Trash Talking The Gowanus Canal, One Of America’s Most Polluted Waterways

Environment, Personal, Science

Every morning before I unlock the door to the office, I walk a few extra steps onto the Union Street Bridge just to stop and smell the coal tar. Okay, so maybe it’s to take in the view, but water coming from the Gowanus Canal — one of the most polluted waterways in America — offers a stench most couldn’t imagine. People often find the canal to be nothing short of repugnant, but I disagree. There’s something so marvelous and mysterious about those murky waters and I’m eager to tell you more about them. 

I started at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy in early September of last year and began working with a group of seven fierce females, all of whom are strong and unapologetic environmental advocates. These women continuously guide me, teaching me everything I need to know to effectively lead our educational programming, which consists of walking tours, Citizen Science water quality testing field trips, clean and green stewardship events, and a whole lot more. This crash course gave me an intense and comprehensive understanding of the Gowanus Canal and why it’s so important to teach others about it. It’s not only a waterbody, but a place that has allowed me to refine my skills as an environmental educator and advocate, and harness a passion that lights a fire within my soul. So let’s dive right in. 


Service In Schools Leadership Institute

The Early Days

The Gowanus Canal is known as one of the most polluted bodies of water in America, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, this canal began its life as a salt marsh — a wild, natural ecosystem that harbored an abundance of plant and animal life. Native American people, like the Lenape, depended heavily on the Gowanus salt marsh lands, respectfully utilizing its natural resources. These resources consisted of long and wild grasses, a plethora of fish and oysters, and brackish water, a mix of both salt and freshwater. (The water is brackish because the canal is linked to the Atlantic Ocean, the East River, and Hudson River.) 

Aside from harboring plant and animal life, salt marshes also provide protection. Being on an island, residents are subject to heavy coastal storms. In years past, salt marshes had the potential to reduce the speed and impact of these storms by absorbing the waves as they came through. Unfortunately, this particular salt marsh was later transformed into a canal, where much of the aforementioned natural greenery was paved over. This was not abnormal for the growing city. In fact, more than 75% of New York City’s salt marshes and wetlands have been paved over for development. This puts residents in a great deal of danger when considering the impacts of climate change and the inevitable future of storms increasing in both frequency and intensity. But before I get ahead of myself, I need to explain how the canal ever came to be. 

During the period of urbanization in the early 1600s, European settlers invaded the Gowanus area. (You know, the original immigrants, our ancestors.) They forced the Native people out and began building homes of their own. But it wasn’t until the late 1700s/early 1800s, when the industrial period kicked off, that environmental change really starting taking shape. To start, the European settlers decided to transform the salt marsh into an industrial canal to ensure a more effective transportation route. Obviously, there were no cars, highways, or Amazon Prime orders at this time and people wanted things faster and easier. (Such is the American way.) The salt marsh was dredged and channelized and bulkheads were installed to make room for boats. The Gowanus Canal quickly became one of the busiest working canals in America, which as you can imagine, did contribute a bit to its pollution problem. However, boat pollution was and is the least of this canal’s problems. 


Brownstoner – Historic Gowanus Canal

 Great Big Polluters 

During the same time the salt marsh to canal transformation was taking place, factories were being built up along the degrading shoreline. These factories came in all shapes and sizes — some were for box manufacturing, others for paints and inks, and then there were the three manufactured gas plants (MGPs). Nearly all industry played a role in polluting the Gowanus waters, but the MGPs were by far the biggest contamination culprits. These plants converted coal into electric energy, but in doing so, created a toxic, carcinogen-rich byproduct called coal tar. 

Coal tar can be described in two ways: on the bottom of the canal, it appears as slimy, black, and somewhat chunky. Coal tar has been lovingly nicknamed Black Mayonnaise for those reasons. However, coal tar is a gas and has the ability to seep both below the sediment and above the water and into the air. This form of coal tar appears as a colorful, oily sheen, similar to a soapy bubble blown from a toy wand. Coal tar, of course, is far more dangerous than a soapy bubble. It smells a lot worse too. 


Coal Tar (Black Mayo)















So back to the MGPs. Once this byproduct was created, it was immediately dumped into the canal, along with a host of heavy metals, including mercury and lead. The industry workers wanted nothing to do with the heinous materials and there were obviously no laws at the time forbidding this action. 

