Human Leg Found Floating Near 79th Street Boat Basin

A leg was pulled out of the Hudson River yesterday after a jogger spotted it floating near the 79th Street Boat Basin around 12:30 p.m..

I shot the above video while biking past the spot around 3:00 as a medical examiner took it out of a red plastic bag surrounded by a 12-person crime unit. The leg appeared to have lesions.

Local newspaper reports have linked the limb to the missing New Jersey woman whose torso was found floating near Red Hook, Brooklyn on June 27thFriends reportedly believe both remains belong to Jenny Londono, a 31-year-old bar owner from Englewood, New Jersey who has been missing since June 25th.

Postscript: DNA testing confirmed that the leg found floating near the 79th Street Boat Basin belonged to Jenny Londono. Raphael Lolos, 40, was charged with murdering Londono and dumping her dismembered body in the Hudson River last month.  On July 19th, NYPD fished a second leg out of the river near 66th Street.


Hudson River Humpback Whale


On Friday, November 18th, an unseasonably warm day for late-autumn in NYC, local news stations reported a whale sighting in New York Harbor.  I rode my bike south along the Hudson Greenway to the tip of Manhattan hoping to catch a glimpse of the animal and to see it off safely. As much as I love the Hudson, I get a sinking feeling when I hear marine mammals have made their way up-river from the ocean. Like elephants in the traffic-choked streets of Bangkok, it seems dangerous and wrong.

When I reached the esplanade at Battery Place, I picked a spot across from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty where the whale was reported to have been swimming and asked a couple of anglers if they had seen it. They hadn’t even heard about it and proceeded to wisecrack about illegal migration and needing bigger hooks. It was just after 3:00 p.m., an hour-and-a-half before sunset this time of year. Between sun glare, wind and boat racket, filming conditions could only have been worse if it had been raining but I set my cell phone for video recording and panned the length of the river for twenty minutes. The whale eventually surfaced about 200 yards from where I stood with a telltale spout of water that brought hoots of excitement from the jaded fisherman and drew a crowd of onlookers. I missed the shot but continued to scan the river with my phone, missing the whale each time it surfaced — except for one brief moment, indicated by an orange circle in this footage.

Eventually the sun began to set and I had to tear myself away from the crowd of 40-50 whale-watchers who had gathered. I left hoping the Staten Island Ferry, Circle Line and dozens of other river boat operators would heed river police warnings to slow down and steer clear of the animal as it headed back to sea –wishful thinking, it turned out, as it was later spotted seven miles upriver near the George Washington Bridge, the farthest north a whale has been seen in recent memory. It’s presence near the bridge means it likely passed within 500 yards of my west side apartment. Had I known, I might have caught a glimpse of what was subsequently identified as a humpback whale from the overlook in nearby Riverside Park.


Humpbacks are among the world’s most endangered whales, with only about 80,000 individuals, or less than 10% of their original numbers, remaining. They range across all the world’s oceans circumnavigating the globe from summer feeding grounds to warm seas in the winter. Of the three distinct humpback populations –Southern, North Pacific and North Atlantic–the Hudson whale was likely a wayward son of the last group.  Northern humpbacks reach an average length of 49 to 52 feet with mature adults weighing in at 35 to 50 tons. They are baleen whales with 14 to 35 long throat pleats that expand when they take in water while feeding. Given the amount of garbage and raw sewage floating on the Hudson at any given time, this is a source of concern.

Whales that turn up in unusual places are often sick or disoriented and end up washing up dead or wounded. In this case, the whale was behaving in a manner that indicated it was feeding on migrating fish. Bunker (Menhaden) and other fish humpbacks feed on are reportedly plentiful in the Hudson these days.  That’s a good sign, but another source of concern due to the temptation large schools of prey fish present to big ocean mammals and the potential the busy river holds for their collision with boats. I hoped the whale realized it was in the wrong part of town and headed back down the river to the open ocean. But this too was wishful thinking as sightings continued throughout the week.


