Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor's Harborside Gala celebrates ‘Year of the Oyster’


The Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor held its annual Harborside Gala on April 27, celebrating another successful year of helping keep Sea Cliff’s environment healthy, while also raising money and awareness for their future projects. Supporters of the Coalition were wined and dined at the Sea Cliff Manor, where they got the chance to enjoy themselves while also learning more about what 2023 has in store for the Coalition.

The Coalition is a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 and dedicated to identifying and eliminating environmental threats in and around Hempstead Harbor. The group frequently holds fundraisers, educational events and beach clean ups, in addition to monitoring water quality in the harbor.

Their Harborside Gala, traditionally one of their most important fundraisers, celebrated “The Year of the Oyster” in honor of the Coalition’s first successful operation of their community oyster gardens in several locations around Hempstead Harbor. Lisa Cashman, the group’s associate director, said the Coalition had recently sent divers to check on the oysters and found that they were thriving following their release.

Cashman added how happy the Coalition was at the oyster gardens’ success and looked forward to expanding the project into 2023. In addition to having oyster gardens at Tappen and Sea Cliff beaches, the Coalition will be adding more beaches in the Town of Hempstead as part of an effort to work more closely with the municipalities that share Hempstead Harbor.

“Last year was the inaugural year of our oyster gardening, and we were able to put half of the oysters we harvested back into Hempstead Harbor,” Cashman said. “So we got the green light from the DEC (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) to plant double the amount of oysters this year — roughly 60,000.”

Oyster gardening is an increasingly popular way to help clean local waters and encourage the continued development of habitats for marine wildlife. Natural filters, a single oyster is able to remove excess nitrogen from roughly 50 gallons of water per day, which is a constant threat in the Long Island Sound due to the high levels of runoff from fertilizer and poorly managed septic systems.

Attendees enjoyed a full buffet, dinner, and live entertainment from the band Trilogy, who played everything from classic rock to Taylor Swift and whose performance was donated by the band. The open bar was also free, provided by the Manor.

“This is a really amazing, and important, event,” Sea Cliff Village Trustee Mark Sobel said. “Being here with all of these amazing people, helping our environment, that’s what it’s all about.”

Karen Papersergiou, the president of the Coalition’s Board of Directors, summarized the activity-filled year the coalition had had, from the aforementioned success of their oyster gardens to expanding their educational outreach program and more.

“It’s really hard to imagine how much we’ve done, and why were we able to do all that? Because of everyone here,” Papersergiou said. “Without your support, this list would be cut in half, and we’re looking to do even more, so everything you do for us is so, so important.”

The Coalition also honored several attendees for their particular efforts to support the organization, whether through fundraising or helping at events. They also announced that they would be subsequently opening their board meetings to the public, since the public interest in the organization has grown so much over the past few years.

While the event was a great success, Cashman added that there is no time for the group to rest on its laurels. While these types of events are hugely important, she said, there is still a lot of work to be done to protect the harbor.

“Cleaning beaches and oyster gardening is really only a fraction of what we do,” Cashman said. “There’s so many issues related to harbor-side living that we try to stay keyed in to, to make sure that our shared natural resources are protected.”