In 1972, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the Clean Water Act, a law which made the dumping of toxic material illegal. While the Clean Water Act has made a significant difference, it arrived far too late to reverse the damage. The waterway is still very heavily saturated with the material, which is bad for humans, animals, and plants alike.

Coal tar, despite how toxic it may be, has its fair share of competition in contaminating the Gowanus Canal. 

More than 60% of New York City utilizes a combined sewer system, which means all wastewater and stormwater flow through the same pipe. In theory, this material should be transported to a wastewater treatment facility to be scrubbed of all contaminants, then released into nearby waterways. Unfortunately, too much rainfall can overwhelm the sewer system, rendering it impossible for all material to be treated. And where do you think all of that excess, untreated material goes? Our waterways! This process is referred to as Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) and it’s a huge issue not only for the Gowanus Canal, but also for all other waterways in New York City, and many other waterways in older cities around the world. 

Back when these sewer systems were initially built, CSO wasn’t a concern to anyone, as was and still is the case for most environmental issues. But back then, the populations were smaller and when CSO events did occur, the damage was far less frequent and impactful. Today, in New York City, it takes less than 1 inch of rainfall to trigger a CSO event, which means they happen all the dang time. And it’s disgusting

But let’s consider what combined sewage overflow really consists of because it’s easy to chalk it all up to “stormwater” and “wastewater”, but there’s a lot more going down our drains and into our sewers than we often realize. A more comprehensive list of household CSOs include shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, toothpaste, urine, feces, toilet paper, detergent, bleaches and other toxic cleaning supplies, foods, liquids, cooking oils, and all the other weird stuff that somehow makes it down your drain. A more comprehensive list of outdoor CSOs include animal waste, car oil and other chemicals, litter, cigarette butts, and anything else rainwater can pick up as it flows down the street. And don’t forget, big industries also put a lot of nasty stuff down the drain — chemicals and toxic materials we probably know nothing about. Now imagine swimming in a big pool filled with all of this stuff? I don’t think so. 

How to successfully eliminate combined sewage overflow is a big question with no easy answer, and with the constant increase in population and climate change-related storms, change needs to happen quickly. Every year, the Gowanus Canal receives 377 million gallons of CSO. During Superstorm Sandy, it received 11 million gallons, just within the span of a few days. That’s a lot of material for our 1.8 mile canal. 


CSO Warning Sign

Luckily, there is hope. There are solutions to both of these complex issues and work is being done on a daily basis to ensure a cleaner and greener future. When I get to this portion of the tour, the children I’m teaching are skeptical, as would any reasonable, earth-loving humans be. But I’m also seeing the fire in their eyes. These kids are pissed and they want to do something about it. I once asked a group of sixth graders why they think people felt the need to transform a salt marsh into a canal. The answer was transportation of course, but instead I was met with “Because human beings are selfish. They have no respect for the environment and only care about themselves. They don’t care if the world burns down.” 

Imagine having that in your head at the ripe age of 12? These kids are going to make a difference. They must. 

It’s Complicated 

Back in 2008, the city put forth a request to rezone the Gowanus neighborhood. However, it was quickly shut down, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was working its case for a Superfund cleanup for the Gowanus Canal. In 2010, the EPA officially declared the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site, squashing any final hopes for a rezoning at that time. Now, nearly a decade later, plans for rezoning have returned.

The initial purpose for the rezoning was to convert an old, industrial neighborhood into one of mixed use — a space filled with residential developments, restaurants, the works. This is still very much the case, but that overall vision could become much more meaningful. This transformation has the potential to be a very good thing, but it can also be terribly bad. For instance, all developments will be required to provide at least 40 feet of public space surrounding the canal. This provides an opportunity to enjoy additional greenspace as the canal becomes a healthier waterbody. A con that often comes up with any form of new development though, is the potential for gentrification. By building modern, high end developments, the price of real estate will soar, pushing lower income residents out. This happens all over New York City and all over the world. And while the rezoning proposal promises a small portion of additional affordable housing, current low-income developments are not well maintained. Plus, when we see the term “affordable housing” we must ask ourselves, affordable for who? 

