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Archive for the ‘interlude’ Category

This past Sunday, Karen and I joined a group of volunteers on a marsh restoration project in Jamaica Bay, organized by the American Littoral Society and other environmental groups. About 85 percent of the wetlands in Jamaica Bay have disappeared, resulting in lost habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife. In addition, wetlands provide natural flood control, which the community of Broad Channel, Queens, could have benefitted from during Hurricane Sandy. For more on the project, click here.

Sunday was cold, windy, and rainy, but we decided to go anyway, knowing we would regret missing the opportunity to be part of the first ever community-led restoration project on national land (Jamaica Bay is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area). To get to Rulers Bar Hassock, where the Spartina marsh grass was waiting to be planted, we had to take a boat from Broad Channel to a float moored just off the island. We then pulled the float as close to Rulers Bar as we could get it and waded through ankle-deep water and mud to the island:

rulers bar-1

Here we are on the island, dressed for foul weather:

rulers bar-3Rulers Bar is eight acres of sand that gets covered twice a day by the high tide. The Spartina plugs get planted two feet apart and a few inches deep. It’s amazing that the tide doesn’t wash them away. The plugs along the fence are still in trays, and plugs planted the day before are arranged across the sand in rows:

rulers bar-4There’s a lot more island to cover:

rulers bar-2

Rulers Bar HassockIf I remember correctly, the plan is to plant 88,000 plugs, with a goal of 85 percent survival to next year. More than 10,300 plugs were planted last weekend.

The proces is quite simple: make holes in the sand, remove plugs from the tray, place one in each hole, cover with sand and pat it down. The tool for making the holes is a dibble. Here Karen gets her dibble on:

rulers bar-6What is the collective noun for a group of volunteers? An army? A horde? A scattering? Anyway, the turnout on Sunday was quite large, especially given the weather:

rulers bar-7There are three more days of planting. To join the fun (and do some good) click any of these links:

May 25th, 11 am – 3 pm

May 26th, 12 pm – 4 pm

June 2nd, 10:30 pm – 2:30 pm

 

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vermont sail freight

In a bit of a departure from the usual fare here on A Movable Bridge, I’d like to draw your attention to the Vermont Sail Freight Project.

Erik Andrus of Ferrisburgh, Vermont, has developed this demonstration project to show how sailing vessels can be used to deliver non-perishable Vermont-produced foods to markets in the Lower Hudson Valley and New York City. He and a bunch of volunteers are currently at work building the boat, whose design is based on that of Thames River sailing barges.

As of this morning they had received $14,338 in pledges toward the $15,000 goal on Kickstarter. There are nine days left in which to pledge. Click here to learn about the project on Kickstarter and to make a pledge.

For full information about the project, visit the Vermont Sail Freight Project website.

 

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Three years ago Karen and I headed north up the Hudson River to check out the ice. This winter has been so mild, I doubt there’s much ice to look at on the Hudson. So to find ice we had to go farther—to Québec City and the St. Lawrence River.

The evening we arrived we climbed up to the Plains of Abraham for a big-picture view of the river. I don’t think you can see how cold it was, but you can see the wind on the water:

The next day we decided to get a close-up view of the ice, and we took the ferry across to Lévis. You can see the ferry at the bottom of the picture above. The ice was pretty thick, and the ferry had to push through the floes.

Some of them were big enough that the boat would shudder as it crashed into them:

Approaching Lévis:

Looking back toward Québec:

Looking at this view, I pretended I was on the deck of an Arctic icebreaker:

Québec and the Château Frontenac:

Back on the Québec side, we looked across to Lévis. Here you can see both ferries cutting paths through the ice:

A few miles to the east the St. Lawrence splits around the Île d’Orléans. The shipping channel runs to the south of the island, and the north side is allowed to ice over completely:

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This past Sunday Karen and I were married on Governors Island. After a week of wet weather we were pretty worried, but it turns out our fears were groundless: not a drop of rain. Here are some pictures courtesy of Karen’s cousin Steve (click here to visit his website).

