In the model room of the New York Yacht Club last night, the crowd threw around some big numbers.
“A billion, we want a billion,” said Alpha Francois.
The high-school senior at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School was referring to the number of oysters his school hopes to grow in the harbor.
As Francois explained at the public school’s fundraiser, student and volunteer scuba divers are planting oysters at five sites around Governors Island, home to the school.
He first tasted an oyster when he was a freshman. “I was tricked into it,” he said. “You had to eat it to pass.”
As for whether those billion oysters will drive down the price of one’s next romantic night at the raw bar, the answer is no.
The oysters are planted to rejuvenate the harbor. The gooey creatures act as filters that keep the water clean.
Also there: the man whose passion had inspired many guests to attend, Murray Fisher, co-founder of the Harbor School and president of the New York Harbor Foundation; honoree Alex Matthiessen, former head of Hudson Riverkeeper who now runs his own environmental consulting firm, Matthiessen Strategies; honoree Rob Pirani, executive director of Governors Island Alliance; and the school principal, Nathan Dudley.
Near a glass vitrine filled with America’s Cup vessels rendered in miniature, Jayni Chase, a benefit co-chairman and wife of actor Chevy Chase, told of a recent expedition to the Galapagos with marine biologists.
“Octopus are extremely intelligent,” she said. “In one study, an octopus climbed out of his tank and got to the one next door to get food.”
Food was closer at hand for guests: sushi, rigatoni and roast beef.
Sarah Mason, who by day works for an investment manager and by night has started her own gluten-free baking company, Mason Made, donated the dessert she and a friend prepared for all. Exiting guests received little cardboard boxes containing her cupcakes: one “Perfect Pearl Vanilla” and one “Regatta Red Velvet.”
The school is hosting a fundraising regatta around Governors Island on Sept. 22.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the art and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)