Monday, July 14, 2014

South Street Seaport's New Amsterdam Market Closes

In what was the last gasping breath to preserve the traditional uses at Manhattan's South Street Seaport, the New Amsterdam Market - an open air vending fair of locally grown produce, meats, fish, and local crafts - is now closed.  The South Street Seaport - never adequately regarded or funded by the City of New York, and now a target for the Howard Hughes Corporation for building high-rise luxury condominiums and expanded chain-stall mall opportunities - looks like it will go way of working class neighborhoods throughout New York since the advent of the Bloomberg administration.  Today, I received the following letter from Robert LaValva, who worked tirelessly to keep the seaport a seaport:


July 14, 2014

Dear Friends:
I am sorry to announce that New Amsterdam Market has ended, and will no longer take place on South Street.
Founded in 2005, New Amsterdam Market was first staged at the site of the Old Fulton Fish Market in Lower Manhattan on December 16, 2007. Over the ensuing seven years, the market grew in frequency and scope while nurturing an evolving community of small businesses dedicated to sustainable food production, regional economies, and fair trade.    

Through our steadfast presence under every adversity, we also championed the preservation of New York City's oldest 
commons, where public trade has been conducted since 1642.  We held a total 88 markets and numerous innovative celebrations of our region's bounty; supported nearly 500 food entrepreneurs; and contributed to the creation of more than 350 jobs.   

However, I was never able to raise the funding or attract the influential backers needed for our organization to thrive.  Furthermore, we were dealt a mortal blow in 2013 when Council Member Chin, who had long professed to support our cause, betrayed the community in favor of a suburban shopping mall developer, Howard Hughes.  As a result, Lower Manhattan has already lost more than one acre of beloved and irreplaceable public space and is now seeing its most precious public asset ruined by inappropriate programming and terrible waterfront design.

Our last market at this location was held on Saturday, June 21, 2014. 

I thank all of you who supported this endeavor.


Robert LaValva, Founder
New Amsterdam Market


Recent visits to the Seaport revealed a quasi-circus atmosphere, as the nautical and historical elements were downplayed in favor of tourist-oriented live entertainment and upscale shopping; the New Amsterdam Market and Bowne Stationers proved to be the exceptions to the neo-carnival approach.

Three separate efforts by this blogger to donate a complete collection of over thirty 150-year old nautical paintings, created by my great-great grandfather J.Lawrence Giles (whose lithography shop was located on Beekman Street at the Seaport during the Civil War era) received not a single response.  

The Seaport, which also owned a museum unit on the Woodcleft Canal in the maritime village of Freeport, Long Island, closed that unit for good several years ago as well.

More Disappearing Old New-York....


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

NOAA Coast Survey Improves Public Access to Data on Thousands of Wrecks

Knowing the locations of shipwrecks and other obstructions has always been important for safe navigation ‒ but mariners are not the only people who want to know about wrecks. They are also important for marine archeology, recreational diving, salvage operations, and fishing, among other interests. Now, Coast Survey has improved their Wrecks and Obstructions Database, giving everyone easy access to new records to explore. Historically, Coast Survey has maintained two separate sources of information on wrecks. NOAA has recently combined the sources, bringing together information on nearly 20,000 wrecks and obstructions.

Coast Survey established the Automated Wreck and Obstruction Information System (AWOIS) database in 1981 to help estimate the level of effort required to investigate items during a planned hydrographic survey, but maritime users were also interested in AWOIS’ historical records. However, because the emphasis is on features that are most likely to pose a hazard to navigation, AWOIS has always had limitations. Most notably, AWOIS is not a comprehensive record and does not completely address every known or reported wreck. Additionally, for a number of reasons, AWOIS positions do not always agree with a charted position for a similar feature.

Coast Survey compiles NOAA’s electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) from sources on features that are navigationally significant. As the official chart data used in electronic chart and display information systems (ECDIS), ENCs are the authoritative source of information about known or reported wrecks and are much more comprehensive than AWOIS. However, the features in an ENC typically lack the historic information and context provided by AWOIS.

