Untapped chats with Erin LaVelle who works with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the organization putting on the City of Water Day festival this Saturday, July 16th. Erin is also a graduate student in urban planning at Columbia University GSAPP.

Untapped: Where did the idea for the City of Water Day come from?

Erin: It started four years ago as a way to get residents of New York and New Jersey out either on the water or near the water. The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) wanted people to realize just how awesome it is to live where we live and have an amazing asset right at our fingertips. They wanted to provide people with free water-related activities but also educate them on the history of the harbor as well as the importance of the maritime industry.

Untapped: What are you most excited about?

Erin: I really want to get out on one of the boats and listen to one of the tours. Hopefully I can find time to do that or just walk around and participate in some of the activities. But most of all, I guess I’m just excited to see all the work come to fruition. I’ve been interning here since March, but many of my co-workers been working on City of Water Day for months prior to my arrival, and it will just be really neat to see everyone’s hard work pay off and see all the people enjoying themselves at the event.

Untapped: Which organizations came on this year that you guys are pumped about?

Erin: Personally, I’m really excited for Disney and REI. Disney was one of the sponsors last year and they had a lot of give-aways like DVDs that kids were really excited about. So I guess it’s the 7- year old in me that’s excited to see what they have planned for this year. I’m also happy that REI is hosting paddle boarding at Liberty State Park because I think it’d be a really cool and different water activity to try for the first time. It’s also nice that a well-known corporate sponsor wanted to get involved and support our small organization because we share a common interest in the outdoors and water-based activities.

Untapped: We heard you are going to be the emcee for the concert! What are some of the bands you’ll be emceeing for?

Erin: Some of the bands that are officially confirmed for Liberty State Park are Bern & the Brights and Harpoon Forever. We have a number of bands at Governors Island including: Philosraptor, Elisa Peimer Band, Whisperado and New Madrid.

Untapped: Greatest fear from your new emcee gig?

Erin: I intend on telling some cheesy water-related and pirate jokes, while doing my best to be interactive and get the audience involved. I expect that it might be a struggle to get the response I’m hoping for, so I’d say my biggest fear is that I’m really not as entertaining as I hope and that people aren’t responding well as I try to get them excited and talk with me.

Untapped: I’m sure it’s going to be great! What other stuff does the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance do?

Erin: A few years ago, they created the Waterfront Action Agenda, a lot of which was incorporated into NYC’s Vision2020 (the comprehensive waterfront plan). Every 2 weeks we send out WaterWire, (an electronic newsletter that includes recent waterfront news and events), and it reaches thousands of people. However, in my opinion, the most important thing we do is bring all of the stakeholders of the waterfront together at the same table. As a planning student, I’ve come to realize that steady and frequent communication between different people in various sectors is often difficult to accomplish. It’s hard to solve waterfront issues without getting all of the right people involved and bringing them into the discussion. MWA is the essential middleman that brings all of the engineers, planners, elected officials, environmentalists and maritime workers to the same room in order to make things happen. We’ve done this through holding various conferences including one last November and the Floating Conference Follow-Up this past April, as well as organizing a task force meeting and symposium at City of Water Day this year.

Untapped: Thanks Erin! See you this Saturday!

For more information on City of Water Day, check out our events page  and the City of Water Day website.