Rock lady

December 15, 2010

I thought this was so awesome…

A resident on the Upper West side has become know as “Rock Lady,” most people don’t even know her real name. Bridget Polk balanced her first rock last year and has been “addicted” to it ever since. She picks up rocks small and large from along the Hudson and balances them at their smallest point. She says she does it for the responses and reactions of her fellow New Yorkers. Sadly, she is moving (or already moved) this month. Her hopes are that the practice remains even after she is gone. It’s not magic, it’s gravity she says.

See article:


$271,101,291 debt..

December 15, 2010

And I was starting to think that my debt was bad….

A formal demand for payment was sent November 24th by the Federal Transit Administration. The government is warning New Jersey that they must repay $271,101,291 for the project that Christie pulled the plug on in October. This is only half of the $600 million spent on the project, but New Jersey somehow believes that they don’t have to pay back all that money. Jim Weinstein announced early this month that New Jersey had not yet decided whether or not they would pay back $300 million. Christie refused comment (big surprise)! I am confused how a state can refuse to pay back the federal government under a contracted plan. And how exactly do New Jersey residents feel about this? Do they agree or are they pissed (this is their tax dollars at stake…)?

The New York Passenger Terminal is also known as the New York Cruise Terminal or Luxury Liner Row. The terminal consists of North River Piers 88, 90, 92 and 94 on the Hudson between West 46th and 54th streets. The terminal had 900,000 passengers in 2003 and projects to get 1.5 million passengers by 2017. It is the fourth busiest cruise terminal in the United States. The industry provides more than 3,000 jobs and $600 million in revenue for the city and ships depart year-round. The port is the lead in trans-atlantic cruises to Europe, despite what John Atkins told me (he lied). Itineraries also include Bermuda and the Caribbean. Cruise lines that depart from the terminal include Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Line,  Holland America Line, Crystal Cruises, Seven Seas Cruises, and Silversea and Seaborn. I was curious how much a cruise actually costs (I’ve never been on one), so I looked at the Carnival Cruise line site. For a cruise to the Caribbean for one week starts at about $600 for an interior room and goes above $1,500 for a suite for two guests. The cruises that my search pulled up listed dates in May, June,  July, August, September, and October 2011. A Norwegian cruise ship departed on Sunday and another departs this coming Saturday. The cruise line industry seems to be a crucial part of the New York waterfront, as well as a crucial part of the industry nationwide. Maybe one day I’ll be able to afford to participate.

Eastern Oyster

Christie and NJ hired lawyers last week to fight against having to repay the federal government millions of dollars for the botched NY/NJ tunnel. Christie knew of the consequences associated with stopping construction on the tunnel. NJ residents, particularly NJ tax payers, now have a very expensive, useless hole in the ground. We’ll have to watch and see if Christie slimes his way out of repaying…

The Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC, project is the largest federal transportation project in the entire country and it’s here in our backyard. On October 7th, NJ’s Governor Christie announced that the project would be shut down because the project will exceed its budget and cost the state millions of dollars. The very next day, on October 8th, Christie announced that he would reconsider this decision and would work out a deal with the transportation authority of NJ. Residents were upset about the cancellation because nearly 600 million has already been spent toward the project, and the citizens did not want $600 million in tax dollars to be spent on just a hole in the ground. The Port Authority of NJ and NY has pledged 3 billion and New Jersey has committed 2.7 billion toward the project. The tunnel has the potential to connect Manhattan and New Jersey in order to double the train use during peak hours in and out of the city. NJ Transit and Amtrak share a one hundred year old tunnel between Manhattan and New Jersey, but this plan would add two more tracks which would dramatically increase the number of commuters. The project has also created nearly 6,000 construction-related jobs and could create 40,000 when the project is completed. If NJ does not proceed with the project, they could have to repay half of the 600 million already spent to the federal government. The price tag for the project was 5 billion in 2005, but rose to 8 billion in 2008, and is now at 9 or 10 billion. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Works Cited:
Associated Press. “Christie Cancels 20-Year Hudson River Tunnel Project.”  Fox News, October 7, 2010.
Sherman, Ted. “N.J. Gov. Chris Christie Agrees to Reconsider Hudson River Tunnel Project.”  The Star Ledger, October 8, 2010.

Final Proposal: Oysters

November 21, 2010

I would like to look into current and recent oyster restoration projects and the organizations involved throughout the harbor. I would like to focus mostly on the ecology of oyster reefs in the harbor, but would like to at least introduce policies involving oyster restoration. I think it would be too much to look too far into the history of oysters in the harbor, but will mention important pieces as evidence of their ecological significance. I would also like to research the different species that inhabit oyster reefs within the harbor. My thought is a powerpoint presentation? I would also like to do some interviews, possibly from The River Project, the NY/NJ Baykeeper, and The Harbor School.

