Whales in the Hudson River, New HEP Staff Member, and more!
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Spotted! Whale Swims from NY Harbor to Northern Manhattan

Delighted public learns about new monitoring efforts
The view from the Hudson River Foundation Office

A large form rises out of the Hudson River, interrupting the waves.  At first, its shape is vague: it could be a fish, a large bird.  But as the form disappears, its distinctive tail flips toward the sky, framing the George Washington Bridge.  It’s a whale, swimming through the Hudson River, as apartment dwellers and office workers gaze down from their skyscraper windows.    
New York whale enthusiast and HEP citizen science grantee Paul Siswerda of the nonprofit Gotham Whale, has been spotting more and more of the charismatic creatures in on his naturalist tours of the harbor in recent years. But scientists are still uncertain about what is driving the apparent boom in activity. Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Hudson River Foundation believe it may be increases in menhaden population, the whales’ primary food source. Some combination of improvements in water quality under the Clean Water Act, as well as climate change and rising water temperatures, is likely attracting more of the prey fish to the harbor. Lacking a systematic way of tracking the whale population, it is still hard to say definitively why whale sightings have gone up.

Melville, an acoustic whale-detection buoy developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, is changing this. Launched outside New York Harbor in June, Melville records audio and detects sounds in real time, and can identify whenever Sei, Fin, Right, and Humpback whales pass through its vicinity. Armed with this information, researchers and advocates hope to develop targeted management recommendations for the whales, who swim in dangerous waters alongside major shipping lines.

The whale in the Hudson River has enchanted New York residents and tourists alike and sparked new hope for the future of the harbor. Interested in getting involved in whale conservation efforts? Check out Gotham Whale and the Wildlife Conservation Society to learn more.

Hudson River Foundation Announces the NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund 2017 Call for Proposals

Proposal Deadline: Friday, February 17th, 2017

The NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund requests proposals for environmental education, public access and stewardship projects that will benefit communities along Newtown Creek. In accordance with the settlement agreement between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York City establishing the Fund, priority will be given to projects in and around Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and along Newtown Creek and the East River (both Brooklyn and Queens). The Newtown Creek Fund will provide financial support for qualifying projects that promote the environmental health and revitalization of natural resources and that increase public understanding of, access to and enjoyment of the environment within the target area. Click here for the Newtown Creek Fund Page, and view the 2017 Call for Proposals here

City Council Passes Legislation Supporting NYC DEP’s New MS4 Permit

Legislation will give the city authority to implement its Stormwater Management Plan

Raindrops falling in different neighborhoods in New York City can have profoundly different journeys back to the harbor. In western and central Brooklyn neighborhoods, for instance, rain flows into combined sewers. During heavy storm events, an excess rain-sewage mix may spill out through outfalls that discharge directly into the harbor. Yet, if that same rain were to fall in one of the neighborhoods encircling Jamaica Bay, it would drain through dedicated stormwater sewers, avoiding both the sewage and the Waste Water Treatment Plant, though carrying with it all the grime of New York City’s streets.   
New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection has long implemented and enforced a robust regulatory program to reduce sewage-rainwater discharges from Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), which service 60% of the city, and contribute the majority of the pathogens to the Harbor during wet weather. For the 40% of the City outside the combined sewer system, the City recently received its first dedicated Municipal Small Separate Sewer Systems (MS4) permit from the New York State, which will comprehensively address issues related to MS4 pollution. The City is now developing an overall Stomwater Management Program, will involve considerable public education and outreach, in addition to expanded activities directly identifying and controlling pollution.  

As part of the new Stormwater Management Program New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-22) introduced legislation that broadens the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s regulatory capacity with respect to stormwater management. The bill, Intro 1346-2016, is a critical plank of legal infrastructure stipulated by the State, and ensures that the City will possess the legal authority to effectively implement and enforce the MS4 permit before moving forward with restructuring and expanding its programs. Specifically, the bill involves transferring two programs operating in MS4 areas from the State to the City, and strengthens an existing city-wide, city-managed program. The programs operating in MS4 areas work to reduce runoff from commercial and industrial processes, and also at construction and redevelopment sites. The city-wide program helps track down and eliminate illegal inputs to the sewer system.

The bill has broad support from waterfront, stewardship, and environmental justice groups, whose remarks with respect to the legislation largely focused on expanding the bill’s scope in terms of supporting green infrastructure activities, strengthening enforcement, and ensuring that the most polluted waterbodies have the strongest protections.  For more opportunities to learn about to NYC DEP’s stormwater management plan, check out their public event webpage here and testimony from the civic community here. 

