Last year, the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor (CSHH) received a grant for $14,000 from outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia to use towards its mission to eliminate environmental threats to Hempstead Harbor and surrounding waters. The Sea Cliff-based nonprofit organization has used the funds on an ongoing project to reduce nitrogen runoff into the harbor.
“Carol DiPaolo, programs director and water-monitoring coordinator of the coalition, reached out to Patagonia and we were then awarded the grant for the habitat restoration project,” Karen Papasergiou, president of CSHH, said.
“The Patagonia funding gave us an opportunity to create a model for how individuals can have a positive effect not only in their own yards, but in the broader environment as well, focusing on an area of concern in the watershed that affects the health of Hempstead Harbor,” said DiPaolo. “We hope to replicate this model in the near future.”
CSHH partnered with about 10 residents in Glenwood Landing to help them select native plants that will be most effective in absorbing nitrogen in the soil around their homes, reducing soil compaction, as well as lessen stormwater runoff.
“Compaction is dense soil,” Papasergiou said. “You want the soil to be more porous and to have more root structure going through it. Sometimes you see some plant beds that are just dying because the water can’t really get through to the roots and it’s running right down to the street sometimes. If it’s more porous the water will filter through the soil and you will have less runoff directed into the streets and harbors.”
She added, “It’s the same reason we want people to pick up after their dogs. So you don’t just have that being washed into the harbors.”
When excess nitrogen finds its way into waterways, it acts as a fertilizer and allows excessive growth of algae. When the algae dies off, it can lead to the more serious problem of low dissolved oxygen which harms the ecosystem.
“The grant funds were used to cover the costs of the plantings, the equipment needed to test the soil for nitrogen and compaction, conduct community workshops over a two-year period, and provide a report on data results from the testing,” Papasergiou said.
“They’ve done some measuring and they’re going to be doing it again in the spring,” Papasergiou said. “We’re still working on the results and determining the effectiveness of the project.”
The project provided the native plants to homeowners free of charge and also includes public education, workshops and citizen science opportunities.
Papasergiou explained that CSHH was awarded the grant because its mission statement aligns closely with Patagonia’s own mission and desire to support the innovative work of grassroots organizations that addresses the root causes of the environmental crisis. In addition to the grant, Patagonia has selected CSHH to receive donations through a button on the Patagonia website, which Patagonia will match through the end of December. The donate page can be found at www.patagonia.com/actionworks/grantees/coalition-to-save-hempstead-harbor.
“We got the one-time grant from Patagonia, but now we’re going to hopefully be looking at increasing that and reaching out to possibly another 10 homes in the area or any businesses that feed into the Hempstead Harbor area,” said Papasergiou.
“To be acknowledged by an organization that is basically worldwide, for them to acknowledge us as a nonprofit organization with similarly aligned missions, of course, we’re so thankful and so appreciative of that,” Papasergiou said. “We feel honored, but it’s one of many accolades that we’ve received through the years.”
The coalition was formed in 1986 by a group of concerned citizens who, in addition to other environmental efforts, joined forces to halt the construction of a mass burn incinerator in the Town of North Hempstead. Since then, in cooperation with an extensive network of partners, CSHH has worked to improve the overall health of Hempstead Harbor, which resulted in the cleanup of toxic waste sites and elimination chronic sewage discharges, which in turn facilitated the reopening of shellfish beds in the outer harbor in 2011.
CSHH has vocally opposed the Williams pipeline and attended the Army Corps meeting about proposed sea gates that could cause induced flooding for North Shore communities within the study area. The organization works with local municipalities through the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee (a consortium of nine municipalities that have jurisdiction over Hempstead Harbor), as well as environmental agencies and other environmental organizations. CSHH continues to conduct state-of-the-art water monitoring of the harbor, and it lends its voice to national issues such as climate change, plastic bag pollution and more.
“We’ve been the eyes and ears of the community and we’re highly respected because we’re not naysayers,” Papasergiou said. “We’ve always believed in the ferries for transportation, getting people off the road. We look at the whole picture and we have a great reputation.”
CSHH has approximately 1000 members and 17 members on the board.
“We’re definitely trying to grow that. A lot of the board members have been here for 30 years. We’ve been adding new members…and we’re really trying to develop the board,” Papasergiou said, adding that there are many new people moving to the area who don’t know about the organization’s history, and for those people, when they see the affiliation with Patagonia, they are more likely to take the coalition seriously and get involved.
“We always encourage people from all communities to get involved with us,” Papasergiou said. “And we have a lot of fun events that bring attention to causes,” including karaoke nights, movie screenings, Earth Day celebrations and participation for the past 25 years in International Coastal Cleanup. On Feb. 28, 2020, CSHH will host Crawl for a Cause, a restaurant crawl that supports the efforts of the organization.
To learn more about CSHH, visit coalitiontosavehempsteadharbor.org. If you are interested in volunteering with this project or any other, email email@example.com.