NEW YORK, NY-Hudson River Sloop Clearwater sent a brigade of staff and board members into Manhattan January 29th to pick up a prestigious award from the New York State Bar Association – and to engage the attorneys as future sailors on the sloop, volunteers for Clearwater and helpers in developing Pier 26 in Tribeca.
The NYSBA’s Environment Law Section award is presented annually to an individual or organization with a record of significant achievement, meaningful contribution and distinguished service to the environment.
“The Clearwater was given the section award for the advocacy work it has done in preserving the Hudson River and for providing the public an opportunity to experience the beauty of the river from the water rather than the shore,” said Albany attorney Terresa M. Bakner, chair of the Environmental Law Section.
Peter A. Gross, executive director of the nonprofit organization, accepted the award, and spoke of how powerfully the experience of being on the sloop Clearwater affects both children and adults. “Most often, it provides an experience they will never forget,” Gross said. “ It is a way to plant a seed for a lifetime of caring about the river.”
The Clearwater, a replica of the historic Dutch sloops that plied the Hudson River in the 18th and 19th centuries, was launched in 1969 by folksinger/activist Pete Seeger, who founded the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization a year later. “Clearwater has been at the forefront of the environmental movement as a champion of the Hudson River,” said the NYSBA’s awards committee chair, Barry R. Kogut of Syracuse. “It provides innovative educational programs, environmental advocacy, and musical celebrations in an effort to inspire and educate the public.”
“By this award,” Kogut said, “we hope to draw additional attention to the work of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and the importance of sustaining it.” With 74,000 members, the New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country.
Clearwater’s Board vice-president James Hanson and board members Ross Gould, Stephen Filler and Don Raskopf, along with Development Director Matt Soper, attended the ceremony at the New York Hilton, and the group did some “grass-roots organizing” at the cocktail reception that followed. As Gross did in his speech, the board members discussed Clearwater programs such as Power of Song, Young Women and Young Men at the Helm, Green Cities and sloop club activities and public and educational sails on the Hudson from Rensselaer down to New York Harbor with the assembled attorneys – plus the Pier 26 project.
Clearwater was recently named a partner with Clarkson University/Beacon Institute and the New York Hall of Science in development of the long-planned education center to be built on Pier 26 at the base of Houston Street in Manhattan. The facility will include a 550-acre riverside park and “Estuarium” building that will serve as a center for research, education and public discovery of river ecology. The Clearwater is to have a dock at the pier and the organization will provide dockside and onboard education and entertainment.
Clearwater is in the process of lining up an advisory board of New York City residents to help with its planning for the facility and programs. Many of the lawyers at the awards ceremony indicated interest in knowing more about Clearwater and in working on the pier project, or others.
Some were already very familiar with the organization and its work. One in fact – Gail S. Port – had her name on incorporation documents from more than 30 years ago when the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater gained its current name, after originally being called Hudson River Sloop Restoration. “Clearwater is a great institution,” said Port, “still very relevant after all these years and with great plans for the future.”