HEP Brings Onboard new Restoration Program Manager

HEP is thrilled to announce that Isabelle Stinnette has joined our team as a Restoration Program Manager. In this interview with The Tidal Exchange, we learn more about the background she brings to HEP and her favorite spots in the estuary.
TE:  Marine habitat restoration is not your first area of expertise. You started out in book publishing. How does that influence your current science work?

My work at Random House involved a lot of logistics and working with others. Those kind of skills always come in handy in project management.
TE: When you went back to graduate school, what did you study?
While I was in publishing, I had really missed being directly involved in science, so I went to get my MS in Marine Science from SUNY Stony Brook. For my thesis, I researched Nitrogen loading on Long Island, and did modeling and water sampling on the South Shore.
TE: You’ve mentioned that Staten Island is home to special and often underappreciated natural areas. Tell me about your work there.
I love Staten Island! Over my 2 years as a habitat restoration biologist with DEC, I did a lot of fieldwork that exposed me to the wildlife there and the incredible beach vistas.  I was involved in resiliency projects and ecological mapping of DEC properties all across the city. On Staten Island, I was identifying areas where we could demolish houses that had been irreparably damaged during Hurricane Sandy, and helping to convert them into restoration projects with native plants.
TE: What excites you about working at HEP?
IS: Putting together policy and programs to support the work of restoration professionals across the harbor, and getting to coordinate with people from across government, academia, and the nonprofit sectors.
TE: Do you have a favorite plant?
Probably Salicornia

For the Birds and So Much More: Harbor Herons Working Group Holds Annual Meeting

Nearly sixty conservationists, academics, and agency officials flocked to Wadsworth December 14th-15th for the twelfth annual meeting of the Harbor Herons Working Group, a committee of HEP’s Habitat Workgroup. Organized by New York City and New Jersey Audubon, the event’s nearly forty presentations reflected the diversity of habitat restoration, monitoring, and management activities of the Working Group’s members. Among many notable presentations, researchers from Pennsylvania shared insights on emerging practices on heron conservation, and the Port Authority reported on its efforts to make its airports more bird-friendly through its gull surveys at Rikers Island and Raptor Relocation Program.    

Though harbor herons – the NY/NJ Harbor’s unique clan of wading herons, egrets, and ibises – have nested locally since the 1970s, the Harbor Herons Working Group is coordinating considerable expertise to protect these estuary residents for the long term.  Since it is unclear what exactly drives the bird’s nesting patterns, such as improvements in local environmental quality or degradation of nearby habitats, the Working Group is laying a foundation for conservation work through researching the relationship of the birds to their current habitats.

Since 2008, New York City and New Jersey Audubon have engaged the public in two citizen science monitoring projects across the harbor: one focused on locating breeding grounds, and the other designed to identify the birds’ breeding colonies. By involving the public, the research is fostering a broad civic constituency for conservation in addition to revealing critical habitat areas.

The Working Group is also outlining a broader vision for harbor heron stewardship.  The group’s Harbor Herons Conservation Plan (HHCP), developed in 2010, outlined the state of key avian species and their habitat, the status of management and conservation activities, and the education, advocacy, conservation actions best suited to meet emerging needs. With the numerous changes in the harbor including advances in habitat restoration, the Working Group is now updating and retooling the HHCP into an action plan scheduled for release in 2018. At the annual meeting, Susan Elbin and Nellie Tsipoura, pitched the plan revision to the attendees, offering an opportunity to partner with academics, NGOs, the public at large, and agency officials at all levels of government to create a prioritized set of actions, and revisit the old document’s measures of success.

Interested in learning more about the Harbor Herons Working Group’s action plan? Email Sarah Lerman-Sinkoff, HEP’s Outreach Coordinator, at Ariane@harborestuary.org. 

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

For more events, check out our calendar. To post your Estuary-related event in our calendar, please send us the details! For up-to date events, like our Facebook page


January 18th  - HEP Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting at the Hudson River Foundation
January 20th - Sustainable Shorelines Design Webinar hosted by Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines

For human-powered boating events, check out the NYC Water Trail Association calendar.


January 23rd Citizens Committee for New York Neighborhood Grant for up to $3,000
January 31st Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Grants due
January 31st Environmental Education Grants, Captain Planet Foundation.
January 31st - NOAA Educational Partnership Program Undergraduate Scholarship
January 31st - Environmental Justice Small Grants Program
January 31st - Environmental Education Grants, Captain Planet Foundation
February 1st - Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
February 1st - Groundwork USA Letters of Interest
February 17th  -  NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund Call for Proposals
March 1st - NYDEC Urban Forestry Grant.

Ioby (in our backyards), a community funding platform, accepts applications for environmental projects across the nation. Deadline: rolling
City Parks Foundation grant opportunities. Deadline: Multiple




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