The Let’s Rebuild Cromwell Community Coalition proposes the designation of the north shore Maritime Education & Recreation Cultural Corridor, also known as MERC all along the north shore border of Staten Island.
A Future for Staten Island Youth
Captain Ann Fraioli, Curriculum & New Schools Developer New York Harbor Foundation
Supporter of the New York Harbor School and Billion Oyster Project
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about the Cromwell Center and what it meant to Staten Island. Clearly it was an amazing hub of community activity and a destination not only for the North Shore, but for the whole of Staten Island. Even more, I am thrilled to be a part of the MERC (Maritime Education & Recreation Corridor) conversation.
MERC is a stunning opportunity to re-imagine our relationship with and access to a vital piece of waterfront. And as the name indicates, maritime education is an essential element of a community’s connection to its waterfront. Maritime education is an umbrella term that includes a vast array of pursuits and people. Despite the numerous possibilities that fall under the term, I believe the most effective maritime education is hands-on, interdisciplinary, skills based and project based. Whether it is data collection for marine science research, engine repair for a vessel, learning how to paddle a kayak, or building underwater ROVs, maritime education gets people connected to and caring about our harbor.
Maritime education has something to offer people of all ages; however, I am especially excited about maritime education for our young people, our students. New York Harbor is the richest, most essential resource our city has to offer and our students deserve to have access to it, be educated about it and have job opportunities on it. Maritime education introduces students to meaningful work that gives them the skills and attitudes they need to be prepared for their own future; while also bringing great benefit to the city and its waterways. While maritime education does not necessarily have to lead to maritime employment, it is that at least 300,000 people in the Port of New York and New Jersey directly receive their employment from the port (compared to 160,000 people who work on Wall Street). Unfortunately, most of these 300,000 jobs are not held by New Yorkers. Our young people deserve to have education about and access to these local jobs, especially because many of these job pay well, are stable and have room for growth.
Now truth be told, maritime education is an expensive endeavor: boats, docks, tools, science equipment, are all costly items. Although funding can present a challenge, it also presents an incredible opportunity to partner with organizations and industry from every corner of the harbor. These partnerships strengthen the educational experience, exposing students to maritime professionals and allowing students to see firsthand the scores of jobs and opportunities that await them here in their own city.
Having spent the last fourteen years working with middle and high school students through my work with New York Harbor School and Billion Oyster Project, I am extremely excited about the prospect of opening a Harbor Middle School on Staten Island. The north shore is already home to a fantastic maritime elementary school, P.S. 59 Harbor View. The development of MERC along the North Shore seems to be an indication that Staten Island is ready to embrace maritime education in an even fuller way. Together we can create a network of Harbor Schools that promotes maritime education and prepares our students for a bright and prosperous future.
Reclaim Our Harbors through Maritime Education article excerpt
Isabel Bruschi, West Brighton - Port Richmond High School Student
“We like to call the waterfront ‘New York’s sixth borough’ these days, but really it’s the first borough,” observed Joshua Laird, the commissioner of National Parks of New York Harbor, “It predates the city and allows it to thrive”. New York City became the center of trade for the United States with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. It brought livestock and agricultural goods out of the region around the Great Lakes, today known as the Midwest, into the population centers along the Eastern Seaboard and then to trade with the remaining colonial powers in the Caribbean, the Western Hemisphere, and Europe. Every day, the work taking place in our ports and harbors impacts our daily lives. Our ports serve as an entry point for everything from the gas that runs our cars to the food on our table to the computers on our desks. Although we benefit from our ports tremendously through imports and exports, we fail to take advantage of the maritime careers available. A miniscule twelve percent of New York City Harbor employees are actually natives of our five boroughs, we outsource some of our best paying jobs due to lack of education. On our own North Shore of Staten Island, the maritime world holds a myriad of employment opportunities and it is time for us to lead our youths to take back our waterfront.
It is imperative that we reclaim our harbors and keep the passion for our waterfront alive and well.