The Prince of Wales arrives to meet students from the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School for the Billion Oyster Project on Governor's Island on Sept. 18, 2023, in New York.
NEW YORK ― Prince William touched down in New York on Monday and immediately did the one thing most New Yorkers would never dream of doing.
The Prince of Wales walked into the East River ― waders and all ― with the Manhattan skyline in the background.
While most city dwellers actively try to avoid coming into contact with the water, William walked in as part of an event put on with the Billion Oyster Project. The nonprofit is working to restore 1 billion oysters to the New York Harbor by 2035.
The visual of the royal going into and being in the water is very important, according to Agata Poniatowski, the public outreach manager for the Billion Oyster Project. Poniatowski waded into the water alongside the prince, who she said was “really, really excited” about the activity.
“Having the prince join us here in the water in New York changes that perspective of the water, where people think it’s so dirty, it’s so gross,” she told reporters, including HuffPost, after the outing. “But really, you know, the water is swimmable on certain days of the week. We want to work on that change in perspective, and the prince really helped us with that.”
The Prince of Wales walks into the East River.
Checking out the oysters with members of the Billion Oyster Project.
The royal’s outing with the organization first took him to Governor’s Island by boat on Monday, just after his commercial flight landed from the U.K.
After meeting with restaurateurs, volunteers, staff and students involved with the project on the island, he took another boat over to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where he hopped in the water to look at the oysters.
He then met with 12-year-old students from Harbor Middle School and measured the oysters with them.
The Prince of Wales meeting with some of the middle schoolers, who didn't know they were meeting the prince as their "special guest" until their teacher surprised them with the news.
The prince is in town on behalf of his environmental initiative, The Earthshot Prize. The 15 finalists for this year’s awards will be unveiled on Tuesday at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, which is being co-hosted by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies.
During the Prince of Wales’ time in New York ― which also coincides with New York Climate Week ― the heir to the throne met with the U.N. secretary-general on Monday ahead of the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly.
Upon landing at Newark airport, the royal said that it was “so good to be back in the United States.”
“No one does optimism and ingenuity like the American people, so it’s only right we unveil this year’s Earthshot finalists in New York City,” he said.
William is also expected to meet with first responders in Manhattan on Tuesday. The royal, who was an emergency first responder during his time as a helicopter pilot, is expected to speak to the firefighters about their work and mental health.
“He’s conscious that he’s doing this visit only a few days after September 11th, where many of the people that he will be meeting tomorrow were remembering those that were lost on 9/11 itself,” a Kensington Palace spokesperson said Monday morning.
The Prince of Wales said it was "so good to be back in the United States" after he landed at Newark airport on Monday.
The palace spokesperson said that the prince was excited to meet with New Yorkers this week, and appreciated their understanding when his trip was called off last year.
“As he remarked previously, the prince was incredibly appreciative for the love and support shown by the American people during that time,” the spokesperson said. “And he is grateful and continues to be. And he is very much looking forward to being back in New York this week and hopefully meeting as many New Yorkers as possible.”
The Prince of Wales last visited New York in 2014 with his wife, Kate Middleton.
Both the Prince and Princess of Wales also made it to the U.S. last year, when they visited Boston in November. HuffPost covered their royal tour, which also included attending the 2022 Earthshot Prize ceremony.
Ahead of the awards show in Boston, William also wrote an exclusive essay for HuffPost in which he said he is a “stubborn optimist” when it comes to the Earth’s future.
“Dire predictions about our natural world aren’t the only side to this story and they don’t have to be our future,” he wrote at the time. “In this critical decade, I invite you all to be optimistic, to support the game-changers and to believe in the power of human ingenuity.”