Kids and Parents Clean up Historic Denyse Wharf
By Dr. Merryl Kafka
In the shadow of the majestic Verrazano Bridge, entry to the port of NY, is a little-known landing called Denyse Wharf. Historically used for military boats during the Battle of Brooklyn (1776), the Civil War and WWII, Denyse Wharf, with its robust Belgian blocks and crumpled concrete slabs, can tell stories of past victories, but also of current neglect … until Tom Greene came along.
Dozens of schoolchildren and their parents joined forces with Thomas F. Greene and Blanca Ching, both executive board members of the N.Y.S. Marine Education Association (NYSMEA) and Co-Founders of Friends of Denyse Wharf Community Organization. Tom and Blanca, colleagues, dedicated activists and educators, have been organizing yearly cleanups of Denyse Wharf for many years, along with teaching hundreds of students how to measure oysters, use microscopes, identify plankton and conduct basic water-quality assessments. These field techniques have been a new and fun experience for the students. Not only do the activities build science content knowledge and process skills in situ rather than in school (although these activities are seldom addressed in schools) but also leave students with rewarding feelings that they can make a difference and help protect our coastlines.
This year the youngsters were introduced to kayaking and loved it! The watchful eyes of the swim team and lifeguard from the Harbor Seal Club at Ft. Hamilton HS were on-hand for safety. The Harbor Seals is a swim team that Tom Greene established, and coached by volunteers Fred and Marsha Fritsch, who also pitched in with the clean up removing pounds of styrofoam from the shore. Participants came in all sizes, and ranged from fourth grade to 12th, representing schools including Williamsburg Prep, St. Mark’s, P.S. 176, Brooklyn Technical, Mark Twain JHS, Ft. Hamilton HS, and St. Edmund, among others.
Why is Denyse Wharf Padlocked and Decrepit?
The U.S. Army designated Denyse Wharf as excessed property. Thus it cannot allocate any money on upkeep or repairs. The army would be happy to transfer this 14-acre waterfront property (above and below the water level at low tide) to a city agency for only $1.00 per year with the objective to develop this site for public use. Tom Greene has been working with the Department of Education for over 20 years to develop a marine science laboratory for school communities, but to no avail due to difficult logistics of the location, parking restrictions and lack of access to and from the Belt Parkway. Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge has rejected a marine lab proposal for the same reasons. Councilman Vincent Gentile provided Tom Greene with an award, and projected potential hope that maybe access can be improved in future years.
Tom Greene is the former (Ret.) Assistant Principal from Ft. Hamilton HS in Bay Ridge and currently an adjunct professor of Oceanography at Kingsborough Community College. Blanca Ching teaches Earth Science and Marine Science at Ft. Hamilton HS and is an adjunct professor at the College of Staten Island.
In 1741 Benjamin Franklin was the Postmaster of Brooklyn and stood on Denyse Wharf to send the mail by boat to Boston and Georgia. #
Dr. Merryl Kafka was a Curator of Education for 30 years at the New York Aquarium, Dr. Kafka has been instrumental in providing exciting, multidisciplinary marine science programming to community groups, families, school children, and teachers throughout the New York City area.