YONKERS, N.Y. — Earth Day started with sunshine and ended with rain at the salt marsh behind the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River (CURB).
On the morning of April 22, at 7:30, about 15 residents of Yonkers gathered on a wooden dock for an annual blessing of the Hudson River led by Chuck Lesnick and Bob Walters.
Lesnick is deputy council for the New York State Office of Rent Regulation and a former president of the Yonkers City Council. Walters is the former director of Groundwork Hudson Valley’s Science Barge and former director of CURB’s predecessor, the Beczak Environmental Education Center.
Gerald Cohen, the cantor at the Shaarei Tikvah temple in Scarsdale, performed two songs (“Shehecheyanu” and “Miriam Haneviah”), then led participants in two songs in honor of Pete Seeger (“Sailing Down My Golden River” and “River that Flows Both Ways”).
Seeger was born almost a century ago, on May 3, 1919. The iconic activist and folk singer passed away in 2014 at age 94. 2019 is also a milestone year for Clearwater, the nonprofit Seeger started half a century ago with the launch of a sloop that shares the organization’s name.
Seeger’s repertoire of songs included “My Dirty Stream,” in which he lamented the impact of pollution on the Hudson River. He also expressed hope “that some day, though maybe not this year, my Hudson River will once again run clear.”
Following the Earth Day blessing, Lesnick, in suit and tie, picked up trash in the salt marsh. That afternoon, CURB’s outreach coordinator, Jason Muller, along with Sarah Mount, a science educator with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), helped parents and children gather juvenile American eels from a fyke net in the marsh.
Every spring, eels born in the Sargasso Sea, a section of the Atlantic Ocean, swim up the Hudson, where they spend most of their lives before returning to the Sargasso to spawn.
Despite the rain, 95 eels were collected on Earth Day, adding to the 2,577 counted since Feb. 27 — CURB’s highest total since it began participating in the DEC’s annual eel count in 2014. CURB’s second highest total was 1,264 in 2018. The count will continue until the end of May.
Neither Muller nor Mount could explain the increase at CURB, the only site on the Hudson out of 15 total. They did, however, explain that the eel is an indicator species — the more eels, the healthier the Hudson.
Tim Lamorte is an award-winning journalist who has spent more than two decades documenting life along the Hudson River.