Striped bass modeling, public access grantees, Jamaica Bay reformulation study, and more!
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Public Access Grantees Bring Future Stewards to the Water

Programs focus on high-need areas with low public access

In June of this year, HEP awarded a total of $40,000 in grants to five organizations promoting public access in the New York – New Jersey Harbor. The awards followed the release of HEP’s public access report, Connecting with Our Waterways: Public Access and Stewardship in the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary, which identified high need areas based on access opportunities and demographic indicators.  The awardees included Friends of Van Cortland Park, Guardians of Flushing Bay, Newark Riverfront Revival, Civitas, Conservancy North, and +Pool.    

Friends of Van Cortland Park

Friends of Van Cortland Park’s Summer and Water Crews prepare to work on trails. Image courtesy of Friends of Van Cortland Park.

Using the HEP support, the Friends of Van Cortland Park’s teen interns completed their first summer of water quality testing. The monitoring builds on the Friends’ long-running wetland restoration teen program and recent trail improvement initiatives. Friends of Van Cortland Park is now entering the first month of their regular school year program, where some of the interns from the summer continue to volunteer.

Guardians of Flushing Bay

The Guardians of Flushing Bay are coordinating the creation of a Flushing Bay Promenade Master plan with a landscape architect, and facilitating a community visioning process. Since receiving the HEP funding, the Guardians have worked closely to dovetail their efforts with the NYC Park Department, who is constructing a boathouse for human-powered boats along Pier 2 at Flushing Bay. While Flushing Bay communities benefit from a walking path on city property along its perimeter, the path is underutilized and under-programmed, according to Korin Tangtrakul, Outreach Coordinator for the Guardians of Flushing Bay.  A railing surrounding the promenade and rip-rap edges prevent direct access to the water. Through collaborating with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection on a restoration project near Pier 2, integrating educational signage into the new boathouse, and working through their landscape architect to design softer shorelines for the promenade, the Guardians hope to create more stewards for Flushing Bay. 

Newark Riverfront Revival

Kayakers witth Newark's Riverfront Revival on the Passaic River. Image courtesy of Newark Riverfront Revival and Newark Pulse.

Newark Riverfront Revival (NRR), a grassroots effort to revitalize the Passaic River for the people of Newark, is using the HEP grant to fund 32 two-hour boat tours of the river and Newark Bay, and four free public kayak sessions on the Passaic River. On the boat tours, coordinated with Ironbound Community Corporation and operated by Hackensack Riverkeeper, NRR invited local historians and environmentalists to educate the public of the history of the Passaic River and the role its industry played in the Vietnam War. The kayaking trips encourage the public to embrace the Passaic River as their own and advocate for its cleanup.


Civitas has worked to improve the quality of urban life in East Harlem and the Upper East Side since 1981. Its pilot program, funded by HEP,  developed a standardized youth curriculum that engaged East Harlem middle schoolers in waterfront stewardship. Since receiving the grant, Civitas has experimented with implementing the curriculum in a number of settings, including middle school science classrooms and afterschool stewardship programs, both of which have been met with enthusiasm from students.  Moving forward, Civitas hopes to expand the program to additional schools, and generate up community support for an ecological restoration of the East River Esplanade.

Conservancy North

HEP’s public access grant is supporting Conservancy North’s Four Coves Biodiversity Project, a community-driven initiative to catalogue and steward the diverse flora and fauna of Northern Manhattan’s green spaces. As part of this effort, Conservancy North is hosting a series of biodiversity walks along the Harlem River Esplanade, and hiring local nature photographers to capture the events. The photos will be used in a series of printed brochures and gallery shows entitled Life Signs: A Guide to Watershed Stewardship in Northern Manhattan that will serve as multi-lingual guides to the natural areas for residents and visitors.


+Pool has received accolades from harbor advocates for its work creating a water-filtering, floating all-in-one, plus-shaped lap pool, sports pool, kid’s pool, and lounge pool. HEP’s public access funding is supporting its STEM + POOL initiative, a curriculum based around the science and engineering of the pool for 3rd – 5th graders, 6th – 8th graders, and high school students. +Pool is working with NY Sun Works to train teachers from 38 schools to use the two-day, NYS standards-aligned curriculum, and will bring in members from its design team to talk with students. Once complete, the curriculum will also be free to download online and include DIY versions of its science experiments. According to Kara Meyer, +Pool’s Deputy Director, the curriculum both educates students about water quality, and also empowers them through the story of the four young designers who developed +Pool from an idea into reality. 

