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Water Water Everywhere

It’s been 55 years since Columbia's bulldozers rolled into Morningside Park in a failed attempt to build a gymnasium on the site in 1968, halted by a dedicated group of protesters and advocates, leaving a scar forever memorializing the assault on the landscape that is now the Duck Pond and Waterfall (pictured above). In a renewed effort to mend and kindle new relationships in the Morningside and Harlem communities, incoming Columbia President Minouche Shafik joined us and NYC Parks for July 15th’s City of Water day, in one of her first events with our communities since taking office. The gesture had remarkable significance to our communities given that history.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik and Suki Terada Ports - Photo Credit: Diane Bondareff

Noting various concerns of the community, most prominently the petition circulated by you, the community and garnering more than 2.3k signatures, we have collectively taken the first step forward with the announcement of a historic new collaborative partnership between Columbia University, NYC Parks and Friends of Morningside Park.

Joining us in celebrating the new spirit of collaboration, coming near full circle, were former Columbia students, Carolyn Anderson Brown and Leon Denmark, members of the Student Afro-American Society (SAS) which occupied Columbia's Hamilton Hall for a week in April 1968. Members were arrested over their central demand; halt the gym project. Also with us was Suki Terada Ports, one of a number of community protesters who were also arrested as they sat in front of a bulldozer that had actively begun clearing the site in February of the same year.

Manhattan Borough Commissioner of NYC Parks Anthony Perez, New York City Council Member Shaun Abreu, and Columbia University President Minouche Shafik - Photo Credit: Diane Bondareff
Carolyn Anderson Brown and Leon Denmark speak with Columbia President Minouche Shafik - Photo Credit: Diane Bondareff

Our partners will work with us to study and mitigate the Harmful Algal Blooms that plague the Morningside Pond as well as water bodies across the five boroughs and New York state. Our volunteers and high school students from Columbia Teachers College have already been working with NYC Parks to gather water samples. The assistance of Columbia's scientists will help us further analyze the data and propose solutions serving as a pilot program for blooms mitigation and treatments moving forward as they continue spreading to water bodies across the country.

Lastly, but possibly most notably central to the work will be the fixing of the recirculating waterfall which graced this site since the late 80's but has not worked in five years. Engineers at Columbia's Carleton Laboratory will study the existing waterfall pumps and make any necessary repairs or suggest replacements. Eager to begin their work, efforts to move the pumps to their labs are already in the works.

Needless to say, momentum is high and it is an exciting time for water in Morningside Park. And while there are a lot of moving pieces moving forward, we plan to keep you abreast of developments and progress as we get them.

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