During Superstorm Sandy, lower income residents living in the Gowanus housing community suffered the most. Not only does the housing complex lie directly on a floodline, but it is also neglected in many ways with damages, outdated components, and a general weak infrastructure. Residents of the Gowanus Houses were without power for 11 straight days, which meant disabled residents were unable to utilize elevators to leave their homes. They, along with other Gowanus residents, dealt with a significant amount of flooding, which brought toxic material from the Gowanus Canal up into the streets. 

But on this topic of nasty storms and climate change, it’s important to mention that this rezoning provides an opportunity to create a stronger, more resilient waterfront, one that could possibly withstand a future filled with intense storms. The Gowanus Canal Conservancy is working hard to promote its Lowlands Master Plan. This plan provides an abundance of suggestions and ideas for landowners and community members in an effort to build a neighborhood with a significant environmental focus. The goal is to create a space that is both effective in its green infrastructure and enjoyable for visitors and residents. 


Gowanus Canal Conservancy – Lowlands Master Plan

“Gowanus was once a literal lowland – a productive tidal marshland with a deep floodplain, salt meadows and oysters the size of dinner plates. Leveraging the upcoming Superfund cleanup and DEP’s investment in green and grey infrastructure, the Lowlands includes watershed and site-scale strategies for a cleaner, more resilient urban ecosystem.”  

The Conservancy is frequently making updates to this master plan to reflect community opinions and suggestions. This is very much a shared process. The Lowlands Master Plan provides a great deal of promise for a less frightening future, but community support is essential. If landowners choose to turn the other cheek, this work will be all for nothing. 

Nearly every space along the canal has been purchased. These developments will bring in hundreds, if not thousands, of toilets further contributing to the issue of CSO. There are plenty of responsible ways for landowners to manage this waste, but the question is, will they? 

The Turning Tides — Superfund Status 

In 2015, Christopher Swain went for a swim in the Gowanus Canal, and no, he wasn’t running from the cops as many often do. He intentionally did this on Earth Day to raise awareness for our waterways and to display just how badly we’ve damaged them. His plea for better water quality standards was heard loud and clear that day. 

Swain is not alone in utilizing the waterway as a means for advocacy. The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club often holds free, public events, which include a self-guided canoe or kayaking adventure. Some cringe at the thought, but many take the opportunity to learn more about the canal and gain a better understanding for what needs to be done. You can’t care about something you know nothing about, and this organization gets you up close and personal with Gowanus water. Though, I would advise you to keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times. 

While most wouldn’t jump into toxic sludge to prove a point, many think quite similarly to Swain. It’s safe to say that the tides are turning and positive change is en route. 

As mentioned earlier, the EPA declared the Gowanus Canal a Superfund (or Superfun!) site in 2010. This began a very long and tedious process. Many assume that once a Superfund site is declared, cleanup efforts begin almost instantly, but the process involves a lot more than people realize. To date, the total cleanup is projected to cost around $600 million, with estimates increasing every day. When I ask my students who’s responsible for paying this cost, I usually hear responses like, “Taxpayers!”, “Residents!”, or my personal favorite, “Donald Trump!” (if only that were true). But none of them have ever gotten it right.  

Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) are funding the cleanup. Remember those manufactured gas plants? Those are now owned by National Grid, who is responsible for funding roughly $100 million. Other liable corporations include Con Edison, Viacom, Sears, and the City of New York.

But what exactly is the Superfund accomplishing? The goal is to solve one of the canal’s two major problems — the complete removal of coal tar. To do this, the EPA has a two step process referred to as dredging and capping. Workers begin by dredging (removing) up to 10 feet of contaminated sediment. That sediment is then transported to a dewatering facility, where water is separated from the contaminants. The water is treated and brought back to the waterway, while the contamination is brought to a landfill in New Jersey. I wasn’t very pleased when I was first given this information, but as it turns out, the complete elimination of toxic waste is pretty challenging and would definitely cost a pretty penny. Coal tar is referred to as a legacy pollutant for this reason, it’s really tough to get rid of. 

The second step of this process, the capping, is exactly what it sounds like. A three-layer cap is placed at the bottom of the canal to ensure no additional coal tar rises to the top. Unfortunately, since coal tar is such a powerful gas, it has the ability to seep hundreds of feet down. It would be impossible to dredge that much material or to ever ensure all portions of the coal tar was removed. The cap will keep that material out (hopefully). 

