brooklyn Brainery
  • Egg
  • Patagonia
  • The Sill
  • Little Choc Apothecary
  • Terri
  • PLG Coffeehouse & Tavern​
  • Clinton St. Baking Co.

​Other Highlights of 2017

Beach & Wetland Volunteer Cleanups 

535 volunteers helped us with 5 beach cleanups where we removed 7.5 tons of debris in total:

These cleanups  protect marine and avian life. They were sponsored by Coca Cola, Mitsubishi, Skanska, the National Park Service, Partnership for Parks, and NYC Council Members Alan Maisel and Joseph C. Borelli.

We also thank our community partners who provided dozens of volunteers for beach and wetlands cleanups: NY Cares, Natural Resources Protective Association, Gateway National Recreation Area, New York University (NYU), Billion Oyster Project,  J-CAP, Brooklyn College, Grover Cleveland High School, Baruch College Campus High School, Bronx High School of Science, Staten Island Academy, College of Staten Island-City University of New York Social Work Program, Arbor School, Brooklyn Technical High School, Brooklyn Arbor, The Beekman School, PS 56, Tottenville High School, Girl Scouts Troop 52 & 56, Boy Scout Troop 222, St. Joe’s by the Sea, St Clare’s, Staten Island Museum, Staten Island Tech, and NY Harbor School.Lectures

NYC H2O presented 5 free public talks with ecological thinkers who share our mission of water awareness.

  1. February 3 – Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail,  talk by Dr. Jeff Bolster, 200 in attendance at Brooklyn Borough Hall
  2. February 4 – second presentation by Dr. Jeff Bolster at the Staten Island Noble Maritime Museum; 80 in  attendance.
  3. May 12 – Drawing Water, talk by Artist Stacy Levy about her work connecting nature and art at Hunter College; 60 in attendance.
  4. October 22 – Panel discussion on historic streams in Brooklyn with Eymund Diegel, Steve Duncan, Stacy Levy and Diana Gruberg , with 25 in attendance.
  5. December 8 – The Lost Streams of Welikia;  talk by Dr. Eric Sanderson about New York City’s streams and the pre-development topography of NYC at Hunter College. Artist Eve Mosher introduced Dr. Sanderson; 270 in  attendance.

Horseshoe Crab Discovery Walks

Led by a team of scientists and educators, NYC H2O’s horseshoe crab discovery walks are family-friendly, interactive outings that introduce New Yorkers to their city’s oldest inhabitants. During the summer, NYC H2O takes groups to see the horseshoe crabs as they come ashore for their mating ritual as they have done for the last 450 million years. Horseshoe crabs are some of the oldest living creatures on our planet. They play a critical role in coastal ecology: their eggs provide food for migrating birds. In the Northeast, horseshoe crab numbers are declining due to loss of habitat as well as over-harvesting for biotechnology purposes and use as commercial bait.

On June 3, NYC H2O partnered with the National Park Service to clean up Plumb Beach to get it ready for our pre-historic friends. We had 80 volunteers collect and remove 150 bags of trash. We take students to this site during the school year to learn about coastal wetlands and how salt-water marshes protect New York City from storm surges, and to learn about the importance of horseshoe crabs to coastal ecology. 

​Stream Painting

We are committed to incorporating art with science to create powerful lessons for our communities. We tapped water-artist, Stacy Levy, to create a participatory stream painting workshop that traced the now hidden path of an old stream. Levy is an internationally known artist who specializes in creating artful, site-specific interventions and engagements with water ecology. “Water is one of our favorite substances, yet we know very little about its ways,” says Levy who explores hidden patterns of hydrology, drainage and microscopic life forms, from tiny microorganisms to large watersheds.

