NEW YORK -- Environmental abuse long ago quelled New York Harbor’s bragging rights as the world’s oyster capital. However, according to environmental experts at Pace University, area middle and high school students are fast becoming the force behind the once-fertile harbor's return to ecological relevance.
Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation, Pace has launched the next phase of its Smart and Connected Communities program. As part of the initiative, “university faculty will bring to underserved city schools the research tools and field training to design a new future for New York Harbor,” said Dr. Lauren Birney, a professor in the Pace School of Education, and principal investigator under the NSF grant.
“Our goal for city students is an educational experience usually confined to universities,” Birney said. “If the future of the harbor and the national urban environment are in the hands of the experts and decision makers of tomorrow, that means the environmental voice of youth today is essential. The time to begin their training is now.”
For young students, the experience provides learning opportunities well beyond their years. “Students will also receive training at the hands of our best legal and policy experts,” said John Cronin, Pace’s senior fellow for environmental affairs in the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences. “And through innovative techniques such as virtual town halls and mock public hearings they will develop and present a student-generated vision and plan for restoring the harbor.”
“All the marine waters of the city are held in a public trust belonging to the people, and that includes students,” said Jason Czarnezki, the associate dean of Environmental Law Programs at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. “This well-founded, ancient principle of law is the centerpiece of a legal education that will empower students to claim the ecological inheritance that is the birthright of their community."