Image courtesy of WCPD Special Operations Official Instagram account of the Westchester County Police Special Operations Division.

The number of humpback whale sightings in the Hudson has been rising over the last five years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and New York environmental officials issued alerts to boaters to slow down and watch out for whales following three strikes in 2013, including one in which a cruise ship dragged a 55-foot finback whale into the Hudson River.

2015 was the worst year to date for whale mortality in New York  with nine whales, mostly humpbacks, washing up on Long Island beaches. The majority of carcasses reportedly had wounds consistent with ship strikes. Ship strikes are not the only threat to whales. Propellers and engines produce sounds in frequencies similar to those whales use to communicate, leading to signal scrambling and increasing the potential for disorientation and stranding in unfamiliar waters.

But the biggest human impact on whales in the region may be climate change.

“Warming waters may already be responsible for a large increase in sightings of humpbacks in recent years near the entrance to New York Harbor,” Paul L. Sieswerda, the founder of Gotham Whale, recently told The New York Times. In 2012, he said whale watchers spotted 25 whales; by 2014 the number had spiked to 107. Warming oceans are drawing vast schools of whale prey fish from their usual range off Chesapeake Bay north to New York, said Mr. Sieswerda.

“If this keeps up more humpback whale sightings in the Hudson River might not be so rare,” Sieswerda told  He asks that anyone who spots a whale send a photo, location, time and, if possible, species to


In a related story, a humpback whale spotted feeding in Moriches Bay, Long Island  on November 13 was euthanized by veterinarians when it got stuck in a shallow area of the bay called Hart’s Cove and attempts to free the whale and help it swim away failed.

America’s Cup Racing Returns to New York for First Time In Nearly a Century To Delight of 1%

A warm-up regatta for next June’s America’s Cup Race in Bermuda took place in New York Harbor  May 7 -8, marking the first time an America’s Cup event had been held in the city since 1920.

Six teams hailing from the U.S., England, France, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden raced 50-foot catamarans in a series of short races up and down a stretch of the harbor between Chambers and Rector Streets.

The 165-year-old sailing contest, which began as a yacht race the Brits challenged the Yanks to around the Isle of Wight (Yanks won), has evolved into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, a succession of races that culminates in the America’s Cup Championship every four years.

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series is hugely aspirational, so it made good PR sense to base the event village (team gear, sailing accessories, Moet champagne)  in front of the Brookfield Place Waterfront Plaza luxury brand mall.

The America’s Cup is a test of sailing skill, yacht design, and fund-raising prowess — somebody’s got to pony up the $100 million dollars required to compete for “The Auld Mug.”  The Hudson’s choppy, dun-colored waters are a far cry from Bermuda’s turquoise baby bath so the publicity payoff a comeback to New York Harbor promised had to be pretty sweet. But like the Rio Olympians required to swim in favela run-off, the elite yachting crews that scrambled around the boats and occasionally got washed off were probably a bit skeeved.

Water quality aside, the Hudson is a working river and one can only marvel at the skill of the fixers who managed to divert hundreds of ferries, tugs, barges and cargo vessels to accommodate the race, which got off to a slow start on Sunday when I watched from the sidelines, picking up speed dramatically in time for the 2:00 p.m. starting time. Aided by the Hudson’s famously rapid current, the boats ultimately raced near the 40 mph speeds they were designed for.

Touted as one of the most exciting events to hit the harbor in recent memory —which it probably was for those sipping nautical-themed cocktails aboard the Manhattan Yacht Club’s floating clubhouse, “Willy Wall,” anchored just north of Ellis Island — it was a bit baffling for those of us packed three-deep along the benches and tree planters of Battery Park.

