NYC Parks and Columbia Announce Partnership on City of Water Day

Columbia Climate School to study harmful algae bloom at Morningside Pond and offer community science opportunities. 

July 18, 2023

On July 15, City of Water Day, NYC PARKS and Columbia University’s Climate School held an event at Morningside Park’s pond to officially launch their partnership study that seeks to identify approaches to containing and preventing harmful algal bloom in the City’s parks. City of Water Day in New York City annually advocates for a climate resilient New York, especially related to water.

“Waterbodies aren’t just nice to look at—they play a critical role in our city’s ecology by providing habitats for urban wildlife and contributing to a healthy ecosystem. What better way to celebrate City of Water Day than to kick off this partnership with Columbia Climate School to study the algae in the Morningside Park pond?” said Manhattan Parks Commissioner Anthony Perez. “Partnerships are key to everything we do at Parks, and I’m excited to see opportunities for the community to get involved and learn more about the ecology of our parks and waterbodies.”

President of Columbia University Minouche Shafik said, “On New York City Water Day, we are proud to shine a bright light on our partnership with NYC Parks to study and find solutions to harmful algae blooms, one of which has long plagued Morningside Park’s pond. One of Columbia’s missions is to apply academic expertise to real world problems and build partnerships with individuals, our community, and organizations beyond the academy. There is hardly a better example of this than the work we will do in our neighboring Morningside Park, providing hands-on learning opportunities for students at local schools while engaging our Morningside Heights and Harlem community partners. I want to especially thank NYC Parks and the Friends of Morningside Park for their longstanding partnership, which we celebrate today.” 

Morningside Park sits east of Columbia University's campus and has enjoyed a long partnership with the University. Each year the Morningside Lights parade takes place in September with the park community, and NYC Parks staff collaborates with Columbia's community for volunteer activity, programming ideas, and public safety efforts.

NYC Parks created a working group to study the pond in 2021 that included Columbia academics. In 2022, the first study was initiated from that working group, which confirmed the high level of toxicity of the harmful algae bloom (HAB). There is no known solution for HABs.

NYC Parks will now collaborate with scientists at Columbia University's Climate School to work to improve the condition and possibly find a solution. Columbia's Climate School is the nation’s first climate school and the leader of educating future climate leaders, supporting groundbreaking research, and fostering essential climate solutions from the community to the planetary scale.

Joaquim Goes, professor of biology and paleo environment at Columbia Climate School’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said, “Columbia Climate School scientists have been working to find solutions to HAB outbreaks in large coastal and open ocean water bodies. The Morningside Park pond affords an ideal test bed for us to work collaboratively with students and local communities to find solutions to the HAB problem that is increasingly afflicting many of our city's larger ponds and lakes.”

At the event, scientists took water samples and allowed the public to view the algae and other micro-organisms under a microscope. NYC Parks Wetlands Team within the Natural Resources Group also provided pamphlets and other educational materials. Friends of Morningside Park will work with both NYC Parks and Columbia University for the duration of the study to engage the local residents in community science opportunities and in the solution effort.