Water Lovers Make a Splash at Riverkeeper Ball

by Wendy Sy Photographed by Ann Billingsley
Thursday, May 18, 2017

The key word of the Riverkeeper Fishermen’s Ball last night was “water”. Or as host Andy Cohen put it, the drinking word. “I see you all have cocktails and I’m just thinking we’re going to be talking a lot about water, so when you hear the word, take a sip of your drink and you’ll enjoy the night a little more.”

At Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, guests arrived to support Riverkeeper’s mission to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and safeguard drinking water for nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. The evening’s line up started with the debut of City on the Water, a short film by National Geographic filmmaker Jon Bowermaster. “From traveling and making films on every continent, I’ve seen how important water is,” said Bowermaster. “There are people in India and Africa who walk hours to collect water and many of us here in the U.S. take our access to it for granted, especially clean water.”

Right before the entrée of olive oil poached halibut was served, Riverkeeper’s longtime boat captain and vice president for advocacy John Lipscomb took the stage. “There’s no grander calling than serving a majestic river like the Hudson. I have the best job but also the hardest one,” said Lipscomb, who described the day in and day out struggles of hearing news such as the decreasing population of native species in the water. “In spite of all the great work we have done as a society to help, we need to pull in additional resources to have a city and harbor that coexists in health. We get one shot at doing this right.” His persuasive speech led many guests to reach for their phones to make pledges to donate to the organization through text messages and bid on experiences through the online auction, charitybuzz.com/riverkeeper. The event raised more than $1.2 million.

Riverkeeper ambassador and model Heidi Albertsen presented the “Big Fish” award to environmental advocate and actor Alec Baldwin. Due to his filming schedule, Baldwin was not in attendance, but accepted his award via video and talked about Riverkeeper’s victory in reaching an agreement to close Indian Point—America’s most dangerous nuclear power plant by 2021. This will not only save a billion fish a year, but also allow New York’s energy supply to be rebuilt around renewable, efficient sources of power.

Honored with the “Hudson Hero” award was Newburgh councilwoman Karen Mejia, for her work to assure a safe supply of drinking water to 29,000 Newburgh residents who had been exposed to a toxic chemical leak from a nearby National Guard air base into the city’s local reservoir. “I represent a community that refuses to give up on its dream of a better future,” said Mejia. “In these challenging times, we as social justice advocates have to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to continue to challenge inequality and injustice. We have to be willing to put our hearts, minds and bodies on the line to safeguard the promise of this country and the future of our planet.”

The Fishermen’s Ball wrapped up with a performance by Grace Potter who flew in on a red-eye from L.A. for the evening. Potter’s set list kicked off with “Nothing But Water (I)” a song she wrote a little over 15 years ago, inspired by her childhood growing up by a river in Vermont. Music—the most universal of languages—expressed how vital a role of water plays in our daily lives. Cheers to that.


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