Friends of Morningside Park, Columbia University and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation recently launched a research partnership to study toxic pond algae and mitigation efforts for harmful algal blooms. The partnership will result in the revitalization of the park’s pond and treasured waterfall, while additionally serving as a pilot program for water bodies throughout the city.
The recirculating waterfall— once a point of pride in the Harlem community— was briefly restored in 2017. Nevertheless, the pumps failed and have not worked since. Now, six years later, the lack of circulating water exacerbates a build-up of unhealthy and unsightly algae in the pond.
In a City of Water Day celebration at Morningside Park on July 15, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik, who recently stepped into her position at the university, spoke on the renewed relationship between Columbia and Morningside and the importance of the project for the Harlem community. Her support is especially significant given the pond’s history as the construction site of the controversial gymnasium that Columbia started to build in 1968 and aborted in the face of community and student protests.
Council Member Shaun Abreu also spoke at the ceremony.
“This park is very, very dear to me,” Abreu said. “When I was a student at Columbia, I served on the board of Friends of Morningside Park, and now, only in my second year in the city council, we’ve been able to allocate $17 million to Morningside Park.”
Friends of Morningside Park, the volunteer-run organization that has cared for the park for over 40 years, played a vital role in advocating for the project. The organization launched a Change.org petition earlier this summer, garnering over 3,000 signatures, which clearly demonstrates the community’s love of the pond and desire to see the waterfall working again.
Friends group president Brad Taylor says he’s excited by what Columbia’s involvement could mean for the future of the park.
“This partnership begins the most promising collaboration between Columbia and the Morningside Park community in decades and we look forward to extending it to address a range of park needs as we move forward,” said Taylor.