Bay Ridge

Denyse Wharf cleanup crew gets close up view of harbor seal

June 4, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
If you look closely at this photo, you can see a black harbor seal poking its head out of the water. Cleanup organizers said members of the Harbor Seals Swim Team were thrilled to see the sea-faring mammal up close. Photos courtesy Thomas Greene

Members of the Harbor Seals Swim Team got a chance to meet their namesake when a real life harbor seal swam up to the edge of Denyse Wharf while the swimmers were cleaning the Bay Ridge pier.

The swimmers, part of a group of volunteers organized by the Friends of Denyse Wharf group to pick up debris from the wharf, spotted the harbor seal just before the cleanup began on the morning of May 31.

“And what a coincidence!” said Thomas Greene, founder of the Friends of Denyse Wharf, who marveled at the fact that the Harbor Seals got to see a real harbor seal.

The swim team is based out of Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge.

Greene, a retired Fort Hamilton assistant principal, leads the Friends group in twice a year cleanups of Denyse Wharf, a small, unused pier located at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge.

In addition to removing old tires, seaweed, beer cans and other types of trash from the wharf, students who took part in Sunday’s cleanup also enjoyed kayaking, oyster gardening and testing water quality during their visit to the waterfront. For their hard work, the youngsters earned community service credits at their schools.

The seal spotting created a great deal of excitement among the cleanup crew.

Harbor seals are protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The average lifespan for a harbor seal is between 25 and 30 years. The seals can be found on both the East and West coasts of the U.S. and are generally six feet long and weigh approximately 245 pounds. Their diet consists mainly of fish and crustaceans.

They have been known to come out of the water, usually to rest on rocks, where they position themselves on their backs with their heads and flippers elevated.

Denyse Wharf, which dates back to the Revolutionary War, is technically the property of the U.S. Army and falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton. Greene said Col. Joseph Davidson, the fort’s commander, gave the Friends group permission to visit the wharf for the cleanup. More than 75 people took part in the trash removal project.

At one point, Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) visited the pier to encourage the Friends of Denyse Wharf.

Greene and the Friends group are advocating for the New York City Department of Education to construct a marine science lab for students at Denyse Wharf.

The purpose of the lab would be to get kids to be interested in science and to give students a research platform on which to train for national science competitions, according to Greene.

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