While the cap will provide a top layer that promotes the rebuilding of habitat, the habitat that currently exists in the canal will be disrupted and threatened. And YES, the canal has plenty of plant and animal life! If you had a super safe scuba suit and dove into the canal, you would likely find Atlantic Silversides, mummichogs, minnows, blue crab, horseshoe crab, eels, and mussels, to name a few. Floating on top of the water, you would find Snowy Egrets (a type of herron) and ducks. Along the shoreline, you would find a cornucopia of both native and invasive plant species. 


Gowanus Canal Conservancy – Superfund Site

The canal formerly housed an abundance of large oysters, but they’ve unfortunately been gone for quite some time. Luckily, there are many organizations, including the Billion Oyster Project, working hard to bring them back. Oysters, being filter feeders, are of utmost importance, as they have the ability to purify contaminated waters and would prove to be extremely beneficial to our waterways.

As a member of the Community Advisory Group (CAG), I have the opportunity to hear from EPA and City representatives at our monthly meetings. We receive updates on cleanup progress and whatever else they wish to bring up. This ensures the Gowanus community is aware of relevant changes as they’re taking place. CAG meetings can be really effective spaces.

The cleanup process will likely take quite a few years. Projections change often, but as we come closer to the decade mark of when the Superfund was announced, I think it’s clear that we still have a ways to go.

Going Green

So now we have a whole other issue to deal with — combined sewage overflow. Now, with the assistance of both green and gray infrastructure, CSO can be successfully managed. But we need a lot of it. Green infrastructure deals specifically with green spaces that can mimic nature’s natural processes, mainly to absorb stormwater. Gray infrastructure deals specifically with our sewers and how we can store additional sewage material in separate storage tanks or tunnels. The City is currently working to increase green and gray infrastructure in the very near future, however, even after all of the planned projects are completed, the Gowanus Canal will still receive about 115 million gallons of CSO per year. Of course, a 262 million gallon reduction is a great start, but we still want more. We want a waterway that can host a more diverse, vibrant collection of habitat and we want a waterway that can be used for recreational purposes. 

While both types of infrastructure are essential, my focus is always on the green. Green infrastructure is crucial for urban landscapes because it offers something a city rarely has. The city is inundated with concrete, pavement, and other impermeable surfaces. And what happens to stormwater when it hits the pavement? It just rolls right down the street, until it ends up in a sewer or a waterway, further contributing to CSO. But in less urban environments (imagine the countryside), CSO isn’t an issue because stormwater is easily absorbed by trees, plants, grasses, and other greenery. Thus the importance for green infrastructure in New York City. 

I discuss this issue with my students and walk them over to a bioswale, which is also referred to as a rain garden. Bioswales are incredible because they’re aesthetically pleasing greenspaces, filled with strong native plants, that can hold way more stormwater than one would ever expect. Bioswales look incredibly similar to tree pits, but have an inlet and outlet for water to filter in and out. A standard, 20ft x 5ft bioswale can hold 2,250 gallons of stormwater during any single rain event. Lucky for us, the desire for bioswales is constantly increasing, which means there are bioswales popping up all over NYC, helping to mitigate CSO. Though these structures seem simple, they’re actually highly engineered. Each bioswale is roughly 5 feet deep and is filled with materials like geotextile, porous concrete, gabion, native soil, and gravel to ensure maximum absorption. 

Bioswales are also low maintenance and the minimal maintenance that is required is handled by the Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP. Maintenance typically consists of tasks like removing litter, weeding, and pruning. 

There are also a host of green infrastructure projects throughout the city making an even larger impact. Sponge Park, while similar to a bioswale, is much larger and far more advanced. Sponge Park utilizes two massive underground storage tanks and can hold up to 1-2 million gallons of stormwater during a single rain event. 


DLAND Studio – Sponge Park

Other GI projects include rainwater harvesting tents, green roofs, and blue roofs, all of which are utilized at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy site. 

Funny enough, the last place I take my students is Whole Foods. And no, not for the delicious, overpriced snacks. As it turns out, this one specific Whole Foods in Brooklyn was deemed the most sustainable in the entire state of New York. Solar panels, wind turbines, electric car charging stations, permeable pavers, and an abundance of greenspace are some of the items visible by the parking lot. On the roof, Gotham Greens maintains one of a few rooftop gardens, offering its produce downstairs in the store. The Whole Foods building was also built completely from reused and recycled materials. Not many supermarkets operate this way, so it’s a joy to see that some corporations are doing their part to work in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner. 