Stacy first worked with Eymund Diegel and Steve Duncan to locate the historic Sassian Creek and make it visible with blue chalk paint. These marks drew a temporary portrait of the stream’s course, making the presence of urban water visible for a day. We explored Levy’s collaborations with urban nature that meld art, engineering and ecology. After the workshop, a panel discussion was held  co-sponsored by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 61-Local which  donated their space.Daylighting, Harlem Creek & Tibbetts Brook

An opportunity exists to re-establish a more naturally functioning ecosystem by restoring the stream at grade, a practice commonly known as daylighting. Manhattan Island was once covered by streams and marshes before it became paved over with concrete and asphalt. Once voluminous, Harlem Creek is now a hidden watercourse that makes its presence known only if you know where to look for it. That’s at least what we hoped to prove to the participants on our Daylighting Tour of Harlem Creek.

In August 2017, Steve Duncan created a two-part walk for NYC H2O to show our community why daylighting is important. Duncan led 5 walks which followed Harlem Creek’s buried path as he explained how the waterway functions today. The Creek is eventually routed to the Wards Island Sewage Plant, unnecessarily adding to the water volume that causes combined sewage overflows (CSOs) during rain storms, a topic of increasing concern as New York City addresses climate change and the frequency and impact of storm surges.

NYC H2O will continue to partner with agencies who pioneer assessments and visioning projects that explore ideas, precedents, techniques, management & stewardship structures for this and other daylighting projects. Harlem Creek’s past may hold secrets vital to New York City’s sustainable development as the daylighting and rerouting of underground waters becomes central to the City’s resilient future. On October 1st 2017, Duncan led a walk along the Tibbetts Brook in the Bronx, another prime candidate for daylighting.

On December 13th 2017, we gave testimony at the City Council hearing on Stormwater Infrastructure. Over 100 people attended the hearing attesting to the growing concern about how the city addresses sustainable infrastructure in the face of climate change. We testified that the NYC DEP (water and sewer utility) should cooperate with the NYC Parks Department to daylight Tibbetts Brook and  other green infrastructure initiatives. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on these important updates!Organizational Growth in 2017

As demand for our field trips grows, and our advocacy efforts expand, so does our core team headed by Jonathan Turer, Director of Projects and Programs,  and our Advisory Council member, Elissa Sampson. This year we welcomed a number of part time staff,  Melinda Alfano, Communications and Operations Coordinator,  grant specialist , Sarabeth Brockley, and policy analyst Ryan Brenner. We also expanded our Board of Directors. Many thanks to President Peter Frishauf for his leadership and new board members Arcilia Derenzo, a technology teacher in Flatbush, and Froma Harrop, a nationally syndicated columnist. They join Board Members Chad Berkowitz, Mitch Goldstein, Damian Griffin and Kim Worsham.  We are also thankful to Stroock, Stroock and Lavan for their generous pro bono counsel.NYC H2O Media Highlights

December 21, 2017 Times Ledger, Ridgewood Reservoir Added to the NY State Historic Register
December 19, 2017 Leader/Observer, Ridgewood Reservoir Added to the NY State Historic Register
December 19, 2017 Queens Tribune, Ridgewood Reservoir Placed on Historic Register
December 18, 2017 QNS Ridgewood Reservoir Added to the NY State Historic Register
December 15, 2017 Untapped Cities, Ridgewood Reservoir Added to the NY State Historic Register
October 19, 2017  Gothamist Article about the Ridgewood Reservoir
​July 10, 2017 Interview with Matt Malina on BronxNet TV
June 27, 2017 Village Voice Article about the Ridgewood Reservoir
May 15, 2017 Article about Stream Painting workshop with artist Stacy Levy
May 11, 2017   New York Times article about Stacy Levy artist talk and workshop
May 11, 2017  QNS Article about upcoming Ridgewood Reservoir Community Listening Meetings
May 10, 2017  Untapped Cities article about Stacy Levy talk and workshop
March 27, 2017  Queens Chronicle: H2O Submits Historic Register Nomination for the Ridgewood Reservoir
February 4, 2017 NY1 covers Black Jacks
January 19, 2017 Queen Chronicle about the NYC Trivia Contest
– Matt Malina
Founder & Director NYC H2O

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