Correcting for some overlap between the two source databases, Coast Survey’s new wrecks and obstructions database now contains information on about 13,000 wreck features and 6,000 obstructions. Wreck features from each original database are stored in separate layers but can be displayed together. Users may also choose a background map from several options.
The new database also offers users additional data formats from which to choose. Historically, shipwreck data in AWOIS was available in Adobe PDF and as Microsoft Access Database (MDB) format. More recently, KML/KMZ files replaced PDF and MDB formats, making it easier for public users to view AWOIS data, by using freely available software such as Google Maps or Google Earth. Now, in addition to KML/KMZ and Microsoft Excel formats for general users, Coast Survey provides the data in ArcGIS REST services and OGC WMS services, for use in GIS software programs or web-based map mashup sites.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Chatham Fights Back Against Federal Land Grab

In one of the most complicated land-ownership cases in recent memory, the U S Fish and Wildlife Service has claimed ownership of 717 acres that is part of a sandbar that migrated south from Lighthouse Beach, Chatham, joined up with Monomoy Island, and then was split in two by a storm two winters ago. The sandbar and adjacent undersea lands have long been considered owned by, and have been actively managed by, the Town of Chatham, and have been used for traditional fishing, shellfishing, and recreational uses.

Fish and Wildlife officials argue that migrating sand deposited on the eastern shores of Monomoy changes ownership, and is now federal land under the Submerged Lands Act of 1953. They argue that the breach in the barrier beach two years ago created a state of separate ownership, and that the beach and surrounding submerged land on the south side of the new inlet is a new barrier island…and therefore, federal property. The Service has developed a 15-year Draft Management Plan which includes the new acreage, which is available online here .

Local fishermen and shellfishermen point out that under such an interpretation, the lands would automatically become part of the refuge, and would fall under stricter rules that shelter wildlife from human disturbance. The Wildlife Service readily admits that it believes it has full authority to deny human activities within refuge boundaries under the Refuge System Act of 1966, including  shellfishing and fishing. 
The sandbars in question are an area considered by the Service to be potential prime nesting grounds for the endangered piping plover, a small bird that has had a huge impact on beach use throughout the northeast US.

On May 12, 2014, Chatham Town Meeting Voted overwhelmingly (401-16) in favor of a Resolution to oppose the Federal annexation of 717 acres of South Beach and the expansion of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service management of sub-tidal areas and open waters adjacent to Monomoy Island.  

The Chatham Board of Selectmen cited the following statement in opposition to the land-grab:

-  - It would cause a new Federal seizure of 717 acres of South Beach not now under the domain of the USFWS.

-   - It would outlaw traditional family recreation on portions of South Beach and Morris Island, and prohibit dogs, grilling, beach sports, and any other human activities that do not comply with Federal authority edicts.

     - It may impose future Federal restrictions of recreational fishing, boating, shellfish harvesting or other activities on or near Monomoy Island and South Beach - restrictions that do not exist now. 

Local Town Board of Health & Environment personnel and the Shellfish Constable have joined the effort, and citizens have organized an ad hoc group calling itself the Friends of Chatham and South Beach to fight the plan. That group is next meeting on Monday, June 16 at 5:30 on the 2nd floor of the Chatham Community Center.  This will prepare residents for The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Public Hearing on the matter, which will be on the following night (June 17) to receive comments and testimony from citizens regarding the economic, environmental and human impact of the new USFWS Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (Draft CCP).    Those who wish to join the citizens fighting the changes are advised to email: and simply put the phrase “Update me” in the subject line.

Five days ago, the group began circulating both physical and electronic petitions in opposition to the USFWS plan. In four day, the online petition had garnered 830 signatures, and the hard copy petition in Chatham had already reached over 1,700 signatures.  Supporters can sign the Online Petition here.
Written comments on the Draft Plan may also be submitted  directly to the USFWS through July 9, 2014 at:   Monomoy



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Boston Light Closed to Visitors for 2014....

Boston Light, the oldest Light in the nation, and a popular stop for visitors to Boston Islands Natonal Historical Park, will be closed to visitors to allow for extensive repairs throughout the summer 2014 season.

The Light, along with the Keeper's House, sit on Little Brewster Island and marks the main shipping entrance to Boston Harbor—New England's busiest port, commercially active since the 17th century. Established in 1716, the original stone tower was the first lighthouse built in North America. The British destroyed Boston Light during the Revolutionary War in 1776. Rebuilt in 1783, the present light tower is recognized as the Nation's second oldest light structure (after Sandy Hook, New Jersey.)