I think this clip, from a very different context, nicely sums up the average New Yorker’s take on yacht racing in the Hudson:

Oyster Restoration Effort Underway Along Hudson

Mike Bloomberg’s million trees may soon have some pollution neutralizing company if The New York Harbor Foundation succeeds in it’s effort to repopulate the harbor with a billion oysters. The Foundation has been working with students from the Governor’s Island-based New York Harbor School over the last six years to foster oyster nurseries and conduct long-term research projects at locations throughout the harbor.


The kids recently set up a riverside nursery along a stretch of Hudson River Greenway on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Municipal signage warns would-be harvesters to steer clear of the oysters, which may be contaminated by raw sewage and industrial waste. I’m all for leaving harbor oyster colonies alone to thrive but wouldn’t mind watching Anthony Bourdain knock back a few between beers and a couple of butts.


The project is a tiny Manhattan outpost of The Billion Oyster Project, a $60 million dollar “living breakwater,” that is being farmed along Staten Island’s South Shore as part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s effort to flood-proof the high risk area. The Billion Oyster Project feeds into a prize-winning, landscape-scale initiative designed by SCAPE Landscape Architects to reduce wave action. As part of the plan, New York City students help seed the oyster beds alongside educators, scientist and engineers and learn about resiliency and the area’s maritime history. If all goes as planned, thriving oyster reefs, once a mainstay of sustenance and commerce along New York City shores, could be reestablished in three-to-five years.

Dipping Into New York’s Waterways In The World’s First Floating, Self-Filtering Pool

Architect Dong-Ping Wong is preparing to launch the world’s first floating, self-filtering pool on New York’s waterways. I recently interviewed Wong for a story in Tech Times while his sneakers got soaked as the tide rose along the recently made-over East River Esplanade. The following post is taken largely from that story.

Wong calls the concept +Pool and describes it as a giant water filter that draws river water through the pool walls and uses a succession of geotextile layers to sift increasingly minute contaminants out of the water. Filtered pool water is then released back into the river, helping to clean it. He likens the floating pool to a barge that will enable New Yorkers to immerse themselves in the river safely. The pool’s distinctive “plus” shape results from intersecting a lap and sports pool with a lounging pool and kids pool.

The +POOL is envisioned as a floating structure that’s permanently moored at a single location with additional pools being built according to demand. The pool would be open year-round, providing heated water for swimming in winter.

Wong and partner Oana Stanescu at Family, a Manhattan architectural design firm, launched the project five-and-a-half years ago, largely on a whim.

“We just thought it’d be a funny idea and silly (but) it kind of made sense,” says Wong, a 30-something, San Diego native who moved to New York 13 years ago to train as an architect at Columbia University. “When we started it we had no idea what impact this could have on the city, let alone if anybody would want it, so we designed it very simply and put a website up.”

Within two weeks, a deluge of inquiries from around the world crashed the site and the +Pool team got a call from Arup, the international engineering giant behind the Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Sydney Opera House and New York’s Second Avenue Subway. Suddenly they had a real project on their hands.

Two Kickstarter campaigns followed in quick succession. The first was a $25,000 campaign in 2011 to raise money for water quality testing.

“I think we hit our mark in six days and raised about $40,000-$45,000,” says Wong. “We were sampling every 15 minutes so the amount of data we collected was just immense and the most detailed that’s ever been collected on the river, as far as we can tell.”

Wong and his team partnered with Google to set up a +Pool Dashboard that live-streamed the data that was being collected, providing the public with real-time information on the health of the river.

Wong is on track to launch the first +Pool in the summer of 2020 and is currently in the thick of dealing with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Protection and other regulatory agencies that manage public works like municipal pools, boat basins and wastewater discharge facilities around the city.

“Our pool is really interesting because it actually falls between certain codes,” says Wong. “It doesn’t exactly fit into anything that’s written because nobody wrote a code for this kind of thing before. It’s really exciting but it’s also an ongoing conversation to figure out how we modify our project to fit into codes and are there even ways to modify codes to fit into our project. That’s probably the longest ongoing discussion we’re having.”

