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John Cronin at Harbor School: “Turning the Tide of Environmental History…”

By Susannah Black
June 29, 2016

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Original Hudson Riverkeeper Addresses Next Generation of Water Advocates

Governors Island, NYC, June 27, 2016— In the world of Harbor restoration, it was an extraordinary moment. John Cronin, the original Hudson Riverkeeper, was the speaker for Urban Assembly New York Harbor School’s 10th graduation. Addressing students at the campus of the Billion Oyster Project’s flagship school on Governors Island in the center of New York Harbor, Cronin reminded the students that over their four years of high school, they “have had the benefit of the single greatest classroom on the planet, which is New York Harbor.”

His presence at graduation highlights a powerful new partnership: Cronin is bringing his marine policy expertise to a collaboration with the students and staff of Billion Oyster Project, the region-wide effort to restore New York Harbor by re-establishing its oyster population. Cronin’s address to this group of students in these circumstances is, to those who know something of the history of New York Harbor’s restoration over the past 45 years, resonant.

John Cronin has dedicated his career to the American environment; his influence on the modern environmental movement is unparalleled, and has been widely recognized. The subject of three books and many profiles, Cronin has also received many awards. The Knight-Ridder newspaper chain called Cronin a “hero in one of the great success stories of the modern environmental movement,” and he’s been named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time Magazine. His 16 year stint as Hudson Riverkeeper served as a model for the more than 280 “Keepers” who today fight for clean waterways across the globe, and his book The Riverkeepers, co-written with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was immensely influential in launching the modern clean water movement.

Cronin has continued, throughout his career, as a major force in the scientific and activist com- munities in New York and beyond. He is the Senior Fellow for Environmental Affairs at Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies at Pace University’s Dyson College Institute for Sustainability and the Environment, and was the founding director and CEO of Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries at Clarkson University.

“I cannot imagine a more fitting commencement speaker than John Cronin.” said Murray Fisher, founder of Harbor School and co-founder of Billion Oyster Project. “It was while I was working for John at Riverkeeper nearly twenty years ago that I developed a passion for the Hudson River and a desire to start a school that introduced urban students to this incredible estuary system.”

Says Pete Malinowski, Director of the Billion Oyster Project, “John’s support and expertise will be a great asset to Billion Oyster Project. With his help we can make real progress towards developing a streamlined pathway for permitting for our restoration work.”

At commencement, Cronin touched on the history of Riverkeeper, and of his his own unlikely path to environmental activism. “But you know what captures my imagination now?” he asked the students. “It’s not catching another oil tanker, as much fun as that is; it’s not even increasing the number of Waterkeepers around the planet, as terrific an idea as that is. What captures my imagination today more than any other idea I’ve heard.. in my professional career, is a billion oysters in New York Harbor. What captures my imagination today is thousands of young New Yorkers restoring one of the most fascinating ecosystems in the world— right here, in your own back yard. What captures my imagination today is the New York Harbor School turning the tide of environmental history, and reclaiming the cultural, economic, and ecological birthright that is your just inheritance.”

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