On Earth Day the Department of Environmental Protection Launches Harbor Protectors Initiative in Coney Island

April 22, 2021

New Stewardship Program Recruits Volunteers to Help Protect New York City’s Waterways

Photos from the Event are Available on DEP’s Flickr Page

More Information Is Available on the Harbor Protectors website

New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Vincent Sapienza today joined the Coney Island Beautification Project, elected officials, community leaders, and student volunteers to officially kick-off the new Harbor Protectors initiative during an Earth Day cleanup in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. The innovative stewardship program recruits volunteers to partake in activities such as cleaning catch basins, stenciling educational/informational messages on the sidewalks near catch basins, caring for rain gardens and participating in shoreline cleanups. These stewardship actions simultaneously beautify communities while keeping pollution out of New York City’s waterways, aiding DEP in its critical mission to protect and improve water quality across the five boroughs.

“Earth Day is a perfect time for New Yorkers to recommit themselves to doing what they can to protect our shared environment,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “I commend our student volunteers who are working to protect Coney Island Creek and the local beaches and encourage all New Yorkers to become Harbor Protectors!”

“Valuing our earth is a conscious, everyday action and we must convey this message to our young people as well as to some of our oldsters that they play an important role in keeping the earth healthy. When you nonchalantly throw your potato chip bags, your cookie wrappers, your drink container, etc. on the street, they directly end up in our waters. Think before we toss, down the catch basin into the waters and onto the beaches,” said Pamela Pettyjohn, President of the Coney Island Beautification Project.

“Earth Day gives New Yorkers an opportunity to reflect on steps we can all take to make our borough and city cleaner, greener, and more livable. Climate change has increased the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including storms and coastal flooding. It's more important than ever that we engage local communities in maintaining and improving our city's infrastructure. We were proud to partner with DEP in piloting the Adopt-a-Catch Basin program in 2016 to engage local communities on preventing flooding and improving water quality. This event today is an expansion and extension of that work, and I thank DEP and Coney Island Beautification Project for their efforts,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“I'm thankful to Pamela Pettyjohn and the Coney Island Beautification Project, DEP Commissioner Sapienza, PS 329, PS 188, PS 288, Liberation HS, community leaders, and friends for gathering this morning on Earth Day to keep our community clean and to take greater care of our planet. It was a pleasure joining everyone today and we all have a role to play to ensure we pass on a better world and healthier planet for our next generation,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.

“Stewards of the environment like those volunteering with the Harbor Protectors help keep Coney Island beautiful,” said Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus. “I grew up in Coney Island and it is still my home. Seeing the efforts this new initiative come together with a longstanding community organization like the Coney Island Beautification Project gives me great joy and hope as we work to protect the community from pollution.”

New York Harbor is one of the largest natural harbors in the world. The rivers, creeks, canals, bays, and beaches across the five boroughs are vital to the harbor and the City’s ecosystem. Water quality testing shows that the New York Harbor is cleaner today than it has been at any time since the Civil War. The increasingly common sightings of whales, dolphins and seals demonstrates these ongoing improvements. Harbor Protectors are DEP volunteers who sign up to do stewardship activities in their neighborhoods. These activities help keep our communities clean and pollution out of our waterways. Participants sign up for one or more of four activities that support stormwater management:

  • Clean Catch Basins: New York City has over 144,000 catch basins! Catch basins collect rainwater that flows down streets and sidewalks. Harbor Protectors remove litter and leaves that can cover catch basins causing flooding and pollution in nearby waterways.
  • Stencil Catch Basins: Sometimes people pour oils or dump garbage down catch basins. Those oils and debris can end up as pollution in nearby waterways. Harbor Protectors stencil an educational message on the sidewalk near a catch basin to remind their neighbors not to dump anything there.
  • Care for Rain Gardens: Rain Gardens are built in City sidewalks and are designed to collect rainwater before it gets to the catch basin. Harbor Protects care for rain gardens by removing litter and debris, clearing inlets and outlets, and helping our maintenance staff care for plants.
  • Participate in Shoreline Cleanups: The City of New York has over 520 miles of shoreline. Litter and debris can wash up on the shoreline causing issues for the local ecology. Harbor Protectors partner with DEP on shoreline clean-up events to remove trash.

The program launch features the unveiling of a new Harbor Protectors website which includes training/informational videos, the new program logo and creative assets (including stencil designs for the aforementioned sidewalk messages), online registration form, and calendar of 2021 events.

The Coney Island Beautification Project, Inc, is a civic organization dedicated to the resiliency and sustainability of public spaces and the waterfront. The organization was formed for the civic purpose to encourage community involvement and education in the enhancement of the environment and the resiliency of post superstorm Sandy, Coney Island and surrounding areas. Community activities are conducted through projects that augment neighborhood greening such as the design, development and/or implementation of a community public space for gardening or the development/enhancement of parks, street tree beds, waterfronts or other green spaces for public use. Also includes projects which promote community conservation such as rainwater/flood control, composting, recycling and the prevention of soil erosion.

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing approximately 1 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water each day to more than 9 million residents, including 8.3 million in New York City. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. Approximately 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts bring water to homes and businesses throughout the five boroughs, and 7,500 miles of sewer lines and 96 pump stations take wastewater to 14 in-city treatment plants. DEP has a robust capital program, with a planned $20.1 billion in investments over the next 10 years that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year. For more information, visit nyc.gov/dep, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.