Sunset students set sail with Billion Oyster Project at Bush Terminal Park

July 1, 2019 Jaime DeJesus
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Sunset Park students needed a bigger boat and got one.

For the second year, 20 Sunset Park middle school students teamed up with the Billion Oyster Project to launch a 14-foot dory at Bush Terminal Park. The students built the boat to support oyster restoration, field-science education and community recreation on the Sunset Park waterfront.

The students named the boat Guacamole and launched it at the Brooklyn Oyster Dory boat launch on June 14.

The Billion Oyster Project is an environmental nonprofit based on Governors Island and associated with the New York Harbor School.

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Rob Buchanan, who worked with the kids for the Billion Oyster Project, discussed the importance of the project.

“We’re trying to replant oysters all over the bay in hopes they will form an historic reef that used to be here,” he said. “We’re working closely with lots of schools, kids and community groups interested in that.”

The pilot version of the boat launch project began as an after school program in Sunset Park, drawing from three or four different schools in the neighborhood. Thanks to that program’s popularity, the organizers brought it back for a second year. 

“We intend [the boats] to be used for our own oyster work maintaining reefs and accessing the oysters, but also as a community resource,” Buchanan said. “They can be used by people in the neighborhood who come by the park and want to go out in small boats.”

Over the course of months, two groups of 18 students got a lot out of the boat-building project, discussing harbor-related topics water quality, sewer systems and harbor life. 

“The kids we worked have been great,” Buchanan said. “They got a huge amount of satisfaction seeing a pretty complicated project through from beginning to end and it’s not just building. Middle school kids are capable of doing a lot.”

The effort was the product of a new collaboration between Industry City, Billion Oyster Project, New York Harbor School, Sunset Spark, and Brooklyn Boatworks known as the Brooklyn Oyster Dory Program.

According to Buchanan, the space provided by Industry City was the ideal boat building venue.  

“[Bush Terminal Park] is an exceptional waterfront park. It’s new and it’s designed with a gradual edge that you can put a boat in. ”

He also hopes the program builds support for the harbor. 

“One of the thoughts of the program was to try to get kids interested in coming to the Harbor School. We think that would be great in Sunset Park,” he sai

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