By Bill Parry
HarborLab, a Long Island City-based environmental and educational nonprofit, will move its operations into one of the waterfront towers that will be part of the next phase of the Hunters Point South development.
In their winning bid to develop the two parcels, Gotham Organization and RiseBoro Community Partnership included HarborLab as the boathouse and community service tenant in a 4,00-square-foot space. The city picked the joint developers earlier this month to build more than 1,120 units in two towers with 900 of the apartments permanently affordable.
“We don’t take this amazing space for granted,” HaborLab Founder and Executive Director Erik Baard said. “Nothing in life is guaranteed, especially in New York City real estate. We’ll have to continually earn it through service. This space isn’t a gift to HarborLab. It’s a means to help our volunteers and students to bring gifts of service to the community.”
The organization will continue to operate at its boat launch at 53-21 Vernon Blvd. on Newtown Creek, where it provides programming such as free public paddling and lessons on habitat restoration gardening in keeping with its environmental science emphasis. A shipping container laboratory and storage units, funded chiefly by the Hudson River Foundation, Citizens Committee for NYC and Newtown Creek Group, will be installed in April as HarborLab will remain at the launch site until the new space is available in several years.
A target date has not been determined for the Hunters Point South development and the boathouse will need design work and community feedback.
“We’ll do even more year-round, extended hours education with paid staff, so that’s our next goal,” Baard said of the future in Hunters Point South. “We’ll be forming partnerships with universities, teachers, youth service organizations, outdoor clubs, environmental groups and others to fill the calendar with quality activities.”
The development will also include an 11-acre waterfront park that will provide access to the East River.
“We’re examining innovative ideas to fully include recreational boaters,” Baard said. “One concept is maintaining a boat fleet the public can use through timeshare or cooperative arrangement and passing nationally recognized safety certification exams.”
One priority for HarborLab is to create the city’s most wheelchair-accessible boat launch and boathouse.
“We’re working with Gotham Organization and several city agencies to ensure that there’s a seamless ramp from the water to comfort facilities inside the boathouse, and design elements that make the wheelchair-to-water boating experience safe and fun.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr