2023 Year-end Summary

It was hard to find good environmental news in 2023, unless you look closer at our own city. Thanks to NYC H2O’s educational programs and community events, there are cleaner neighborhoods in the Bronx, smarter students in Canarsie Park who can keep an educated eye on Honeylocust trees, fewer invasive spotted lanternflies in Conference House Park, and a spirit of celebration around the Ridgewood Reservoir. We hit a milestone in 2023, reaching 10,364 students with field trips and online lessons. 

Our 2023 impact was made possible by the New York City Council, our Board of Directors, individual donors and foundations, H2O members and of course, the thousands of volunteers and students who elevate our city.


STEM and Water Ecology Trips and Virtual Lessons

In 2023, NYC H2O led 292 field trips at 114 schools in all five boroughs. In total, we brought 7,976 NYC kids to field trips at parks, wetlands, beaches, reservoirs, and natural areas across the city. We reached an additional 2,388 students by providing 86 virtual lessons. In total, in 2023, our programs reached 10,364 students. Since 2014, when we began offering H2O Field Trips, we have reached 36,204 students in-person and an additional 10,969 online.

Most of our students attend schools that are cut off from urban natural areas or that face language and income barriers. Our Water Ecology and Engineering Field Trips and lessons open worlds to these young people and help them understand our ecological history and our vital interconnectedness with greenspaces and waterways.

NYC H2O field trips, led by trained field guides with dual skill sets in teaching and in environmental science/STEM, encourage students’ natural curiosity and prompt them to ask thoughtful questions about what they observe in both the natural and built environments at the following greenspaces:

  • 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)
  • Canarsie Park (Brooklyn)
  • Orchard Beach (Bronx)
  • Manhattan Beach (Brooklyn)

Service Learning

Combining education, stewardship, and technology, NYC H2O was delighted to work with 7 fantastic schools this year on programs spanning digital mapmaking and environmental cleanups in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Our Mapping with GIS program taught mapping and technology lessons to high school students at Central Park East High School in Manhattan and EBC High School in Brooklyn, where they explored their neighborhoods through digital media and the creation of ArcGIS StoryMaps. Fifth graders at PS 376 in Brooklyn mapped the condition of rain gardens in Bushwick and took to the streets weekly to remove litter that collects in gutters and gardens after rainstorms.

STEW (“Stewardship”) Crew entered its third year this fall at WHEELS High School in Manhattan, and we couldn’t be more proud of their work beautifying the blocks along the 182nd Street corridor, including 18 cleanups that removed over 600 lbs of trash, and data tracking litter hotspots that students are using in outreach to community stakeholders. Students there are leading an effort to track litter hotspots using GIS to present to community stakeholders.  

In June, NYC H2O hosted students from Lyons Community School at Ridgewood Reservoir for a day of wetland ecology and hands-on experience removing invasive Phragmites australis. The heat and mud didn’t deter these wetsuit warriors!

Students from Lyons Community School tackle Ridgewood Reservoir’s Phragmites root mat.

This year underscored the importance of imparting stewardship knowledge for schools and students to host their own School Cleanups. We worked with over 400 students from IS 7 and NRPA to remove over 450 lbs of trash from the beach at Wolfe’s Pond Park in Staten Island. We taught lessons on protecting our harbor ecosystem to students from Archimedes Academy for Math, Science, and Technology Application, and supported the students in a cleanup of Orchard Beach. And the fifth graders from PS 376 attended community board meetings and posted flyers for their cleanup, drawing over thirty community members and clearing over 350 lbs of trash from Bushwick’s streets.

Council Members and Sponsors

We’re grateful to the following City Council Members for their generous support of water ecology and engineering field trips and GIS lessons for NYC students: Joe Borelli, Jennifer Gutierrez, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Mercedes Narcisse, Sandy Nurse, Carmen De La Rosa, Diana Ayala, Inna Vernikov, Kevin C Riley, Pierina Sanchez, Eric Dinowitz, Shahana Hanif, Christopher Marte, Julie Menin, Oswald Feliz, Althea Stevens, Rita Joseph, Marjorie Velzquez, Amanda Farias, Chi Osse, Justin Brannan, Kamillah Hanks, David Carr, Carlina Rivera and Robert Holden. We also thank the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Con Edison, Richmond County Savings Foundation, Northfield Bank, and Provident Bank for sponsoring and supporting NYC H2O’s educational programming.


Ridgewood Reservoir

We made considerable progress removing invasive Phragmites in the middle basin of the Reservoir. In addition, we maintained and expanded the pollinator gardens around the Reservoir. We held 13 community landscaping volunteer days, which were attended by 249 volunteers from Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond. Partnering with groups such as the Cypress Hills LDC, ConEd, and NY Presbyterian Hospital allowed us to expand our volunteer base and spread the word about our projects.

In April, we increased the canopy of Highland Park with 20 new large trees to replace tree mortality and revitalize sections of the park. Native elms, serviceberries, lindens, and oaks were planted near the Vermont Place parking lot, park footpaths, and encircling the foundation of the old amphitheater. Thanks to the NYC Parks Department for supplying the trees. Our staff is caring for these trees as they mature into the park’s overstory.

