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Manhattan Pier to Become a World-Class Center for Scientific Discovery

Clarkson University to lead a collaborative effort to bring public awareness and engagement to the Hudson River and its surrounding waterways.

by Clarkson University
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The  Hudson River Park Trust (the Trust), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and  New York State Department of State (DOS) have announced the selection of Clarkson University to lead a consortium of partners in the development and operation of a world-class environment and education center on the banks of the Hudson River at Pier 26 in Manhattan. The Hudson River Park Pier 26 Estuarium will promote scientific research and public discovery of the Hudson River estuary and surrounding water system with the goal of making the Estuarium a destination for compelling educational programming combined with on-site research and public discovery in a new state-of-the-art facility.  

Estuaries occur where fresh water meets salt water, resulting in a nutrient-rich habitat with high biodiversity. The Hudson River estuary, which stretches 153 miles from Troy to New York Harbor, is often considered one of the most significant estuarine habitats in the United States. It is home to numerous species of fish, birds, crustaceans and invertebrates that contribute to a diverse and dynamic ecology. Unique to Hudson River Park is its designated 400-acre urban Estuarine Sanctuary, established when the park was created by New York State legislation in 1998, to protect and conserve marine resources, promote public access and recreation on the waterfront, and support education and research.  

“The Hudson River estuary is one of our nation’s most precious and important environmental resources,” said Diana Taylor, Chair of the Hudson River Park Trust. “We are thrilled to be able to host such a strong and creative consortium on the banks of Hudson River Park, and we are eager to bring the public together with this dedicated research, education and discovery team to preserve and protect our waterways for generations to come.”

“This collaborative alliance allows us to move forward with a long-planned research and science discovery center right here in the park,” said Hudson River Park Trust President and CEO Madelyn Wils. “The Trust is already a leader in environmental education on the river, and with our new partners, we will strengthen our contributions to educating children and adults of all ages on important environmental issues.”

Commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Hudson River Park Trust Board Member Joe Martens said, “The Hudson River and its watershed are one of New York State’s most valuable natural resources. DEC is proud to be a partner in the development of the Hudson River Park Pier 26 Estuarium. The Estuarium will be an excellent tool to showcase this magnificent waterway, its watershed and the many benefits it provides to all New Yorkers, while renewing our connection with nature and promoting tourism.”

Clarkson University, with institutional partners New York Hall of Science and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., will work alongside the Hudson River Park Trust to develop a dynamic site design that engages a diverse audience through indoor and outdoor programming, interactive exhibits, classrooms, lecture spaces, and a river research field station. This new initiative expands the nearly 400 currently existing public programs in the Park geared toward environmental awareness of its unique estuarine ecosystem. The Estuarium will also be used as a site to explore related environmental topics such as climate change and sea level rise.  

Clarkson University’s main campus in Potsdam, NY is located between the St. Lawrence River Valley and the headwaters of the Hudson River in the Adirondack Park. The institution’s international research portfolio includes comprehensive environmental and water resource management expertise and its learning community is engaged in the full spectrum of STEM education from K-12 through graduate programs. In 2012, the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries in the Mid-Hudson Valley became a fully-owned subsidiary of Clarkson University after many years of research and collaboration among the two entities on the Hudson River watershed.   

“In today’s world, museums, galleries and even estuariums are no longer a singular destination: rather, visits to such institutions are part of a learning journey,” said Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University.  “Clarkson University is extremely excited to be a part of the Hudson River Park Trust’s vision for the future and to be bringing a world-class network of partners together as stewards of this vital watershed linking its headwaters in the Adirondacks to the New York Harbor.  Our consortium will create a sustainable entity for STEM research and education about the Hudson River ecosystem and provide new opportunities to advance urban river and marine science that addresses the needs of learners, informed citizens and decision makers.”

Clarkson University also looks forward to a partnership with the River Project, the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program and New York Sea Grant, and other estuary-focused groups in the development of this facility to ensure that it meets both community and regional needs for a place for scientific discovery, experiential learning and public engagement.  

“The New York Department of State is pleased to contribute to the design and development of this new state-of-the-art education and research center which will help revitalize the waterfront and help protect one of our State’s biggest natural resources, the Hudson River Estuary,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales. “We applaud this selection and are certain that Clarkson University and all the consortium partners will do an outstanding job in making this an educational and recreational attraction for all to enjoy.”

“New York Harbor is the source of one of the most significant estuarine habitats in the United States, and the Borough of Manhattan is honored to be the site of this impressive environmental and education center that will protect and promote its dynamic ecology. We welcome members of this exciting new consortium, whose work will preserve our harbor’s marine resources while generating important research and encouraging recreation on the waterfront and up the Hudson,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

“Connecting visitors to nature is the at the core of  our park mission,” said Commissioner of the New York State Office Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Hudson River Park Trust Board member Rose Harvey. “I am very pleased that Clarkson University will be partnering with Hudson River Park to enrich its visitors’ understanding and appreciation of the great river for which the park is named.”

