Hudson Park Trust to take over River Project

A tank at The River Project, with the Lower Manhattan skyline in the background. (Courtesy The River Project)

BY GABE HERMAN | The Hudson River Park Trust is starting the process of taking over management of The River Project after the retirement of the latter’s founder, Cathy Drew. The two groups announced the transition earlier this month.

The River Project, an independent marine science group, has been on the West Side since the 1980s. Drew, its executive director, retired on May 31.

Drew founded the project in 1986 at Pier 26 in Tribeca, with the goals of doing estuarine research, providing educational programs about the Hudson River, and promoting the well-being of the local waters. Working with New York State, Drew helped create the Hudson River Estuarine Sanctuary.

The River Project’s mission will continue under the Trust, the state-city authority that operates and is building the 4.5-mile-long waterfront park. Over a period of 12 to 18 months, TRP will transition from an independent nonprofit to an entity under the Trust’s leadership. Two TRP staff members have begun working full time at the Trust, and other TRP staff will help with the transition.

TRP relocated to Pier 40, at W. Houston St., in 2005, where it has its offices and Wetlab. The group has worked with the Hudson River Park’s Estuary Lab on environmental research and education projects, along with improving the health of the waters. This work will continue and expand as TRP merges into the Trust, according to the groups’ announcement.

An intern with children at TRP’s “touch tank.” (Courtesy The River Project)

“My vision in founding The River Project 33 years ago was of publicly accessible scientific research and hands-on, get-wet education for all ages,” Drew said when the announcement was made. “We believe that in connecting people to the Harbor and Hudson Estuary, they would come to appreciate and protect our rich and vulnerable marine life.”

Drew highlighted ways TRP connects people to the river, such as a marine science field station with access for the public and the Wetlab for research and education.

“I am excited that this vision will continue and grow under the leadership of Hudson River Park Trust as part of the Hudson River Estuarine Sanctuary,” she said.

Madelyn Wils, president and C.E.O. of the Trust, said Drew has set the bar high.

“Under Cathy Drew’s visionary leadership,” she said, “The River Project has played a vital role in protecting and promoting the long-term health of the river, wildlife and surrounding habitat.”

Wils noted that Drew’s initial programming of TRP back when it was at Pier 26, with its Wetlab — fish tanks full of local aquatic animals — inspired the designation of the Hudson River Park Estuarine Sanctuary.

“In this next chapter, we look forward to pooling our collective knowledge and resources to preserve Cathy’s legacy and advance our work in the field,” Wils added.

A view of the Wetlab’s exterior at Pier 40. (Courtesy The River Project)

The Trust will preserve The River Project’s name after the transition, along with recognizing Drew’s contributions and the grassroots group’s founding story, according to the announcement.

The new TRP executive director is Richard Corman, a longtime Tribeca resident, who recently became president of the Downtown Independent Democrats political club. Corman has been on the TRP board since 2017.

“During the Transition Period, we will be working closely with the Trust to expand, enhance and integrate our programming and we continue to look forward to the wonderful public support we have always had,” Corman said. He said TRP will continue working with the Trust on plans for a new, more expensive Estuarium at Pier 26, the original site of The River Project.

Parts of the new project at Pier 26, which will include a wetland tidal pool, are scheduled to finish by 2020, though there is no specific timetable for the new Estuarium building.