This waterfront dialogue is taking place amid growing interest in rehabilitating urban waterfront zones around the world. Wong has been invited to speak about his pool in Copenhagen, Berlin, Munich and, in the U.S., in Houston and Memphis, and has found like-minded initiatives underway in all of these cities.

“There are other floating pools…. There’s a great one in Copenhagen…. There’s an existing project in Berlin which (consists of) finding a part of the river where they can plant a lot of reeds and maybe clarify the river a little bit,” says Wong. “They’re putting a pool into the Thames probably in the next few years…. There’s a group in Houston trying to cordon off a part of the bayou so people can swim.”

The level of interest has been such that Wong has started an informal coalition he calls “The City River Swimming Club” to create a network of urban waterfront pools that members can use in major cities around the world.

“There are parks coming back to the river, but the idea that you could actually go for a morning swim as part of your routine or have a lunch break and go for a swim and really have that be part of your daily life is pretty amazing,” says Wong from his wet riverside niche, where seagulls have begun to gather around him in anticipation of snack.

“Here, I actually live closer to the river than I ever have to the ocean but you never think of New York as a beach town. My life has nothing to do with the river on a day-to-day basis aside from this project, but you feel that starting to change in the city.”

Spanish Galeon Sails Up Hudson, Docks At Pier 84


A Spanish galeon sailed up the Hudson River for what may be the first time ever on August 11th and docked near the Intrepid for a little over a week, looking a bit like a Model T parked across from a Cadillac Fleetwood at a Barret Jackson event.

The ship, which is 175 feet long and weighs 470-plus tons, is a replica of the cargo ships used during the 16th and 17th centuries by Spanish traders and explorers like Ponce de León, who is thought to have used a similar vessel to sail from Puerto Rico to Florida in 1513 to search for the fountain of youth.

Constructed and owned by the Nao Victoria Foundation based in Seville, Spain, where it was was built using traditional methods, El Galeon Andalucia sailed to New York City from St. Augustine, Florida, where it docked for several weeks to commemorate Florida’s discovery by Spanish explorers 500 years ago.

While a galeon this size would have had trouble navigating the shallow inlets of Florida in places like St. Augustine, a river as deep and wide and the Hudson would have easily accomodated the ship, even if fully loaded with the sugar, tobacco, fruits, lumber and spices it carried north from the Caribbean as part of it’s trade route.

El Galeon’s 28-member crew work, dine, bathe and sleep in extremely close quarters, much like their seafaring forebears. These days, though, there are women on board — a situation that would have been unheard of back in the day.

“It took us 24 days to cross the Atlantic,” said crew member Lucrecia Moron Sanchez. “Sometimes you wake up and you look around and there is nothing but the ocean and you feel bad.”

But generally, the recent grad, who majored in art history, was enjoying the high seas adventure with the predominantly male crew of volunteers from Andalusia.

By the time they return to their home port in Seville, the crew of El Galeon will cover more than 900 nautical miles, working more than 9,600 square feet of sail like Spanish sailors did half a millennium ago.

David Blaine Electrifies Hudson River Park

Endurance artist David Blaine has been standing atop a 20-foot pedestal on Pier 54 in Lower Manhattan since Friday night (10/5/2012). Surrounded by four active Tesla coils casting a million volts of electricity his way, he looks like Frankenstein’s grandson. Monday night brings Blaine’s finale and, hopefully, his triumphant exit from the giant bug zapper he’s confined to for 72 hours. The event, which recalls the death-defying feats Harry Houdini amazed New Yorkers with nearly a century ago, is being sponsored by Intel to showcase a new laptop computer, but Blaine and the New Yorkers bearing witness to his superhuman stunt, are the real stars of the show.

POSTSCRIPT: 10/9/12 He did it! Congratulations to David Blaine for withstanding 1 million volts and three days of exposure — both elemental and media-driven —  on Pier 54.  It was magical.