A Glimmer of Hope

When I wrap up my walking tours with students, I like to see what they took away from the 1.5 hours we just spent together. We also talk about ways they can make a positive impact on the environment. 

If there’s any single message I can leave with you, it’s this: We can all do our part to reduce harm to this earth. A lot of folks have the “my one vote doesn’t count” or “the big corporations are the ones to blame” mentality when talking about the environment, but if one million people collectively give up their plastic straws, we’re all making a big impact and we’re also driving the demand down for plastics — encouraging companies all over the world to adopt alternative practices. (i.e. providing metal, compostable, or paper straws in restaurants.) Change can happen if we make it. 

So here are a few ways you can make an ever so slight change to your daily life: 

  • Reduce your personal water use, especially during a storm. This will reduce CSO if you live in or anywhere near a city.
  • Say no to plastic straws or bring your own reusable straw. 
  • Say no to single use plastics in general (plastic silverware, plastic bottles, plastic containers, etc.) All of these items are made in a reusable form, so run to Target and grab yourself a to-go silverware set and a trendy reusable bottle. 
  • Eat less meat (or eliminate it if you’re feeling brave.) Meat consumption provides the highest rates of carbon emissions worldwide. (Beef is the worst offender.) Simply reducing your meat intake even a slight amount can drastically reduce your carbon footprint. 
  • Reduce energy consumption or consider renewable energy options, like solar.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost! Try to create less waste when possible, reuse and recycle when you can, and compost if possible! There are a variety of compost options out there and I’m happy to help you learn more about them. 
  • Shop local. This reduces transportation-related carbon emissions. 
  • Shop for environmentally-friendly products, like cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, etc. 
  • Support environmental issues on local and national levels. 
  • Volunteer with local organizations (like the Gowanus Canal Conservancy)
  • Educate yourself on potential solutions and share them with others! 

You get the picture. There’s a lot we can do out there and the above are just a few examples. I know all of this can sound a little daunting, but just remember, there’s hope! We’ve got a whole new generation of kids gearing up to fight this climate crisis, and while they shouldn’t have to step up the plate, many of them seem eager to do so. Like Ethan, a sixth grade boy I met on one of my tours. He told me, 

“When I grow up I want to become a Marine Biologist. I’ve wanted that since the third grade. I love doing things like this and taking any opportunity I can to learn about this stuff. Everything going on in the world can be so frustrating. Like people who litter! I’ll never do that. I’ll carry my trash with me for miles. But yeah. I’m really excited to become a Marine Biologist.” 


Students Discussing CSO

Ethan gives me hope and I hope he gives you hope too. And as for the Gowanus Canal, there are undeniable hurdles ahead. But I am confident that I will see a day where these murky waters once again offer home to a variety of species. 


100 Concerts And Counting: The Shows & Songs That Shaped Me

Music, Personal, Uncategorized

I’ve been working hard to beat the winter blues with loads of indie, rock, and EDM shows. My calendar is a true testament to the many late nights and pulled muscles I’ve endured these past few weeks. I haven’t gotten much sleep, but all of this got me thinking, how many shows have I actually seen and heard in this lifetime? (And dang, how much money have I spent?) Music is special to just about everyone, but I never quite realized how much it meant to me until I sat down and reflected on the past 11 years.

As the artist CSS once so repetitively stated, music is my dead end, music is my imaginary friend. The great thing about music is it can hold you when you need to cry, it can be your punching bag, and it can set your soul on fire. It knows you better than you know yourself and can reveal more “ah-ha” moments than your therapist ever could. Music is everything.

In 2008, I saw Avril Lavigne perform at the Mohegan Sun Arena. I was the ripe age of 14 and this was the first time I stepped foot inside a venue. I was instantly hooked. There was something deeply intimate and special about being at a live show. From the bass reverberating up through my spine to the hot, sweaty mess of a pit I shared with several hundred strangers, every set served as a baptism. I had found my religion, my faith.