Electrified in 1948 (using an underwater electric cable to Hull, Massachusetts), Boston Light continues to use the original Fresnel lens, and the entire  Boston Harbor Light Station was designated a National Historic Landmark in January 1964.  In spite of its automation, it remains the last station to be staffed by humans in the country.  The current Keeper, Sally Snowman, is the Light's 70th Keeper; she is normally joined by a cadre of members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the National Park Service, and the Friends of Boston Harbor Islands help maintain the station for guided tours throughout the summer. 

Alas, time, wind, water, and salt have taken a toll on the structure, and the stucco-like exterior has been falling off of the structure. As a result, the Boston Light tour season will not be happening during 2014.  Instead, extensive restoration work will be done all summer in preparation for the 300th anniversary of the station in 2016.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

South Street Seaport re-launches 1893 LETTIE G. HOWARD

In a ceremony that gives renewed hope that the South Street Seaport will remain a seaport and not a condo-and-tourist-dollar driven circus, the New York and New Jersey maritime community gathered on Pier 25 on the Hudson River to ceremonially re-launch the Sailing School Vessel LETTIE G. HOWARD, introducing her in her new role as the flagship of the Port of New York and New Jersey on May 12. Owned and operated by South Street Seaport Museum, LETTIE is an 1893 Fredonia-model fishing schooner. She serves as an education and training platform for students from across the New York and New Jersey region-beginning with the students of the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governors Island and New Jersey's Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Sandy Hook.

Students and teachers from Harbor School and representatives of the New York Harbor Foundation joined leaders and volunteers from the South Street Seaport Museum to re-introduce her as an active member of New York Harbor's education vessel fleet. This new sail training program has been established through funding from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and a grant from the Schwab Charitable Fund made possible by the generosity of Wendy and Eric Schmidt. LETTIE is key to the Port Authority's "Two States, One Port" campaign, also launched on Monday, which will promote local students' study of their home port through place-based maritime education.

Public officials including Margaret Chin, City Councilwoman; Pat Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Tom Pendleton, Deputy Executive Director for Career and Work Readiness of the Department of Education of New York City; Catherine McVay Hughes, Chair of Manhattan Community Board One; and Madelyn Wils, President and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust joined Capt. Gordon Loebl, Commander, Sector New York, and Captain of the Port of New York and New Jersey, along with other officers from the U.S. Coast Guard and industry representatives to welcome LETTIE back to active duty. Those who were present recognized the crucial role that Lettie will play in the life of the harbor.

Since Monday's launch, LETTIE has rounded her final mark in her journey back to sailing readiness: We're pleased to announce that last Wednesday, thanks to the hard work of students and Harbor School staff over the last few months, she completed all requirements for re-certification as a Sailing School Vessel and is therefore US Coast Guard approved to embark students on training voyages.

South Street Seaport Museum and Harbor School have long been partners-- indeed, Harbor School's first office was located in one of the Museum's buildings. It is fitting that they should join together in this effort to get Lettie sailing again after four years' hiatus. Along with the Harbor Foundation, which funds and manages programs for Harbor School students and works to extend Harbor School's ethic of maritime stewardship to the wider community, the South Street Seaport Museum and the school seek to restore the Harbor to its central place in the life of the city and the region. "There's nothing 'replica' about this," said Capt. Aaron Singh, LETTIE's captain and Director of Harbor School's Vessel Operations Career and Technical Education program. Aboard LETTIE, he emphasizes, young people are learning genuine and valuable maritime skills, as well as general seamanship-- and lessons of teamwork and leadership that can't be learned anywhere else.

It is impossible to tell the story of New York City without telling the story of its Harbor and the men and women who have worked in the maritime industry; just as surely, it is impossible to imagine a resilient future for New York City and the metro region without a thriving port, a healthy harbor, and young people ready to take their place in the industry.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Oceana: Millions of pounds of fish, turtles, sea mammals being trashed

Oceana released a new report this week exposing nine of the dirtiest fisheries in the United States. These nine fisheries combined throw away almost half of what they catch and are responsible for more than 50 percent of all reported bycatch in the U.S., injuring and killing thousands of protected and endangered species every year.

In the report titled Wasted Catch: Unsolved Bycatch Problems in U.S. Fisheries, Oceana explains that despite significant progress in the last decade, the catch of non-target fish and ocean wildlife, or “bycatch”, remains a significant problem in domestic fisheries. In fact, researchers have estimated that approximately 20 percent of the total U.S. catch is thrown away each year.