The perfect spot for us to get married — the palm trees, the harbor, the skyline:

Lucky for the groom, the bride gave her approval:

Even the Staten Island ferry came by to check out the proceedings:

After the ceremony the bride and groom sat at their table for a festive meal:

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Governors Island opened for the 2011 season on Friday. Yesterday Karen and I biked to Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park to catch the free ferry over to the island. We were not the only ones who had this idea:

We had to wait about half an hour to get on a ferry, but the boarding process went pretty smoothly. There were three lines: one for bikes, one for people with strollers, and one for pedestrians.

Getting the bikes and people on the ferry is less chaotic than it looks:

Governors Island is only about two miles around, so a circumnavigation by bike does not take very long. It’s a great ride, though, cooled by breezes off the water. And there are lots of interesting things to look at, particularly the former U.S. Coast Guard buildings.

The southwestern tip of the island is now Picnic Point. There are food vendors, benches, hammocks, and great views of the harbor. That’s Jersey City behind the aid to navigation:

Lots of great brick and old, faded signs for those who like that sort of stuff:

And you can poke into all sorts of nooks and off-the-beaten-track places in old Fort Jay:

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On Friday I went galumphing through the fresh snow in Prospect Park. Near the northwest corner of the lake I saw hundreds of specks out on the ice near a lead of open water. It seems the memo must have gone out to various bird species that this was the place to meet. Gulls, ducks, and geese were well represented. There was quite a bit of activity near the shore. Some ducks came in for a landing:

Followed by gulls:

I thought these were going to land on me:

Time to go:

 

In the summer there is an electric boat (the Independence) that tours the lake, and there are pedal boats for rent. And the geese will still be there, despite attempts to get rid of them.

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Four Sparrow Marsh is in Brooklyn, squeezed between Toys “R” Us and the Belt Parkway. I’ve boated and driven past it innumerable times and never thought it was anything more than a patch of undeveloped land probably full of old cars and trash.

But it turns out that it’s home to more than sixteen bird species, including four species of sparrow—salt-marsh, song, swamp, and savannah. Hence the name.

It also turns out that it may not be undeveloped for long. Yesterday Karen sent me a link to New York City Audubon. There are plans to build the Four Sparrows Retail Center on the marsh. NYC Audubon is not categorically opposed to the development: “An appropriately designed retail project, with adequate buffers to protect this critical habitat and a design sensitive to the waterfront and to birds could be an asset to the city,” they say. A public meeting to discuss the project had been scheduled for January 11, but it was postponed. Click here for more information about the marsh and the project, and to find out the new date for the meeting (not yet known).

This afternoon I found myself near Four Sparrow Marsh, so I headed over with my camera and tromped around in the snow a bit.

A pale moon, just past first quarter, was rising:

Since I was already out-and-about and with cold feet, I decided to check out the nature trail at the Salt Marsh Nature Center, another place I’ve driven and boated by without stopping.

Here’s a parting shot of some cold ducks:

 

The Salt Marsh is worth checking out. I’ll be back when it’s warmer.

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The annual New Year’s Day polar bear swim took place at Coney Island yesterday. Although disappointed by the unseasonably warm day, hundreds of would-be polar bears (and assorted hangers-on) crawled from their dens and gathered on the beach:

 

The excitement was palpable as the gathered throng awaited the signal. And then—there it was! A ripple passed through the crowd as the swimmers raced to the water’s edge and plunged in:

 

Wave after wave of scantily clad bathers followed:

 

Looks like this guy would do it again:

 

It seems jumping into the Atlantic Ocean in January isn’t so bad as long as one wears the proper hat:

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Thinking of spring

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On November 30, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance held its 2010 Waterfront Conference. This all-day event was hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. More than 600 people attended the conference, representatives of the various non-profits, government agencies, and other groups that use and care about our waters and waterfront. One hundred five individuals made presentations at two plenary sessions and fifteen panel discussions. Obviously I couldn’t attend every session. Here is a summary of what I heard.

The morning started with a boat tour around New York Harbor. We headed first to the New Jersey side near the Statue of Liberty where we heard brief remarks about the Comprehensive Restoration Plan from representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Liberty State Park. Then it was over to Red Hook to hear about New York City’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan from the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of City Planning.

