Public Lab Research note


by iragersh | October 31, 2018 01:38 31 Oct 01:38 | #17438 | #17438


I would like to grow kelp in West Harlem Piers.

Our main concern:

I have never done this before. I don't know how to start and what permits I should need.

Obstacles and supporting information:

Like the main concern. Getting started and permits.

Who is engaged in this concern?

Bren Smith of Greenwave grows kelp.

What are the initial questions?

Will it grow? If it grows, how fast will it grow? Will small fish hang out near it? What other critters will we find next to the kelp?


Hi @iragersh- This sounds like a great project. Off the top of my head, I would think the people/organizations who would be the most helpful in helping you get started on the process of obtaining permits and permissions would be some of the folks engaged in waterfront use/access elsewhere in NYC-- The Gowanus Dredgers and North Brooklyn Boat Club/Newtown Creek Conservancy are a few that come to mind, and I imagine that there are different avenues for tackling this project depending if your water access is via City owned or leased property or as part of a partnership with a private land owner or lease holder. Since the West Harlem Piers are part of the City Parks Department I'm assuming they have their own internal procedures for approving and moving forward with on-site projects.

Perhaps @eymund has some ideas about permits relating to waterfront access?

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Hi Ira. Great project ! First step would be identifying what parts of the West Harlem Piers that are most suitable for kelp propagation. This will be directly related to currents, sediment deposition patterns. and shading.

The City has just released the 2017 LIDAR which should be available on Open Data soon. The Bathymetry (water depth mapping) would provide a good starter base for map for your project.

An overview of the LIDAR program is here:

Once you narrow down the sites, you can use Map Pluto ( to figure out who has jurisdiction.

Bart Chezar ( went through the process of getting community board approval and permits for waterfront eco pier restoration projects. He has done a lot of research on eel grass in Sunset Park and collaborated on the "Fuzzy Rope" Mussel Nets project at the Syms recycling facility. The nets, which also attracted algaes was on a private property facing the public waters of Gowanus Bay. Gena Wirth (@gwirth) may also have pointers on permitting issues. (

If you want to go beyond dont ask dont tell, you can watch Susanna Drake's TedX talk on 200 + different permits needed from the 19 different agencies requiring permits for a waterfront street end wetland reconstruction

She has a good summary slide on various agencies involved and their different vertical and horizontal jurisdictions:


Starting with DEP Permit Requirement lists, I started compiling and filtering the over 278 Green Infrastructure permits you could potentially need:

But then I got distracted by the more practical applications of seed bombs:

What would be the water based version of an algae bomb look like ?

These should be studied carefully so as to not further damage water ecosystems with unintended consequences.

On a related note Ysabelle Gamoso and Alexandra Bilinski and Rozina Radoncic are collecting Gowanus data in October 2018 on algae species for a student bio remediation proposal

They have a fun video of their algae explorations and species they are starting to see

Sharing data on species observed between grassroots researchers will allow us to identify water life forms that have been successful for particular neighborhood conditions.

Red Algae and other colonizer species found on the Sunset Park mussel nets:


It would be a good research project to look at how mussel "fuzzy ropes" could be adapted to kelp propagation needs

2012 Scape Mussel Net Workshop


Also have a look at Eric Sanderson's Welikia Project ( to start identifying historical kelp habitat along the West Harlem shoreline, as well as other suitable historical algae species.

This 1782 New York City British Headquarters Stevens Facsimile Map will give you an idea of the historical shoreline and stream / salinity conditions near your site suitable for kelp propagation.


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