By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Thomas Greene, a retired assistant principal who taught science for many years at Fort Hamilton High School, has dreamed of building a marine science lab on the Bay Ridge waterfront for a long time.
The centerpiece of his dream is Denyse Wharf, a dilapidated pier at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Bay Ridge that was built before the Revolutionary War.
Forgotten-NY.com called Denyse Wharf, “a lost treasure of the colonial past and a Revolutionary War remnant.” The wharf is not easily accessible, according to the website. The only way to enter the area is to walk or bike on the overpass of the Belt Parkway at Shore Road. The path reaches a fork in the road. Visitors are advised to bear left down the hill to the shoreline bike path and walk forward, under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Greene said it’s the perfect spot for a lab to teach kids about marine science and the wonders of the waterfront.
Several years ago, he brought a proposal to the New York City Department of Education, which never acted on it. Undaunted, Greene has continued to press his idea, talking to anyone who will listen: local elected officials, Community Board 10, business leaders; stressing the importance of science education in the 21st century.
In an email to the Brooklyn Eagle, Greene wrote that part of his goal in building the lab is “to provide lab activities for students in more than 50 percent of the New York City public elementary schools that do not have science labs.”
Another goal is to “improve science literacy by engaging students in hands-on activities using the marine environment as a source of subject matter in the basic sciences of biology, chemistry, earth science and physics required of all students.”
Under his plan, the marine science lab would also be open after school, on weekends and during the summer, “to investigate real world problems in air and water pollution, aquaculture, and alternative energy.”
Greene, who founded a group called Friends of Denyse Wharf, also conducts periodic cleanups of the pier, leading groups of volunteers, including many students, in picking up trash and broken bottles to bring out the beauty of the pier and illustrate his point about it being a good spot for a marine science lab.
The Friends group was out there again on July 12, along with members of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, to celebrate New York City Water Day and clean up the wharf.
Denyse Wharf is the property of the US Army and falls under the jurisdiction of the US Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton. The Military Police opened the gate to the wharf to let the volunteers onto the property. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection provided a dumpster to dispose of the trash, according to Greene.
In addition to cleaning up the old pier, students also had fun practicing kayaking in the cove, conducting water quality tests and measuring oysters in an oyster garden. For their efforts, the students received community service certificates.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn) dropped by to show support to the Friends of Denyse Wharf. In 2001, when Golden was a councilmember, he provided funding for an engineering study by the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) that concluded that it was feasible to build a science laboratory there.