Oysters Oysters Oysters: A Trip to the Harbor School’s MAST Center

One permanent resident of Governors Island, our bivalve friend the oyster, has been increasing by the millions. New York Harbor School students, under the watchful eye of aquaculture teacher Pete Malinowski, are growing oysters on Governors Island with the aim to repopulate the NY Harbor. Since 2009, the students have successfully introduced 7.5 million oysters to several locations, including off of Governors Island, the Harbor Schools nursery in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and a reef at the mouth of the Bronx River. The end goal? A billion oysters in 20 years through the Billion Oyster Project!

I toured the Harbor School’s oyster hatchery, the MAST Center, with Pete Malinowski. After showing me the tanks where young oyster larvae are grown, he had great news to share.

Interior of The MAST Center oyster hatchery.

Interior of The MAST Center oyster hatchery. These tanks hold millions of oyster larvae, though only few of them will survive and grow on a shell. Image courtesy of The Trust.

“This year for the first time we’re using New York Harbor water and these are the first bivalve oyster larvae grown in NY Harbor water.” “It’s a big deal because there is no way any of this [Billion Oyster Project] would be feasible if we couldn’t do it in NYC Harbor water.”

Although adult oysters can dramatically filter water, in the early stages of development the free floating spat are very sensitive to water quality conditions and will die in polluted water.

That oysters can reproduce in NY Harbor water at the high densities seen in the Harbor School hatchery is a major step forward for an area where oyster have had incredible difficulty growing since the 1920’s. Pete explained that the NY Harbor and the Hudson River used to have many billions of oysters that helped sustain an incredible underwater ecosystem. “There were over a hundred species of fish that either ate or lived in or gave birth in NY Harbor oysters beds.”

However, over-harvesting and pollution decimated the oyster population. By the middle of the 19th century, most of the native oysters were gone and by the 1920’s, the water was so polluted that even oyster farms couldn’t survive. It was only after the Clean Water Act of 1972 that NY Harbor water began to become less toxic.

For the Billion Oysters Project, growing oyster larvae in Harbor water is a milestone. Although the oysters are currently being grown in the controlled environment of the MAST center, the oysters will eventually have to reproduce in the NY Harbor on their own. This new batch of oysters prove that it is possible.

Spat recently attached to an oyster shell.

Harbor School oyster spat that recently attached to a shell. These are some of the first oysters grown in NY Harbor water at the MAST Center.  Image courtesy of The Trust.

For Pete, the number of oysters grown is really a byproduct. “The main reason I do it is to provide this experience to students. Most people don’t know what is going on in the water and it really changes your perspective.”

The oyster program is hitting its stride this year. For one, this year’s graduating class is the first with four years of aquaculture classes. Also, the Harbor School has been running an oyster gardening program to allow students in Middle School to have an oyster experience. Middle School teachers get oyster gardens hanging in the Harbor near their schools to take care of and bring students to.

 Thank you to the Harbor School and Pete Malinowski for the tour.


Free Bike Mornings! From Monday to Friday

Yesterday, The Trust announced a new free bike program for the 2014 season – Free Bike Mornings! From Monday to Friday. Visitors to the Island can now borrow a bike for free for one hour between 10 am and noon on weekdays. The program, riding on the success of Free Bike Fridays from previous seasons, offers visitors more opportunities for free biking than ever before and will make weekdays a lively place on the Island.

Biking on Governors Island. Image courtesy of the Trust.

Biking on Governors Island. Image courtesy of The Trust.

We also announced that Blazing Saddles has been awarded the contract to provide bikes to Island visitors. Blazing Saddles is a 25- year old family owned bike rental and tours business founded in San Francisco, that has stations in New York City, San Francisco, and Monterrey, California. They will provide a large inventory of kids and adult bikes, tandems and quadracycles for visitors to rent seven days a week (Gucci saddle bags will not be included :) ). Blazing Saddles responded to an RFP The Trust issued earlier this year.

Blazing Saddles bikes. Image courtesy of Blazing Saddles.

Blazing Saddles bikes. Image courtesy of Blazing Saddles.

Free Bike Mornings! From Monday to Friday will open on Memorial Day, Monday May 26. You will be able to rent bikes beginning on our opening day, Saturday May 24.


Construction Update

Further construction on the water pipes project on Governors Island ran into some unexpected problems this morning. An excavator accidentally uncovered a collection of graves protected by black magic.

 Uncovered zombie nest.

Uncovered zombie nest.