In an effort to fully appreciate all that music has done for me, I’ve compiled a list of every concert I can remember attending (mostly in order). Each one providing me with a special, vivid memory that I continue to cherish. With each line item, I’ve also listed my favorite song, in case you feel like listening.

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DO THE D.A.N.C.E! (Shows From 2008 – 2019) 

  1. Avril Lavigne — Everything Back But You
  2. Jonas Brothers — A Little Bit Longer
  3. Demi Lovato — Don’t Forget/ Tell Me You Love Me
  4. Hannah Montana (lol) — We Got The Party
  5. Justice — D.A.N.C.E/ We Are Your Friends
  6. Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! — We R Who We R
  7. Our Last Night — Humble
  8. Woe Is Me — N/A
  9. William Control — N/A
  10. Capture The Crown — N/A
  11. Blood On The Dance Floor — Mosh & Roll !
  12. Jeffree Star — Legs Up
  13. Orgy — Blue Monday
  14. 3OH!3 — PUNKB*TCH
  15. Big Chocolate — Blue Milk
  16. Crizzly — FRL
  17. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2x) — Countdown
  18. Keys N Krates — Dum Dee Dum
  19. Mac Miller (4x) — Frick Park Market
  20. Flume — Holdin’ On
  21. ODESZA (2x) — Say My Name/ Sun Models
  22. Panic! At The Disco (2x) — Build God, Then We’ll Talk
  23. twenty one pilots (4x) — Ruby/ Migraine
  24. Best Ex — Lonely Life
  25. Bonsai Trees (4x) — Lift Off
  26. Baggage — Flint
  27. Lorde — Green Light
  28. Run The Jewels — Jeopardy
  29. The 1975 — Chocolate
  30. Flo Rida — Right Round
  31. TLC — Creep
  32. Matt & Kim (2x) — I’ll Take Us Home
  33. Janelle Monae — Django Jane
  34. Kesha — Backstabber
  35. Fetty Wap — My Way
  36. X Ambassadors (2x) — Unsteady
  37. Outkast — Hey Ya!
  38. Imagine Dragons — Gold
  39. Pretty Lights — One Day They’ll Know
  40. Arctic Monkeys — Do I Wanna Know?
  41. Weezer — Beverly Hills
  42. A-Trak — Heads Will Roll Remix
  43. Girl Talk (2x) — Once Again
  44. Bad Things — Anybody
  45. Grouplove — Tongue Tied
  46. Vance Joy — Riptide
  47. Local Natives — Wide Eyes
  48. Jake Bugg — Two Fingers
  49. Iron & Wine — Boy With A Coin
  50. Magic Man — Paris
  51. MisterWives — Our Own House
  52. Cage The Elephant (2x) — Come A Little Closer
  53. Hozier — Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene
  54. Elle King (2x) — Shame
  55. James Bay — Hold Back The River
  56. Allies — Laid Back
  57. Kanye West — That Part
  58. Chance The Rapper — Juice/ Blessings
  59. Chromeo — Sexy Socialite
  60. Zhu — Faded
  61. Grimes — Kill V. Maim
  62. Metric — Monster Hospital Remix
  63. Robert Delong (5x) — Happy/ Jealousy
  64. World’s Fair — 96 Knicks
  65. J. Cole — She Knows
  66. Lolawolf — Bitch
  67. Action Bronson — Actin Crazy
  68. Purity Ring — Ungirthed
  69. Thundercat — Them Changes
  70. M83 — Midnight City
  71. MGMT — The Handshake
  72. Tyler, The Creator — Tina/ Sandwiches
  73. (2x) — Nights With You
  74. The XX — Crystalised
  75. Fleet Foxes –– Mykonos
  76. The Killers — When You Were Young
  77. Beck — Loser
  78. Miike Snow — Paddling Out
  79. Years & Years — King
  80. Death Grips — No Love
  81. Justin Timberlake — My Love
  82. Dave Matthews Band — Ants Marching
  83. John Mayer — My Stupid Mouth
  84. AWOLNATION — Sail
  85. Max Frost — Adderall
  86. Same Setton — Wine
  87. Betty Who — Human Touch
  88. Two Feet — I Feel Like I’m Drowning
  89. Phony Ppl — Before You Get A Boyfriend

(Spotify playlist HERE!)

Festivals include: Warped Tour 2013, Firefly 2014, Meadows 2016, Governor’s Ball 2016, Panorama 2017, Panorama 2018.

