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Army Corps New York District Shares Water-Resource Missions at Waterfront Festival

USACE, New York District
Published July 16, 2019

Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Richard Gussenhoven speaks with visitors to the District's information booth during City of Water Day July 13, 2019.


District employees with District Commander Col. Thomas Asbery (4th from left) and Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Richard Gussenhoven at City of Water Day July 13, 2019. At the event the District shared its water-resource missions with hundreds of visitors.


The Hayward, the New York District's drift-collection vessel, sails on the East River close to the Waterfront Festival on Piers 16 and 17 July 13, 2019.


New York District Commander Col. Thomas Asbery explains an item to a visitor in front of the District's display booth at City of Water Day July 13, 2019. The large poster boards, as seen in photo, attracted hundreds of visitors.

Thousands of people at the water in 90-degree heat but no one is swimming. What’s going on?

A celebration of New York-New Jersey Harbor and everything it offers to the region.

Waterfront Celebration

The New York District participated in the 12th Annual City of Water Day, a free harbor-wide event with a variety of activities celebrating some 1,600 miles of coastline in the New York region. Sponsored by the Waterfront Alliance, a nonprofit agency advocating public involvement in water-based activities, the event brought together the public, water enthusiasts and families interested in harbor activities amid a carnival-like atmosphere with water as the main attraction.

Collaborative Effort

In collaboration with the New York–New Jersey Harbor and Estuary Program, activities included waterfront events across all five boroughs, Westchester County, and New Jersey celebrating the regions’ vast coastline and championed a shared goal of a climate-resilient New York Harbor prepared for increased coastal storms.

Sharing Waterborne Initiatives

The District seized the opportunity to share its initiatives, shining a spotlight on the importance of the Harbor to the region and the nation. The fun began when hundreds of kids and their parents  ̶  attracted by large poster boards  ̶  dropped by the Corps visual display booth with personnel on hand to discuss projects and answer questions. In one instance, a youngster picked up a District helmet from the table, fastened it to his head, and announced that he wanted to become an engineer! Those nearby broke out in laughter and amusement.

Cardboard Kayak Race

Beyond the main event site, the annual cardboard kayak race took place underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Participants, building kayaks earlier that day, presented colorful crafts with creative designs. With Col. Asbery and staff looking on, hand-made kayaks entered the water and almost immediately one capsized, done in by a strong late-afternoon breeze as the crowd cajoled (rescue personnel stationed in the water helped escort them back to shore; other craft were more seaworthy and finished the race.)

District Vessels Participate 

Viewing from shore, a group of local citizens and spectators, facing the East River, received a stunning, close-up view of the Corps’ debris-collection vessel, the Hayward, traveling in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Bridge, its American flag whipping against a stiff breeze. The Hayward routinely removes navigational hazards to commercial and recreational traffic such as wood, trees, tires and plastic; a 20-ton crane is capable of retrieving extremely heavy objects such as submerged boats, downed helicopters, and even stray whales.

Leadership Perspective   

“City of Water Day is an excellent platform to communicate the Army Corps’ water-resource-focused missions to the public,” said New York Commander and District Engineer Col. Thomas Asbery, adding, “The breadth and depth of our diverse program provides valuable services to the residents and communities along the New York-New Jersey Harbor and surrounding areas.” 

Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Richard Gussenhoven noted, “It was worthwhile interacting with people about the Army Corps’ role in the Harbor and area waterways,” adding, “Many may not be aware that our District, in collaboration with the Port Authority of New York and Jersey, is a key contributor in maintaining the health and productivity of the Harbor.”

Pier 16 Flagship

Docked alongside the festival at Pier 16 was the Wavertree, an 1885 cargo vessel, flagship of a fleet maintained by the South Street Seaport Museum. Built of riveted wrought iron, it’s a replica of late 19th century sailing cargo ships that once lined the shoreline, creating a sea of masts from Battery Park to the Brooklyn Bridge.