Bay Ridge

Retired educator forges ahead with marine science lab plan

Facing long odds, Tom Greene says he won’t give up

June 9, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tom Greene (kneeling, left) brings a group of volunteers down to Denyse Wharf for a cleanup campaign twice a year. Photos courtesy of Greene
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A retired Fort Hamilton High School assistant principal is vowing to continue his fight to revolutionize the way science is taught in New York public schools despite the fact that the city doesn’t seem to be going along with his idea.

Tom Greene, who taught science at Fort Hamilton High School for decades, has been advocating for years for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to build a marine science lab for students on the Bay Ridge shoreline. But so far, his calls have largely gone unheeded.

“This is an important issue and I’m not giving up on it,” Greene told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Climate change is a major concern all over the world and we need to get kids interested in it.  Environmental science should be taught in all schools. It is taught in high schools, but it should be taught to younger kids, too.”

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The spot Greene has picked out for the marine science lab is Denyse Wharf, a Revolutionary War-era pier located at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The wharf is the property of the U.S. Army and falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton, a military post located approximately a half-mile away. 

“The lab could be built on a barge off Denyse Wharf, if not on the wharf itself,” Greene said.

The idea is to provide students a place where they can study marine life up close, according to Greene, who said many public and private schools in Brooklyn do not have science labs. 

The Friends of Denyse Wharf, an environmental group Greene founded, submitted a proposal to DOE to consider constructing a marine environmental science lab to teach basic lab skills to students.

Greene has come close to realizing his dream. 

Back in the 1990s, state Sen. Marty Golden, who was a City Council member at the time, secured funding for a feasibility study by the School Construction Authority (SCA). Greene said the SCA concluded that the lab was feasible if it was built on a barge attached to Denyse Wharf.

Since that time, however, DOE has not acted on the lab proposal.

Unless funding is allocated for construction, the marine science lab project will not move forward.

Still, Greene said he is determined. “Friends of Denyse Wharf will continue to advocate for a marine environmental science lab,” he said.

Twice a year, with the U.S. Army’s permission, Greene leads a group of volunteers down to Denyse Wharf to conduct a cleanup. The volunteers, including high school students, clear away debris from the wharf and comb the beach for litter.

The most recent cleanup took place on June 4. 

The goal of the twice-yearly cleanups is to bring attention to the historic nature of the wharf and to publicize it as a fitting spot for a lab, Greene said.

Greene and members of Friends of Denyse Wharf are looking for help from Bay Ridge Councilmember Vincent Gentile and Community Board 10 to win approval from the U.S. Army and DOE to use the beach near the wharf for a “Science on Shore” educational program for students. 

“Heightened concerns about global warming and climate change, plus the need to educate our youth about the perils of pollution, requires outdoor lab activities that address these real-world problems,” Greene said.  


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