The New York Harbor School

November 21, 2010

The New York Harbor School opened in 2003, with goals of maritime education and academic excellence. In 2006, the school was selected as the first tenant of Governor’s Island and signed a 40 year lease. Two buildings are under the lease, a main academic building and a Marine Science and Technology Center that will house aquaculture labs, or “wet labs.” These wet labs will house native creatures from the estuary, including blue crabs, blackfish, oysters, and blue/ribbed mussels and will use water directly from the harbor. Students will also build, maintain, and launch boats from the Marine Technology Center. The Technology Center will also contain the Commercial diving program that helps make the students “more marketable to colleges and employers.” I honestly cannot even imagine having these opportunities in high school. Having a wet lab in house and a diving program as part of classes (on an island in the middle of the harbor nonetheless) is not even fathomable to me. Majors at the school include Marine Technology: Vessel Operations, Marine Technology: Commercial Diving, Marine Technology: Vessel Engineering, Marine Science/Aquaculture, and Marine Policy. Internships are hosted at organizations like the Coast Guard, NYPD Dive Unit, Army Corps of Engineers, and RiverKeeper among many others. Activities at the school include but are not limited to: Aquarium Keepers, Garden Club, Rowing Team, Sailing Team, Surf Club, and Vermiculture Club (worm club!). The Harbor School is funded by individuals, businesses, and government organizations and anyone can donate. They have an amazing (and long) list of partners, including American Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn College, BAM, Governor’s Island Alliance, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, The Nature Conservancy, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (host City of Water day), The New York Aquarium, Floating Apple, The River Project, Rocking the Boat, Regional Plan Association, NYC DEP, NYS DEC, the NY/NJ Baykeeper, and many many more. The school is very competitive, but had a graduation rate of 74% in 2008 and a 95% college admittance rate.

Non-profit: Plant a Fish

November 21, 2010

Plant A Fish is a new non-profit based in New York City that was inspired by recent restoration projects, including the replanting of trees in urban areas like the MillionTreesNYC program. The founder, Fabien Cousteau, is a third-generation marine environmentalist. His primary goal is to protect and restore marine ecosystems around the world, including here in the New York Harbor. One of Plant A Fish’s initial programs is an oyster restoration program in the Hudson to restore the once plentiful oyster reef. Their partners include The New York Harbor School, National Marine Sanctuaries, City Aquarium, Islands First, and See Turtles, among others. Another program that Cousteau has launched this year is to “plant” one billion sea turtle eggs in a mangrove in El Salvador to restore the population because the Pacific hawksbill turtles are the most endangered turtles species worldwide. Two more current programs exist, a coral restoration project and a mangrove restoration project. Both ecosystems are extremely diverse and serve as nurseries for many species and both are being destroyed at an astonishing rate. Plant A Fish’s mission statement says that they hope to educate local communities around the world and encourage them to engage in stewardship of marine habitats. Their main focuses are energy, waste, biodiversity, conservation, and restoration. Cousteau, his sister, his father, and his grandfather are all film makers and skilled scuba divers. The Board of Trustees include Cousteau, his sister Celine, Wallace Nichols, Edward Toptani, Lisa Witter, Kyle Cahill, and Tom Ruhe. The Advisory Council has 14 members. On the donation page, he has a break-down of what your donation could buy. He suggests that a $25 donation could restore 50 oysters into the New York Harbor and $100 would “plant” one turtle a year for life. Interesting way to think about money… I think this is an effective marketing approach. I will be interested to watch this non-profit grow, I think it has a lot of potential.

Newburgh (City)

November 1, 2010

Newburgh (city) is in Orange County, NY, which is 60 miles north of New York City and 90 miles south of Albany.  The city is in between the Town of Newburgh and the Town of New Windsor. Henry Hudson stopped by during his 1609 voyage and deemed the city “a pleasant place to build a town.” The population was reported by the Census as 28,300 in 2000. The demographics of the city are about 45% white and about 35% black. The median income of the city is approximately $30,000. Many people within Newburgh work in the construction industry and there is an opportunity in real estate development. The citizens have five elected officials, a mayor and four city council members that are all elected for four-year terms. Currently all four council members are elected city-wide and Newburgh voters decide whether or not to split Newburgh into eight wards and elect one council member from each ward. Newburgh maintains a strong local Republican Party, despite the demographics and urban trends favoring the Democratic Party. Valentine and several other recent current mayors and council members, as well as Assemblyman Thomas Kirwan are Republicans. Currently, though, the Democrats hold a 3-2 majority on the City Council and an independent documentary made in 2004 was made about the mayoral race in Newburgh called “Saving Newburgh.” Economically, the city is known for its manufacturing of cotton, woolens, silks, paper, felt hats, baking powder, soap, paper boxes, brick, steam boilers, tools, coin silver, bleach, candles, ice machines, pumps, moving-picture screens, overalls, perfumes, furniture, carpets, shirts, lawn mowers, and automobiles. Surprisingly, this is not even the complete laundry list of things that the city manufactures. The city is also home to the first Edison power plant, which means that it was the first American city to be electric-powered. Another interesting fact about Newburgh is that it is home to one of the widest streets in NY State, which is Broadway at 130 feet wide. The industry took a hit in the 20th century as industry moved south or to where taxes and labor were cheaper. The urban renewal plan of the 60s and 70s tried to counteract the economic decline, but failed. This failure was partly due to the 1973 oil crisis, because there was no funding left for the project. There were also historical boycotts and race riots during this time period, which was not advantageous to the urban renewal plan. Environmentally, there are also issues. The city has a combined runoff and sewage system, and the city is known for dismantling automobile motors. Breaking automobile motors into their separate parts is problematic because leaking fluids into the local environment often follows. In particular, there was an engine fluid spill in 1994 at the Jonas Automotive site, which contaminated the local soil. In addition, there was another spill in 1998. Brownfields are also an issue in Newburgh, which are abandoned or idles properties that if they were redeveloped, they would cause the dredging of hazardous materials which would lead to environmental contamination. The ultimate goal of the city’s urban renewal plan is to curb urban sprawl development that involves the movement or expansion of the suburban area. They are also trying to improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion thereby reducing emissions, and preserve open or unused land.

–Ashley and Ian