Environmental Ed at the Bronx River House

Nothing beats the heat like a canoe ride on the Bronx River.


By Kendrick Davis

Bronx River Alliance celebrated Earth Day with a Community Earth event in front of Bronx River House, right next to Starlight Park. It was a beautiful, clear day–fitting for the holiday itself. You could practically feel the sun looking over your shoulder like it was standing in line for the activities scheduled for that day.

Bronx River Alliance (B.R.A.) has been around since 2001 studying and advocating for New York City’s only freshwater river, the Bronx River. The organization monitors the condition of the river, uses the river to educate the community about the environment, and organizes events to get people down to the river.

Community Earth Saturday was an event to teach the community and their children about pollution with fun activities and games. Christian Murphy, an ecology coordinator for B.R.A, allowed children to command storms and spread pollution over the Bronx/Yonkers area. Well, it was more like teaching children about the negative impact runoff pollution has on New York’s rivers and oceans.

Families were taught first-hand the dangers of runoff pollution with the mini diorama of our city by Christian Murphy (blue).

Jessica Califano and Vaughn Shinall at their booth explaining their sensors and teaching the benefits of air quality.

Using a colorful diorama moonlighting as our city, kids would spread pollution all over mini NYC using cherry Kool-Aid powder and cocoa powder mix. Then with a spray bottle, the volunteer then simulated a rainstorm sweeping up all the pollution in the area. The pollution mixture flows through the makeshift buildings and rivers and finally into the miniature Atlantic Ocean, showing kids that litter, no matter where it is thrown, will show up in our rivers and oceans soon enough.

The children and the parents who participated quickly grasped the severity of the issue. They practically begged Murphy for answers on how to prevent this from happening. Outside of holding on to your litter until you find a trash can, he brought up the potential of rain gardens.

Rain gardens soak up polluted runoff from reaching larger bodies of water. The runoff water gets absorbed by special soil that filters out pollutants and allows the clean water to pass through. Bronx River House has numerous rain gardens in front of the building and Murphy was sure to point them out to the curious kids.

Bike riders of all ages were encouraged to stop by Bronx River House. B.R.A partnered with Bronx Messenger to help service bicycles of all sizes for free. Bronx Messenger is a worker’s owned bicycle coop that prides itself on being a sustainable business with a democratic structure that gives its members equal power when it comes to profits and decision making. The volunteers at Bronx Messenger also offered free tutorials on bike repairs for those who want to take care of their next flat themselves.

A simple bike fix will get this kid zooming on the bike trail in no time. Careful of the ledge!

Another partner at the Community Earth Saturday event was Temboo, a tech company that specializes in the “internet of things”, or IoT, and data collection. IoT is described as inserting sensors or software in physical objects to exchange data with other devices and systems through the internet.

What Temboo does for B.R.A. is much simpler. Using particulate matter and carbon dioxide sensors attached to the exterior of Bronx River House, they can measure the air quality in the West Farms/Cortana Park East area every 10 mins.

At the event, representatives of Temboo, Vaughn Shinall and Jessica Califano, were offering free air quality reports to the public called The Daily Breather. Signing up was as simple as offering your email address and in return, you would get daily, easy-to-understand reports on the local vicinity.

Kids bringing color to their free reusable bags.

The event was a relaxing and educational way to spend the weekend. There were games, arts and crafts, and if you were lucky, a canoe ride on the Bronx River itself. Be sure to take some time to visit the Bronx River while the weather is agreeable and be sure to do it safely.

Visit Bronx River Alliance’s website, Twitter, and Facebook for more information on upcoming events and volunteering opportunities.

If you are interested in signing up to The Daily Breather for daily air-quality reports, click here.

To set up appointments for bike repairs from Bronx Messenger, click here or reach out through their Facebook or Instagram.

HeroToys: At the Clockworkcorner Classroom, a local superhero taught children how to build homemade toys to fight off boredom!

Expert paddlers can find some great graffiti art hidden under highway bridges if they go far enough. Careful of the rapids!





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