“The Estuarium at Hudson River Park's Pier 26 presents an exciting opportunity to engage a diverse audience, from students to scientists and the general public, while advancing research and making education fun and accessible, right here in New York City,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, and Hudson River Park Trust Board member. “Clarkson University’s collaboration with local partners including the New York Hall of Science and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater will help ensure this project’s success.”

"The Pier 26 Estuarium can provide an opportunity for New Yorkers to learn about the Hudson River, and Hudson River Park’s unique, 400-acre Estuarine Sanctuary,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “The Estuarium is another reason that Hudson River Park is so valuable for residents of Lower Manhattan, and a big part of our growing Harbor Park – a central park for the center of our city. I congratulate the Hudson River Park Trust, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and NYS Department of State on naming their partners for the development and operation of the Estuarium."

Conditional selection of the Estuarium’s operating consortium was made pursuant to a Request for Expressions of Interest issued by the Trust in April 2014.  The Trust and its partners have secured nearly $10 million in dedicated funds to advance the design and construction of the Estuarium, including a $5 million grant from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, $4 million from DEC, and a $335,000 grant for planning and design from the DOS with an equal match from HRPT.

In addition to the Estuarium, Pier 26 at Hudson River Park already features a non-motorized boathouse and a future restaurant.  The Trust will be looking for funding to complete the public recreational portions of the pier, further connecting Manhattan’s west side communities to the Hudson River waterfront.

Interactive exhibitions featured at the Pier 26 Estuarium will be designed in collaboration with New York Hall of Science, New York City's preeminent science and technology center. These indoor and outdoor hands-on interpretives will teach visitors of all ages about our river and its connected waterways.  

In collaboration with the Beacon Institute and its field studies, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the iconic tall ship launched by Pete Seeger in 1969 to support emerging Hudson River environmentalism, now plans to be berthed at the Estuarium for a significant portion of its summer programming season. The Clearwater organization plans to provide innovative environmental programing and advocacy initiatives both aboard the vessel and dockside, to inspire, educate and activate the next generation of environmental leaders.  

The new Pier 26 Estuarium will be designed to enable The River Project, a marine science field station presently located in Hudson River Park, to build upon its 30 years of experience working on habitat issues and public education specific to the proposed Estuarium site and New York Harbor and expand its study of and education about the biota of the local urban Hudson River Park estuary waters.

"In the same way that real-time monitoring in the Hudson through projects like the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System (HRECOS) and the Rivers & Estuaries Observation Network (REON) is the most important environmental development in recent years,” said Beacon Institute President and CEO Tim Sugrue, “the new estuarium at Pier 26 is the most important development for environmental awareness.  We are proud to be part of it."  

"The Estuarium will inspire people's curiosity about the Hudson River and make people more mindful of the complex relationship between our City and the waters surrounding us,” said Margaret Honey, President and CEO of the New York Hall of Science. "We are excited to bring this network to Pier 26 and to work with Clarkson University, another organization very adept at leveraging the potential of public-private collaboration in the service of learning."

“Clearwater is excited to be a key part of this unprecedented project on the Hudson River - docking our sloop at the Estuarium and contributing our rich educational and music heritage, through which we have opened the hearts and minds of over half a million people to the natural treasures and environmental challenges of the Hudson,” said Peter Gross, Executive Director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. “The Pier 26 Estuarium presents an extraordinary venue for engaging the public in experiencing, celebrating and protecting our beloved river.”

“For 30 years we have worked toward the realization of the vision and promise of an Estuarium as the environmental and ecological soul of the Hudson River Park,” said Cathy Drew, Executive Director of The River Project.  “We look forward to the opportunity for the creation of a place that meets the desire of the scientific and environmental community, and the public at large, for scientific discovery, hands-on learning, and public engagement.”

The Trust will now begin discussions with Clarkson University and its partners to develop a detailed plan for the design, operation and management of the facility.  A public comment and review period will also occur in connection with the anticipated lease for the facility.  

“The Hudson River Park Estuarium creates an unprecedented space in the heart of Manhattan for marine research, education and community engagement,” said Mike Novogratz, Chair of the Friends of Hudson River Park. “We are proud to be collaborating with New York City and State, Clarkson University and such an impressive roster of partners as we move forward in our commitment to protect and restore the health of the Hudson River and surrounding waterways. This is another exciting step toward the completion of Pier 26 and its transformation into a dynamic natural resource and interactive park.”