Research Feature: Modeling the Movements of Striped Bass

Insights from Dr. Helen Bailey's Research at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

If you’ve ever had a chance to watch a sheet of rain roll into the New York Battery from an office overlooking the harbor  – if you’ve viewed from above the tourists dashing for the cover of the nearest awning, tree, or Hallal cart umbrella – then you’ll understand the power of perspective that Dr. Helen Bailey’s movement ecology research offers to the management of striped bass in New York harbor.

As a movement ecologist, Dr. Bailey studies the relationship between an individual animal’s movement, and how a population of animals is most likely to be distributed within an environment. Her surveying techniques—initially developed to forecast the locations of blue whales along the California coast, and used now to model striped bass movements in the lower Hudson and harbor estuary—add the dimension of time to traditional studies of animal abundance. The research enables ship captains to better avoid striking blue whales, and has provided policymakers for offshore wind energy with critical habitat information.     

Dr. Bailey opened her talk, “Movements of Striped Bass in Response to Extreme Weather Events” at the Edward A. Ames Seminar on Monday, October 24th elaborating on the data collection techniques that undergird her modeling.  Most whale surveys are conducted by researchers on boats who count the number of whales they encounter as they sail along a set path. While this method reveals areas where whales tend to congregate, it doesn’t explain why whales prefer those sites, or what they do at those locations. Using the Battery Park analogy, it’s the equivalent of walking blindfolded in a straight line through the park, and trying to find the falafel stand by counting the number of people you bump into.

An image from Dr. Bailey’s presentation illustrating the difference between measuring abundance at certain locations versus analyzing movement pathways.

By contrast, over the course of fifteen years, Dr. Bailey tagged over one hundred and seventy whales with small radio transmitters. Every time one of her whales surfaced, its transmitter sent a signal to a satellite which recorded the tag’s position, and then relayed that information to a receiver on land. Dr. Bailey then plotted the signals, creating a colorful map of tangled tracks that span the California coast. Through analyzing an individual track – noting where the whale made multiple sharp turns in a short span of time—Dr. Bailey teased out locations and timeframes where the whale foraged and bred. Through clumping multiple tracks together, she both recreated the abundance data yielded by traditional surveying, and also identified hotspots and peak times of foraging and breeding behavior. Relating this information to environmental data such as sea surface temperature, Dr. Bailey created a model that forecasts monthly where whales can be found relative to the navigational channel.
A map of whale movement from Dr. Bailey’s 2009 paper in Endangered Species. ARS is an acronym for Area Restricted Search behavior, and reflects where whales foraged or bred

Dr. Bailey’s recent research into striped bass movements during extreme weather events fills a key knowledge gap for running a similar habitat-based model for striped bass in New York harbor. In August and September 2011, tropical storms Irene and Lee brought intense rainfall and runoff into the harbor estuary, lowering water temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen. The year prior, Dr. Bailey had tagged 75 striped bass with acoustic transmitters designed to last two and a half years, and moored 15 receivers in the channel entrances to the harbor. Every time a fish swam through a “gate” of three or more receivers, the receivers would timestamp the signal received from the fish’s tag, and triangulate its position. In order to understand how the storms’ unusual environmental conditions impacted fish movement, Dr. Bailey calculated a daily latitude for each fish for the dates in both 2010 and 2011 before, after, and during the storm events. Her analyses revealed that in response to the storm, the striped bass largely swam south through the harbor for the coast, and sought intermediate refuge at locations within the estuary.

An image from Dr. Bailey’s presentation depicting the movements of an individual fish. The small red dots indicate locations of acoustic receivers.

Now equipped with the understanding of where and how quickly striped bass fled the storms, Dr. Bailey is working towards a model that uses commonly-measured environmental parameters to forecast future fish movement. The research presents a promising opportunity that environmental data collected by civic scientists could one day be used to forecast the abundance and location of striped bass, and encourage stewardship of critical habitat. 