[Bloggers note: while the following figures are both sickening and staggering, the global problem is worse than these numbers appear: I attended the Seafood Expo in Boston last week, the largest such wholesale expo in North America. Fully half of the vendors were from China. Chinese fish harvesting now accounts for the largest in the world, at more then three times the American harvest...and with almost none of the protective regulations]

“Anything can be bycatch,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. “Whether it’s the thousands of sea turtles that are caught to bring you shrimp or the millions of pounds of cod and halibut that are thrown overboard after fishermen have reached their quota, bycatch is a waste of our ocean’s resources. Bycatch also represents a real economic loss when one fisherman trashes another fisherman’s catch.”

Though some fishing methods are more harmful than others, researchers, fisheries managers and conservationists all agree that bycatch is generally highest in open ocean trawl, longline and gillnet fisheries. These three gear types alone are responsible for the majority of bycatch in the U.S. and are used by these nine dirty fisheries.

“Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, sharks, sea birds, sea turtles and fish needlessly die each year as a result of indiscriminate fishing gear,” said Amanda Keledjian, report author and marine scientist at Oceana. “It’s no wonder that bycatch is such a significant problem, with trawls as wide as football fields, longlines extending up to 50 miles with thousands of baited hooks and gillnets up to two miles long. The good news is that there are solutions – bycatch is avoidable.”

Unfortunately, the bycatch problem in the U.S. is likely much worse than realized, because most fisheries do not have adequate monitoring in place to document exactly what and how much is caught and subsequently discarded. In some fisheries, as few as One in 100 fishing trips carry impartial observers to document catch, while many are not monitored at all, leading to large gaps in knowledge and poor quality data.

Nine Dirty Fisheries (based on data published by the National Marine Fisheries Service):

Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline Fishery (66% discarded) –More than 400,000 sharks were captured and discarded in one year

California Set Gillnet Fishery
(65% of all animals discarded) – More than 30,000 sharks and rays as well as valuable fish were discarded as waste over three years

Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery
(64% discarded) – For every pound of shrimp landed, 1 pound of billfish is discarded; thousands of sea turtles are killed annually

California Drift Gillnet Fishery
(63% of all animals discarded) – Almost 550 marine mammals were entangled or killed over five years

Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Trawl Fishery
(35% discarded) – More than 34 million pounds of fish were thrown overboard in one year, including 2 million pounds of halibut and 5 million pounds of cod

Northeast Bottom Trawl (35% discarded) – More than 50 million pounds of fish are thrown overboard every year

Mid-Atlantic Bottom Trawl Fishery
(33% discarded) – Almost 200 marine mammals and 350 sea turtles were captured or killed in one year

Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Longline Fishery (23% discarded) – More than 75% of the wasted fish in this fishery are valuable tuna, swordfish and other billfish targeted by the fishery

New England and Mid-Atlantic Gillnet Fishery (16% discarded) – More than 2,000 dolphins, porpoises and seals were captured in one year

“Reducing bycatch is a win/win for fishermen and conservationists,” said Cano-Stocco. “By eliminating wasteful and harmful fishing practices we can restore and maintain fish populations that are essential to renewed abundance and healthy oceans, while also preventing the deaths of whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles.”

“The solution can be as simple as banning the use of drift gillnets, transitioning to proven cleaner fishing gears, requiring Turtle Excluder Devices in trawls, or avoiding bycatch hotspots,” said Dr. Geoff Shester, California program director at Oceana. “Proven solutions and innovative management strategies can significantly reduce the unnecessary deaths of sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and other marine life, while maintaining vibrant fisheries.”

In order to reduce the amount of wasted catch and the number of marine animals killed in U.S. fisheries, Oceana is calling on the federal government to do three things: 1) COUNT everything that is caught in a fishery, including bycatch species; 2) CAP the amount of wasted catch in each fishery using scientifically based limits; and 3) CONTROL and avoid bycatch by making improvements such as using cleaner fishing gear and enhanced monitoring.

To access all of Oceana’s materials, including the full report, summary of the findings, fisheries fact sheets, map of the nine dirty fisheries, expert interviews, b-roll, photos, infographics and more, please visit Oceana.

March 20, 2014 Washington, D.C.
Contact: Dustin Cranor ( | 954-348-1314, 954-348-1314 (cell))
Amelia Vorpahl ( | 202-467-1968, 202-476-0632 (cell)