With 89 first-time shows and 22 repeat shows, I’ve had about 111 opportunities to damage my eardrums, and let’s be honest, I probably have. But it was all worth it. I’m so grateful for the artists who bring me to another realm, where nothing gets between me and my bass. This music will live on forever, no matter what, which reminds me…

Happy Belated Birthday, Mac Miller. We love and miss you dearly. You surely made this world a better place.

A Witchy Woman’s History With Halloween

Attractions, Personal

People often look at me with puzzled eyes when I start dusting off the Halloween house decor on the first of September, but I wasn’t always this way. In fact, Halloween was never really on my radar and scary things did what they should — they scared me. I didn’t enjoy them.

That all changed when I turned the ripe, awkward age of 16. I needed to find myself a job and saw that Six Flags New England was hiring plenty of new employees for Fright Fest. I didn’t know exactly what this job would entail, but the additional funds would certainly feed my newfound concert addiction and maybe get me a few new friends. I applied and received a call for an interview within a few days. I prepared as I would for any interview, not thinking this one would be any different. Boy was I wrong. Yeah, I answered a few questions, but I also had to read a script in my best monster voice, give my best blood-curdling scream, and run to the camera using my best zombie impression. Needless to say, I was a bit out of my element and in over my (apparently headless) head.


They called me twenty minutes after I left and found out I was the newest monster-in-training. Before actually starting my job, I’d need to attend Ghoul School, a two-week training course that would teach me all the spooky skills I’d need for the season. It was intense and intimidating, but also life-changing in a way. I was coming out of my introverted, little shell and transforming into an outgoing and outrageous performer. If I did a really good job, maybe I would even be every guest’s worst nightmare.


During the month of October, I played a number of unique roles, like Ma Cleaver, the fed up housewife who had been emotionally abused one too many times by her cheating husband, or like the nameless insane asylum patient who enjoyed torture just a little too much. Every work shift gave the opportunity to build and develop new character ideas and plot lines. The more outrageous, the better.


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If it wasn’t obvious enough already, this wasn’t your everyday, typical job. I would clock in, get my makeup done, pick out the perfect costume, stretch with my fellow monsters, and head into the woods to prepare my scene. It didn’t feel like work at all. I was having way too much fun.


During that first season, my love for Halloween and all things spooky increased exponentially. I began watching horror movies for character inspiration and started visiting other haunted houses to marvel over the many successful scare tactics and techniques. From there my interest grew into an obsession, and that’s where I am today. So yes, maybe September is a tad early for plastic glitter pumpkins, cobwebs, and skeletons, but working this job gave me an undeniable love for performing and an appreciation for the odd and peculiar. So stay spooky, my friends and don’t be afraid to get a little weird, no matter the month.



How to Keep Sane During the Post-Grad Job Search

Blog, Personal

If you’re a graduating senior, this post is specifically directed at you and I’m going to give you a piece of advice I should have taken a long, long time ago:

R E L A X.

I know by now you’re tempted to click away in frustration, thinking what I’ve written holds little value, but I urge you to press on.

Graduating is terrifying and there’s a whole lot on your plate. Add job hunting to the mix and slowly but surely, you’ll be consumed by it all. You’ll lose touch with yourself, others, and everything going on around you. Now, I’m not saying throw your laptop out the window and deactivate your LinkedIn account. The search is still important. It just doesn’t need to take over your entire life.


I get it, you’ve heard this all before and you’re rolling your eyes at how cliché I sound, but let me explain a bit further with a personal anecdote:

I applied for a job about a month ago and heard back right away. I had two excellent interviews and a reference check. I thought I had this position in the bag and was already beginning to map out the coming months. I thought wrong. It came down to two candidates and I sadly was not the chosen one. Initially, I felt existential dread. I had no clue what I would do, how I would possibly find a job before graduation, how I would compete with all the superstars within my major, etc. In a matter of minutes my whole life had fallen apart. It sounds dramatic, right? That’s the problem.

In my head, I felt I needed every aspect of my life to come together in a certain way. As a student, I was so accustomed to routine and knowing what came next in life that I couldn’t handle seeing only question marks in my head. I needed a plan, but truly, in the grand scheme, I didn’t.

