The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are happy to announce our April 2016 Friend of the Month- John Abbatangelo. John is a senior majoring in Environmental Engineering at Manhattan College. John started working with the Friends’ this past fall as our Water Quality Lab Technician. He assists in the monitoring of Tibbetts Brook and takes water samples back to the Environmental Engineering lab at the College to run nutrient and turbidity analyses. Although, we have funding to pay him for his lab time, John has gone above and beyond and has volunteered many hours out in the park collecting the water samples and helping with wetland restoration projects. John has been a great addition to our Friends’ staff and volunteers and we are thankful for all he has done to help study the wetlands of Tibbetts and make them a healthier system.
How and when did you get involved with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park?
I originally was introduced to the Friends through John Butler. It was September of last year and I had taken on the role as President of the Manhattan College chapter of the NY Water Environment Association (NYWEA); John approached me at the activities fair and extended an open palm. To me, working with the Friends directly seemed to be an excellent way of getting local events in the park—like litter removal days or trail work days—for student members in the chapter to participate in. This, however, was later overshadowed in early November when John was speaking to one of my professors in the Environmental Engineering department at Manhattan, in need of a lab technician to perform nutrient and turbidity analysis on water samples for the Water Quality Monitoring study. I was more than happy to take on the role when I was contacted about it and after my exams finished in December I was out in the field and in the lab weekly working on data collection and analysis.
What is your favorite place in the Park?
I would have to say I love visiting Vault Hill the most; I first was there when I was a freshman and, being a shutterbug, I loved the photogenic view from the location. It’s an excellent place to just sit and think.
What is your favorite memory of the Park or event you have participated in?
My regular days working with John and the Watershed crew would have to be my favorite memories. I have met a multitude of interesting people through the field work and have been able to flex my ability to teach others what I love. I also really enjoyed coming out on March 19th to help out with my first Litter Removal in the wetlands!
Parks just completed a Master Plan for the Park, what improvements would you like to see in Van Cortlandt Park in the next 20 years?
The Friend’s year-long water quality study is a notable, important project that will help Van Cortlandt Park’s success down the road. I believe that one of the biggest improvements that can be made in the Park is the Daylighting of Tibbetts Brook, which is why I am so passionate about this project. This park has in fact shaped and molded a fair portion of my life and career goals and simply from what I’ve learned in the classroom, I know that it will be worth the effort to channel Van Cortlandt Lake into the Harlem River, reducing the combined-sewer overflow issue. I would be delighted to work on, when the time comes, any sort of engineering project involving the Daylighting of Tibbetts Brook—which is why I feel fortunate to be working on the Water Quality Monitoring project right now!