Through the summer and early autumn, a crew of three CUNY and four high school interns worked five days a week to remove phragmites from the middle basin. They expanded the clearing at the north viewing area adjacent to the West Causeway by cutting stalks and removing roots. After cutting stalks they laid black tarp down to prevent re-growth. Removing the Phragmites roots has proven the most effective method for stemming regrowth in the long term because the roots store so much energy and can send up new shoots even when covered. This combination of treatments has continued to be an effective way to stage the remediation of the pond and control the growth of Phragmites and it does not involve using any herbicides.

Our remediation work has provided benefits not only for our human neighbors through expanded views of the pond but also for wildlife. In October, four Pied-billed Grebes visited the reservoir during their migration to stock up for their trip south. We captured some photos of them in an area of the reservoir that we remediated this year. This is especially exciting because the Grebe is a threatened species in NY State and so our work helped expand vital habitat needed for its survival.

In August, we began clearing phragmites at the south viewing area along the West Causeway. Our work crew began by cutting stalks and clearing a 40 ft wide x 120 ft path to the open water. At a few of the volunteer stewardship days intrepid volunteers donned waders and helped us with these fun and messy tasks inside the basin. We wrapped up the cutting season after Thanksgiving and look forward to picking back up with this work in the spring.

We have continued to dispatch work crews and volunteer groups to clean up trash from Vermont Place and the service road adjacent to the Jackie Robinson Parkway, where illegal dumping, unfortunately, persists. It’s dirty work, but we love to see our park looking cleaner and more inviting. 

We are grateful to Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez for awarding us a $250,000 in support of our work at the Ridgewood Reservoir. And we were honored that she visited the Reservoir on August 9 for a ceremony and tour.

Haunted Highland

It was great to celebrate the Trail of Horrors at the Ridgewood Reservoir AGAIN this Halloween! More than 350 visitors of all ages braved the haunted trail full of terrifying ghouls, zombies, scarecrows, and our own reservoir swamp creatures! Big Thank You to NYC Parks, NYC Councilmember Sandy Nurse, NY State Senator Julia Salazar for helping us make this thrilling event possible. And thanks for additional support from Councilmember Jen Gutierrez and Councilmember Bob Holden.

Virtual Events/Readings

This autumn, NYC H2O hosted six virtual talks and readings for 1000+ participants. The recorded events are linked for viewing below:

Community Walks

NYC H2O was pleased to provide 29 free public programs in 2023 for over 850 New Yorkers. Each of these explorative walks and programs were led by experts passionate about the outdoors and our city.

We brought back a fan favorite at Ridgewood Reservoir with three Bat Walks with Gabriel Willow and a Spring Migration Bird Walk with Heather Wolf. We were also excited to show off Ridgewood Reservoir’s natural gem status by engaging with so many different aspects of this ecosystem. In May, we held a Spring Plant ID Walk, where Jocelyn Perez-Blanco guided enthusiasts through an array of budding flora. As the seasons turned, the Fall Plant ID Walk, hosted by Caitlin Lynch, offered a different collection of autumnal colors and species. The Roots to Reservoir Walk, led by H2O’s own Kevin and David, delved into the connections between plant life and water sources. In celebration of New York Wildflower Week, Marielle Anzelone took participants on a Wildflower Walk, highlighting the native blooms in all eight different ecological zones within Ridgewood Reservoir. Adding to the diversity, James Lendemer led a Lichen Walk which provided participants with a fascinating insight into these complex organisms. Finally, the Insect Walk with Steve Nanz offered a closer look at the often-overlooked world of insects, highlighting their crucial role in the ecosystem.

Journalist Nathan Kensinger continued his captivating walking tour series this year, exploring diverse New York landscapes. His tours included Walking the Harlem River, Lemon Creek and Prince’s Bay Walk, Mill Creek and Richmond Valley Walk, Cedar Grove Beach Walk, Richmond Creek and Brookfield Park Walking Tour and Tappen’s Creek Walking Tour. Each walk offered unique insights into the natural beauty and history of these areas, led by Nathan’s knowledgeable guidance. Additionally, urban explorer Steve Duncan engaged participants with the history of our city’s hidden water system during walking tours of Canal St and Minetta Brook

This year, we focused on fostering a deeper connection to our marine ecosystems through a series of coastal walks and a bike tour. In partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we held a Broad Channel and Jamaica Bay Bike Tour, a unique cycling experience about the ecology and history of this area. Sophie Barno, an expert in marine ecology, hosted three different walks: the Salt Marsh Ecology and Climate Change Walk at Marine Park, a Salt Marsh Bird Walk, and the Shorebird Walk at Canarsie Beach, each providing insights into the vital roles these ecosystems play. Additionally, we offered the extremely popular Horseshoe Crab and Offshore Wind (OSW) Discovery Walk, led by Professor Lisa Jean Moore twice. Rounding off our program was the Staten Island Bluebelt Walk with Dana Gumb, highlighting the innovative stormwater management system and its importance to local wildlife and habitats. These activities not only educated participants about coastal environments but also emphasized the importance of conservation and sustainable interaction with our marine surroundings.