The truth is simple. Everyone has a different path, yet all of us graduating seniors feel we need to be doing the exact same things: landing the dream job, moving into the city, impressing everyone with impeccable skills, and overall, appearing happy. Unfortunately, this frame of thinking is a product of our society. We’ve grown to believe that success can be determined by a simple equation and if you don’t stick to the status quo, well then you’re just a failure. I’m here to tell you how painfully untrue that is. You are not a failure, not by any stretch.

Upward social comparison doesn’t help either. How many times have you seen some acquaintance post a Facebook status about their new incredible job, living their absolute best life? How did you feel? I can say that I’ve been in both situations – sitting on my bed fuming with frustration, but in the same vein, also unknowingly posting content that made others feel lesser. Comparison can be found in more subtle ways, as well. Look at how education promotes itself. When you apply to a college, you learn how many seniors graduate with full-time job offers, the standard starting salary, and the impressive array of position titles. These are the focus points that end up on a bulleted card sent to your family mailbox. You don’t hear about the way students have grown into better people, or how their perspectives have changed on different cultural issues, or how they found a passion they can feel proud of. Those concepts aren’t tangible measurement tools. So, what can you measure? Money.

The pressures of predetermined success are everywhere and in some cases, impossible to escape. I personally got caught up in the frenzy and lost track of who I was and what I stood for. I forgot to stop and smell the Hofstra tulips. I forgot to sit in the grass and admire all the exciting things taking place around me. I forgot to enjoy my final year as an undergraduate student. I’m not getting that time back and in the next 14 days, I plan to do everything in my power to make up for it.

Looking back, I’m glad my life has fallen into place in this crazy, chaotic mess. I have no idea what I’m doing next month or the month after that and I have no definitive plans in any way, shape, or form. But even still, I am more at peace now than I have been all year. My time will come and in the meantime, I will go wherever the wind blows.

If you’re feeling the way I did, I understand completely. Life is an ongoing challenge that never seems to get any easier. But please, try to relax. You will get a job at some point in time. It doesn’t need to be tomorrow or next week. Enjoy the life around you and keep your mental health in check. All good things come to those who wait and the universe has its plans for you yet.

keep calm

Thanks to 2016, I Found My Sense of Purpose

Blog, Environment, Personal

As human beings, we all partake in interesting rituals and follow social contracts that seem only natural to us. New Years, for example, has become a time to reflect on the chapter we prepare to close, as if the date and time on a clock indicate a separation of past and present. It’s funny how simply shifting from one day to the next invites a barrage of “New Year, new me” posts, promises and resolutions. Well, here’s mine:

This past year has been a whirlwind, filled with tumultuous events that I believe have only made me wiser. 2016 has taught me a lot, and while much of this year has elicited negative emotions, it has also given me the greatest gift of all: a sense of purpose.

Summer in the City

Blog, Personal

After weeks of searching through what felt like an infinite number of sketchy craigslist ads, it was a wonderful feeling to finally open the door to my very first apartment. Everything about this place is perfect, which was made clear to me from the very start. The space is 400 square feet of unique personality and is closely situated to inviting restaurants, shops, the subway, and even a beautiful park right on the water. Living here feels like I found my own personal pot of gold.

Then + Now: Where My VH1 Internship Has Taken Me

Blog, Personal

In two short semesters, I’ve learned more about life and living than I ever have before. This journey has even led me to my greatest accomplishment to date, but I’ll start from the beginning:

Working with VH1 (which has since become VH1 + Logo TV) was not just my first internship in the city. It was my first encounter with the hustle and bustle of Times Square. It was my first attempt at navigating a subway system. It was my first contemplation of “How the hell am I going to afford the monthly Long Island commute!?” My internship experience brought on the first of many things.


It’s On Us. Always.

Blog, Personal

Today, Hofstra University hosted a secret event that has been in the works for months. As a representative for University Relations, I got to take part in the planning process and experience the reactions of students and faculty members across campus. The event focused on It’s On Us, a campaign that promotes awareness and advocacy against sexual assault.

The event began with a three minute freeze. We all stood still in complete silence. In that moment, I felt proud to be assisting in such a powerful movement. In fact, it gave me chills. Shortly after, a video regarding the campaign was presented on two large screens. (The video will be posted at the bottom of this post.)

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