Water taxi and tug in the East River

Lower Manhattan skyline (I can never resist taking this picture)

The morning’s plenary session, moderated by New York City Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, covered the Comprehensive Waterfront Plan and regional opportunities for collaboration and funding. Speakers came from New York City government, New Jersey government, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The first panel discussion I attended was “Why is the NY-NJ Harbor Missing the Boat?” As a recreational boater, I was really looking forward to hearing what this panel would present. But I was disappointed that the presentations and Q-and-A focused more on bringing tall ships to New York than on providing docking opportunities for recreational boaters. Captain John Doswell (Working Harbor Committee and North River Historic Ship Society) made a very interesting presentation on what makes the perfect pier. He stressed that the perfect pier must be constructed for multiple uses such as recreation, emergency, and historic vessels. They should be able to accommodate boats with different amounts of freeboard, should have cleats and bollards that are easily accessible, and should be level and with straight edges, and the pilings should not be in front of gates.

Jamy Madeja (Massachusetts Marine Trade Association) noted that a University of Michigan study found that every $1 spent by a recreational boater on a slip or a mooring equaled $4 spent at local businesses. She also mentioned that Federal Boating Infrastructure Grants to build, renovate, and maintain facilities for transient boaters are available pretty much for the taking.

Mason Sears (SF Marina) talked about the concrete floating structures (also known as docks) that his company makes. Doswell gave them high marks.

Captain Bert Rogers (American Sail Training Association) remarked that the “water’s edge is not a boundary, but an entry to adventure.”

The next session I attended was “The Oyster and the Clean Water Act.” Wayne Jackson (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2) described the Harbor Estuary Program and its goal of having all open waters in the harbor be fishable and swimmable. All the panelists agreed this is a long way off. Jim Lodge (Hudson River Foundation) talked about the Oyster Restoration Research Project, a two-year study to determine the possibility of restoring oyster reefs in the harbor. This is a joint project with the Corps of Engineers, the NY/NJ Baykeeper and the New York Harbor School. Debbie Mans (NY/NJ Baykeeper) talked about her great disappointment that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had ordered the removal of oysters from the experimental reef located in New Jersey waters. She said the project will go ahead with the reefs in New York waters.

Paul Greenberg (author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food) noted that conservationists are by nature nostalgic, whereas the general public is forgetful. He said the success of conservation programs in Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound is because there is still a living memory of what it used to be like in those areas. The oysters have been gone from New York Harbor for so long that the living memory is also gone. We need to create a new living memory here. Success in New York, he said, will lead to other coastal communities following our example.

The last panel I attended was “Floating the Blue Highway—The Economics and Rationale for Water Mass Transit.” This was the most exciting panel I attended. Pierre Vilain (HDR) presented the results of a study based on U.S. Census Bureau data that showed where people who use ferries live and work. Paula Berry (NYC & Co.) discussed a pilot project from this past summer that showed that recreational users would use water mass transit. Her group teamed up with New York Water Taxi to run a NYHarborWay water taxi that linked waterfront parks on the East River.

David Hopkins (New York City Economic Development Corporation) discussed the role of water mass transit to relieve overcrowding on other forms of mass transit, such as PATH, and to serve areas not served by other forms of transit.

Rex Asiedo (New York City Office of Emergency Management) talked about the role of ferries in emergency situations such as evacuations, blackouts, and the crash of US Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson.

Carter Craft (waterfront planner and consultant) reminded us not to forget about regional freight ferries and the role they can play in getting trucks off the roads.

Tom Fox (New York Water Taxi) talked about his idea for high-speed, long-haul ferries to connect the area’s waterfront parks such as Jacob Riis Park, Robert Moses Park, and Jones Beach. He also described his vision of the East River as the Grand Canal of New York. He sees express and local ferries running uptown and down and out to the airports. He said that to be successful, water mass transit must be integrated with and run like terrestrial mass transit, with passengers having the ability to transfer from one boat to another and between the different modes of transit. According to Fox, three things are needed to make this a reality: 1) public investment in infrastructure, 2) private investment, and 3) political will.

After the recap session, where the leaders of the fifteen panels presented brief summaries, we headed over to the Battery for an evening boat tour and cocktails.

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