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HarborLAB, the Environmental Nonprofit, to Move Into Upcoming Hunters Point South Tower and Bring Boathouse to Waterfront

Rendering for parcels F and G of the Hunters Point South development site, including  kayak launch (Hansel Architects)

Nov. 27, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez

HarborLAB, the boating program focusing on ecology and based in Long Island City, will be moving into a new space in an upcoming Hunters Point South tower, also bringing along a boathouse that will sit along the sprawling waterfront site.

The nonprofit made the announcement in a Thanksgiving-themed message, where it was thankful for its future space in one of two towers slated to be built as part of the city’s ongoing Hunters Point South development.

Gotham and Riseboro, the joint developers selected to build on parcels F and G of the development site, included plans for a boathouse to be operated by HarborLAB in their winning bid, and listed the nonprofit as a community service tenant for the tower on parcel G, which is closest to their current Newtown Creek location.

A concept for phase two of Hunters Point South, near parcels F and G, from a 2015 presentation.

“To HarborLAB this up-to-4,000 square foot space is a cornucopia we’ll be responsible for filling with engaging educational, recreational, and environmental stewardship activities as a gift of plenty to all,” the nonprofit wrote on its site.

The group’s location within the tower coming to parcel G brings it in proximity to a boat launch planned near 2nd Street and built as part of phase two of Hunters Point South Park. The city is holding HarborLAB responsible for activating the space year-round.

HarborLAB also expressed gratitude to the Department of City Planning for its early role in accommodating the future area with a boat launch. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was also included in the environmental group’s message for his work in pushing for storage space near the planned launch.

The boathouse still needs to go through several steps, including design work and feedback from the community. In the meantime, HarborLAB will still provide programming, like free public paddling and lessons on habitat restoration, at its boat launch at 53-21 Vernon Blvd.

Parcels F and G form two of seven parcels that make up the city’s nearly 5,000 unit Hunters Point South project. Parcels A and B are home to two residential buildings that were completed in 2015. Two towers are set to be constructed on Parcel C, and parcels F and G will see over 1,120 units built in two towers. A construction timeline has not been released for the two parcels.

The waterfront project also includes the construction of an 11-acre park, currently in phase two of construction. Built from 54th Avenue down to Newtown Creek, the latter half of the park will offer features like curved walking paths, an East River overlook, and a boat launch in a quieter, more green design than the already-completed and bustling first half. The second phase is expected to conclude in spring 2018.

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Oh great, more proof that DumBlasio is in the pocket of Big Kayak. How will this solve the traffic congestion problem?! Goes to show that overdevelopment of our city by developers, like the sexual predator I voted for for president, is terrible.


Anonymous, you are 100% correct. Great Point. Why anyone would give you a dislike is ridiculous, they must be developers who troll this site.


MRLIC, I see your posts a lot and I always wonder why you are so against developers? Have you ever stopped to think just how important it is for developers to do what we do? Also you always suggest that developers are greedy. That is so far from the truth. These buildings that go up in LIC/Brooklyn are doing well but that only means more money for employees and more local dollars being spent in that area from tenants. If you feel you’re being “priced out” than do something about it. Change yourself and adapt. Cities grow and that’s a good thing, its called progress. I remember LIC years ago and it was a total shit hole. Hookers and drug dealers on every corner. Cops wouldn’t go there! Is that what you miss?


You’re incorrect about the LIC of years ago, especially as it pertains to the Vernon Blvd/Court Square areas.


When you kayak, you barely come into contact with the water around you. What amazes me is these jet skis in the East River. You end up drinking a lot of water when you jet ski.


True, but you are still exposing yourself to health risks if you kayak in a water body dense with filth and contamination. This is from the city’s own water testing findings:

“There is an increased risk of illness from water contact while canoeing, boating, kayaking and fishing during exceedances of indicator bacteria standards. Since people do not usually submerge their heads during these activities, the volume of incidental water consumption is lower than swimming. Subsequently, the risk of illness can also be assumed to be lower. Recreational boaters may also have increased exposure to chemical contaminants when coming into contact with sediments, although observations and discussion with community representatives
suggest that there are no places where recreational boaters or anglers come into contact with sediment, even at low tide.”

Erik Baard

It’s a fair question, especially based on public perceptions that are sometimes out of date. The natural estuary system of our harbor has been improving for generations since the Clean Water Act. On most days, most of our waterways are — at least at center channel — rated as swimming quality. The new boathouse will be at the mouth of the Newtown Creek where the water is essentially a swirl of the East River nudging inland. In other words, pretty good.

That said, we face two huge problems on the Newtown Creek: sewage (“toilet water”) and industrial pollution in the sediment.

Sewage: NYC isn’t meeting its Clean Water Act obligations on rainy days when the system gets overwhelmed and untreated wastewater pours out through Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO). This is a fairly frequent occurrence, though worse in some areas than others. Newtown Creek suffers in two ways: a) it has some large CSO pipes and b) its waters are increasingly stagnant the farther inland you go. Exposure to sewage can make you ill or irritate eyes, skin, etc. For people with weakened immune systems (from age, a cold or flu, smoking, auto immune disease, etc.) this is a greater risk.

Industrial Pollution: The US EPA Superfund cleanup of the creek focuses on the effects of oil spills, copper smelting, and other industrial contamination that has settled to the bottom. This can be lifted into the water by churning motors, construction, and other activity. Being splashed with the diluted stuff won’t endanger you but I worry about incidental ingestion of muck, or contact with cuts or sores. Women of childbearing age and children are most heavily cautioned about industrial pollution (especially lead and mercury) that concentrates in fish tissue.

HarborLAB has many safety measures but at core they are:

1) No children on the creek. This has more to do with large vessels like barges chugging through a narrow waterway than pollution, but the latter is certainly a factor. We do sometimes allow some mature teens to come with parents or educators. Most kids paddle with us at Gantry Plaza State Park, which has higher water and sediment quality, or on trips to Orchard Beach Lagoon, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, and other safer areas.

2) No sit-on-top kayaks far into the creek. We typically limit s-o-t kayaking, which brings more water exposure, to west of the Pulaski Bridge (we have longer, more adventurous voyages throughout the harbor). Canoes are dryer and have greater carrying capacity for equipment and hauling trash from waterway cleanups, so we use them for public trips east of the Pulaski Bridge.

3) Trip leaders must have paddling and rescue skills and marine radios to avoid accidents and ensure quick recovery from the water.

4) Newtown Creek trips are nearly always for environmental education. People drawn to serious topics tend to be serious about safety too, and so behave in ways that reduce water contact, risk of capsizing, or other dangers. We still have fun though, seeing unexpected beauty among rougher, grittier sights. In short, we view the creek as a place of education, not recreation, precisely because it’s so blighted.

I hope this was helpful and hope you see the progress that’s been made as much as you see the progress that must be made. We always need more voices demanding that government and industry clean our public waters.


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