USACE Extends Comment Period for Jamaica Bay Reformulation Study

Hurricane Sandy devastated Southern Brooklyn and Queens. In the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Jamaica Bay, thousands of buildings were severely damaged and 10 people died in the havoc of rising waters and wrecked infrastructure.   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has now identified a preferred alternative for reducing the risk from such a storm in the future and is looking for public comment. 

The USACE project, Atlantic Coast of New York, East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay is designed to sustainably protect the area between the Rockaway and East Rockaway inlets, and the water and land surrounding Jamaica Bay, from storm impacts. The current plan has five general goals: reduce stormwater-related risks, mitigate flood risk while maintaining the long-term sustainability of the study area’s ecosystems and communities, lessen the economic burden related to large-scale floods and storms, improve communities’ capacity to cope with storm impacts, and augment the natural environment’s ability to protect against storm surge, through constructing natural and nature-based features (NNBFs) such as dunes, wetlands, and maritime forests.   
The Corps' Tentatively Selected Plan

The plan currently out for public comment stretches from the Coney Island shoreline North of the creek, runs along Brighton Beach to Floyd Bennet Field where it crosses the Rockaway Inlet to wrap around Breezy Point, and extends East along the Rockaway Peninsula through Fort Tilden, Jacob Riis Park, and Rockaway Beach into Inwood. Flood mitigation measures along the alignment include floodgates, reinforced dunes, floodwalls and levees, and beach fill and renourishment.  (A summary with descriptions of each of the plan’s features corresponding to the map below can be found on page xiv of this report.)

This project follows decades of the agency’s work studying the ecology and storm risk vulnerability of the area, and maintaining flood mitigation infrastructure. After Hurricane Sandy, Congress passed legislation for a slate of flood resiliency projects on the Atlantic, which spurred the Corps to update a plan from 2003 to enhance work at Jamaica Bay first authorized in 1965, constructed in 1977 and maintained through 2004, in a process known as a General Reevaluation. With the release of the Draft General Reevaluation Report, the project team has evaluated alternatives developed in partnership with local agencies and NGOs, and is putting forward its preferred plan (known as the “Tentatively Selected Plan”) for review by the public and independent technical experts from outside and inside the Corps.

The public comment period for the project is open until November 17th. More information for how to submit an electronic or written comment can be found here.


Save the Date -- Jersey Water Works Conference December 2nd!

Conference to be held from 9:00 AM to 2:30 PM at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ

The Jersey Water Works Conference is a day-long event that will bring together more than 300 state and local decision-makers, practitioners and stakeholders to amplify the importance of addressing New Jersey’s water infrastructure, explore innovative solutions and celebrate the Jersey Water Works collaborative as an effective, comprehensive approach to achieving statewide impact.

The conference will feature National and local speakers including keynote speaker Hon. Stephanie A. Miner, an announcement of commitments to action by the members of Jersey Water Works, and a panel discussion about the City of Newark and its water infrastructure challenges and opportunities.

Oyster Restoration in Jamaica Bay Makes the News!

Click the image below to see the segment on Fox 5 New York

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


November 9th  Community Connections 2016: An Evening of Networking for Community Parks Groups with Partnership for Parks
November 29th-30th  Northeast Regional Urban Extension Conference at Rutgers University. 
December 1th Bronx River Watershed summit in White Plains. An opportunity for local and regional agencies, nonprofits, academic institutions, and interested individuals to learn more about past successes, assist with current efforts, and create future collaborative projects that preserve, improve, and restore the Bronx River watershed. Register here and contact Michelle Luebke for more information.
December 2nd Jersey Water Works Conference
December 6th Hudson River Foundation Edward A. Ames seminar, features The Baby Food Chronicles: Analysis of early-stage fish feeding ecology over three decades in the Hudson River 

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


November 11 Center for Urban Pedagogy Public Access Designs -- create a visual explanation of a complex policy issue. More information.
November 15th Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Grants Webinar 
November 17th Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change Challenge Area. More information.
November 18th Every Body Walk! microgrant.  
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

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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