Beach, Park, and Litter Cleanups

NYC H2O continued to expand our cleanup efforts with cleanups at 16 sites throughout all five boroughs. We continued our monthly maintenance of Ridgewood Reservoir and hosted five clean-up events at Canarsie Park and Beach.

We had a prolific year on Staten Island stewarding eight sites in the borough: Alice Austen House Park, Arthur Kill Road, Conference House Park, Fort Wadsworth, Lemon Creek Beach, Mariners Marsh Park, Oakwood Beach, and Wolfe’s Pond Park.

At Baisley Pond Park, volunteers suited up in waders and removed over 300lbs of trash from the pond at this park in Queens. In the Bronx, volunteers focused on the even more hyper-local and stewarded sections of Baychester Avenue and Dyre Ave and Connor St.

We were joined by Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse for our cleanup at Plumb Beach where over 1,000lbs of trash was removed from the beach in just two hours.

Throughout 2023, NYC H2O organized 38 successful public stewardship events in all five boroughs and removed around eight tons of trash with the help of 1,505 community volunteers.


Great Blue Heron hunting in Baisley Pond, Sept 30


THANK YOU to all of our sponsors, partners, and community volunteer groups  who supported our stewardship projects:

  • City Council Member Joe Borelli
  • City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse
  • City Council Member David Carr
  • NY State Senator Julia Salazar
  • Team AOC
  • Queens Borough President Donovan Richards
  • NYC Parks
  • Partnership for Parks
  • DSNY
  • Con Edison
  • The Lily Auchincloss Foundation
  • Friends of Olmsted Beil House
  • United Activities Unlimited Inc.
  • Skills USA
  • Friends of Canarsie Park
  • Local 45 – NYC Carpenters Union
  • Bronx Community Board 7
  • Fordham BID
  • Volunteer Referral Center
  • Hudson River Park
  • Riverside Park Conservancy
  • August Martin High School
  • Bronx Early College Academy for Teaching and Learning
  • CSI – Verrazano School
  • Fort Hamilton High School
  • Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School
  • I.S. 24 Myra S. Barnes
  • J.H.S. 217 Robert A. Van Wyck
  • Leon M Goldstein high school
  • New Dorp High School
  • P.S. 3 The Margaret Gioiosa School
  • P.S. 59 The Harbor View School
  • Saint Joseph Hill Academy
  • St. John’s University Phi Eta Chi
  • Susan E. Wagner HighSchool
  • The Buckley School
  • Tottenville High School
  • City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams
  • City Council Member Kevin C Riley
  • Senator Jamaal Bailey
  • Staten Island Borough President Vito Fosella
  • Natural Resources Protective Association (NRPA)
  • Jamaica Bay Rockaway Parks Conservancy
  • City Parks Foundation
  • City Parks Green Space
  • Northfield Bank
  • NYPD
  • ​New York Cares
  • Boy and Girl Scouts
  • Liberty Coca Cola
  • Americorps Cypress Hills LDC
  • Staten Island Zoo
  • The Linnean Society
  • HEALTH 4 Youths
  • Friends of Aqueduct Walk
  • Freshkills Alliance
  • Riverkeeper
  • Abuela Neighborhood Maintenance
  • West Monroe
  • Berkeley College
  • Brooklyn Technical High School
  • CUNY
  • Francis Lewis High School Key Club
  • Grover Cleveland High School
  • Hunter College High School
  • I.S. 34 Tottenville
  • JFKS Berlin (John F Kennedy School Berlin)
  • Miraj Islamic School
  • New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science IV
  • P.S. 42 The Eltingville School
  • P.S. 62 The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability
  • St. Charles School
  • Staten Island Academy
  • The Baccalaureate School of Global Education
  • Theta Phi Gamma Sorority Inc.
  • City Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez
  • City Council Member Sandy Nurse
  • NYC Comptroller Brad Lander
  • Assemblyman Michael Benedetto
  • Brooklyn Borough President anthony Reynoso
  • New York Department of Environmental Conservation
  • National Park Foundation
  • Williams Foundation
  • Provident Bank
  • NPS – Gateway National Recreation Area
  • Monsignor Farrell High School
  • SEQ Cleanup
  • Ridgewood Rides
  • Khalsa Aid USA
  • Tottenville Civic Association
  • Trout Unlimited NYC Chapter Inc.
  • Merchants Corridor of Rockaway Parks Association
  • Co- Op City Riverbay Corporation
  • Bronx Borough Community College
  • Cornell University
  • Curtis High School
  • Gateway Academy
  • I.S 7- Elisa Bernstein
  • I.S. 72 The Police Officer Rocco Laurie School
  • John Bowne High School
  • Moore Catholic High School
  • Pratt University
  • P.S. 50 Frank Hankinson School
  • Saint Joseph by the Sea High School
  • St. Clare School
  • Staten Island Foundation
  • Staten Island Technical High School
  • The Brooklyn Latin School
  • Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School