The zombie hoard, finally released from their endless sleep, wreaked havoc in the 30 acres of new West 8 designed park. After a few hours of brain feasting the zombie crowd however began to relax and could be seen joking together on the parade ground and napping in the hammocks in Hammock Grove.

Zombies couldn't be stopped. Image courtesy of the Trust.

Zombies couldn’t be stopped. Image courtesy of the Trust.


Zombie's dance on Fort Jay. Image courtesy of the Trust.

Zombie’s dance on Fort Jay. Image source


April fools 

Take a Look at Slide Hill

Construction on The Hills project is continuing at a rapid pace. In January we showcased Grassy Hill’s rise to the top, but today we present to you Slide Hill!

Building Slide Hill. Image courtesy of the Trust.

Building Slide Hill. Image courtesy of the Trust.

Already built to an impressive height of 23 ft, Slide Hill will eventually reach 38 feet above the Liberty Promenade. With four slides of various heights along its slope, Slide Hill will be a center for activity and play. The longest slide, for the thrill seeking visitor, will be 48 feet long! There will also be wider and shorter slides for families and young children.

Slide Hill will offer an exciting complement to the tranquility of the adjacent Grassy Hill and Discovery Hill.

For now though, the bulldozers are hard at work

Rendering of Slide Hill. Image courtesy of the Trust.

Rendering of Slide Hill. Image courtesy of West 8.

Celebrity Sand on Governors Island

Sand more used to the spotlight than the sunlight is being brought to Governors Island for the Island’s potable water project.

Rocsi Diaz, left, Aaron Paul and Deion Sanders compete in DIRECTV's 8th annual Celebrity Beach Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Rocsi Diaz, left, Aaron Paul and Deion Sanders compete in DIRECTV’s 8th annual Celebrity Beach Bowl in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

This sand got its fifteen minutes of fame as part of DirectTV’s eighth annual Celebrity Beach Bowl. The event, played on a temporary sand field at Pier 40 on February 1st, invited sports stars and  celebrities to compete in (sources say) a very heated football game. Whose feet graced this sand? Some of the stars competing were Tracy Morgan, Joe Montana, and Serena Williams!

Tired of the limelight, the sand is now coming to Governors Island to trade in its fedora for a hard hat. The sand will be used as fill to secure the Island’s new water distribution pipes. The pipes will carry world-renowned Brooklyn tap water throughout Governors Island. The ‘celebrity sand’ will account for 15% of the total sand needed in this construction project!

Pipe ready to be laid on Governors Island. Image courtesy of The Trust.

Pipe ready to be laid on Governors Island. Image courtesy of The Trust.

Governors Island has received special sand once before; the sand from a giant sandcastle contest is being used in The Hills project.

Field Report: Seawall Reimagined

The 2.2 mile rehabilitation of the Governors Island seawall is well underway. Major and minor efforts are ensuring that this critical part of the Island stays in place and does its job keeping the Island together. At the south end of the Island, work on a revetment to replace the original seawall is complete. The revetment is a sloped stone abutment which is better than a stone wall at handling the heavy wave action from the harbor, and will be easier to maintain over the years.  In the north of the Island, the original seawall is being supported and repaired as needed to breath new life into this 120+ year old structure.


Seen here from Lima Pier, the revetment at the island’s southern tip is already doing its job. Image courtesy of the Trust.

22+50 facing south REVETMENT 100%

Closer view of the revetment. Image courtesy of The Trust.

Rebar 1+50-3+57

In the historic district, the original seawall is left in place and backed by an impressive concrete wall providing stability for years to come. Image courtesy of The Trust.

The Permit Process for the New Governors Island Sports Fields is Open!

Play Ball!

06_Schenck Governors Island 2013_11_13 DSC_6483

The watchful eye of Lady Liberty looks over the new Governor Island’s sports fields. Image from Timothy Schenck, courtesy of The Trust.

The permit process to use the Governors Island’s sports fields opened today! The fields are located on the Play Lawn within the 30 acres of new park completed in November  and will be available for use every day during daylight hours between May 24th and September 28th.

The two natural turf ballfields are sized for baseball or softball. They contain a clay infield with full back stops and bleachers that seat 84 people. Now if stickball isn’t you game, not to worry. The large outfield can easily be configured for soccer or other field sports. The fields will be available for games in the morning beginning at 10 AM, and in the afternoon beginning at 2 PM.

To apply to use the fields, organizations can visit The Trust’s website. The permit process will be open until March 1 at which point The Trust will review all of the applications it has received. As with other public ballfields in New York City, preference will be given to youth groups, schools and leagues from across the City. For more information take a look at our permit page and the FAQ page.


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