Floating environmental center permanently docks in Yonkers
The city’s latest tourist attraction, a floating environmental center, dropped anchor Monday at the city’s waterfront.
The Science Barge traveled from New York City to its new permanent home across from the recently opened Hudson Park apartment towers on the downtown waterfront. The barge features large solar panels, greenhouses and wind turbines that teach lessons about renewable energy, sustainable farming and integrated ecological systems.
The nonprofit group Groundwork Hudson Valley brought the barge to Yonkers, and its executive director, Rick Magder, said the center will be a novel Hudson River attraction.
“It’s probably the only place where people can come and have an (interaction) or experience with solar power and wind power,” Magder said.
Groundwork Hudson Valley, formerly known as Groundwork Yonkers, bought the barge from New York Sun Works for $2. The catch was that Groundwork would have to raise the $200,000 to $300,000 in annual expenses to operate the barge.
Magder said the city of Yonkers offered the group help in bringing the barge to the city, and the New York Power Authority has made a three-year commitment to help fund the barge. The city did not give any money, but offered a docking permit, river depth analyses and overtime staffing hours.
The city is under a budgetary emergency and is restricting overtime spending, but city spokesman David Simpson called the barge overtime a nominal cost because it consists of a parks worker checking that the barge’s entrance gate is open.
Sobeida Cruz, the director of public and governmental affairs for the New York Power Authority, said that supporting the barge is part of her agency’s desire to promote renewable energy. Cruz, a Yonkers resident, would not say how much her agency is spending to support the project, saying it would be formally announced in about two weeks.
Companies like HSBC, Domino Sugar and Whole Foods, as well as charitable foundations, also contributed money to bring the barge to Yonkers, according to Groundwork Hudson Valley.
Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone attended Monday’s barge inauguration. He said the barge fits with his administration’s efforts to create more parkland and public attractions along the riverfront.
The city already has an environmental center, the Beczak Environmental Education Center, about three blocks away at 35 Alexander St. The Hudson River Museum at 511 Warburton Ave. also has a Hudson Riverama that focuses on ecology.
Magder said the three centers will complement, not compete with, each other.
He noted that Beczak primarily focuses on the Hudson River, while the barge will focus on renewable energy.
He added that both Beczak and the museum helped Groundwork Hudson Valley bring the barge to Yonkers.
Children from Riverside High School attended the barge’s inauguration, and some of them participate in the school’s environmental education program.
Stephanie Montenegro, 14, a Riverside High School ninth-grader, tried one of the tomatoes grown in the barge’s greenhouses. She said she was excited about the barge’s arrival in the city.
She added that the barge would appeal to schoolchildren because it illustrates topics taught at many public schools.
“Right now we are studying the role of being environmentally friendly, so kids from other schools will be interested in seeing this,” Montenegro said.
The barge will open to the public for unspecified preview days next month and then will be open five to six days a week around May. The idea is to open from the spring through the fall for school field trips and general-admission visits.
While in New York City the barge was visited by about 3,000 students and 3,000 adults a year, said Magder, whose group has not yet set admission prices or program fees.
By Ernie Garcia
The Journal News