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120 tons of clam shells are carefully being dumped in the Bronx River estuary this week, part of the largest Oyster Restoration Project being implemented in New York Harbor. The ambitious project is a collaboration of more than 30 organizations including the Bronx River Alliance, NYC Parks Department, the New York Harbor School, NY/NJ Baykeeper, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and more. This massive undertaking is being coordinated by the Hudson River Foundation.
HRF: Oysters were once a very abundant and cherished resource of the Harbor estuary, but by the early 20th century, sediment and water pollution and over harvesting had all but eliminated these once dominant creatures.
While no known reefs and only a handful of individuals remain today, water and sediment quality has dramatically improved and the restoration of the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) to the Harbor may now be possible.
CBS New York: An abundance of oysters lured settlers to New York centuries ago, but now, they are nearly gone from area waters. The Oyster Research Restoration Project is working to change the fate of oysters in New York Harbor. A barge at the intersection of the Bronx River and the East River carries unlikely cargo – clam shells, and a whole lot of them.
“Today, we’re putting these shells into the river in front of Soundview Park in the Bronx,” said Jim Lodge of the Hudson River Foundation. The largest oyster restoration ever attempted in New York Harbor is underway, and it is a project years in the making.
“To see it come this far is really, really exciting,” said Chrissy Word, director of public programs for the group Rocking the Boat. Tons of clam shells washed into the river will create a one-acre oyster reef.
For some reason that scientists are not sure of, the mouth of the Bronx River has an unusual amount of natural oyster larvae. They were hoping the larvae will attach the reef. The reef will also be seeded with half a million oysters grown by students at the New York Harbor School.
“Knowing that I’m giving back and making the harbor a better place – it really excites me,” said Alyssa Giacinto, a sophomore at the school.
A few centuries back, oysters populated the harbor by the billions. But over-harvesting was the first hit the oysters took, and following the industrial revolution, many succumbed to pollution.
Now, oysters are nearly extinct in New York waterways, but the clam shells offer hope for the future. The hope is that it will serve as a place for oysters to attach, grow and benefit New Yorkers.
The goal is not to try to cultivate oysters for New Yorkers to eat. The oysters are being cultivated for their environmental benefit, in that they filter out the water and play an important role in the waterway ecosystem.
One oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day, and so water quality may improve. “We also think it can help create a more resilient shore in the long run,” said Matt Larson, director of wetlands restoration for the New York City Parks Department.
The oyster reef also can absorb some storm energy. But most importantly, oyster reef restoration means the return of a nearly-extinct habitat to the harbor. The one-acre reef is part of a comprehensive restoration plan. The ultimate goal is 20 acres by 2020. More than 30 organizations are involved in the effort.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
When Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited the NY Harbor School on Governors Island last Friday, he was duly impressed by one of our most extraordinary schools. He praised the institution as “visionary” and expressed that the NY Harbor School is exactly the kind of career-focused school that President Obama spoke of in his State of the Union address.
From The New York Daily News: Duncan, along with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and teachers union boss Michael Mulgrew, toured the 400-student school, which prepares students for careers in marine biology and robotics. Duncan spoke highly of the campus and the kids, saying that if more schools like this existed, “think of what our graduation rate would be.”
The New York Harbor School students showed off the underwater robots they had designed and built, schooled the head of education of our nation on how to change boat gears, even gave a quick primer on oyster breeding.
Secretary Arne Duncan, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Michael Mulgrew, head of the Teachers Union toured the school which prepares students for careers in marine biology and robotics. “This is a vision,” said Secretary Arne Duncan. “If we had more high-school students around the country with these kinds of hands-on learning opportunities every single day, think of what our graduation rate would be.”
From The New York Daily News: For the grand finale, they watched larvae filtered through water in plastic tubes, spawning oysters. “Our main goal is to get as many oysters as possible to put them back in our harbor,” explained senior Dante Rivera, 17, of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Walcott said one thing he and Mulgrew can agree on is having more career and technical education schools. The city will open seven more in September. “I think this is a partnership where we all work together,” Walcott said. “Both here and throughout the country, you see these types of schools developing that will attract students and retain those students.”
I’m glad that the education secretary had the opportunity to see and experience the NY Harbor Schools unique approach. Their hands-on learning projects will certainly change how we all think about innovations that will likely have huge impacts on the future of our wonderful harbor.
I’m also glad he got to see how much you guys ROCK! Kudos to you all.
From The Epoch Times: NEW YORK—The national head of education will visit New York Harbor School on Friday to understand how one of the city’s most unique career and technical education public schools operates.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be observing students building underwater robots, repairing a boat, practicing water rescues, and even breeding oysters for harbor restoration. The school is situated on Governor’s Island, and accessible only by ferry.
Friday’s tour will also include Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
Duncan’s tour is part of a national call to strengthen America’s career and technical education. Read more here…
reblogged by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
Historically, New York is not prone to hurricanes. But in recent years, as the impact and frequency of tropical storms have increased, so have ideas for protecting New York from devastating storm surges. One of them is to revitalize New York City’s oyster beds to create a natural storm surge barrier for our shores.
Oyster Houses, South Street and Pike Slip, Manhattan (1937).
Before the 20th century, New York’s lower Hudson estuary had over 300 square miles of oyster beds and it was estimated that New York Harbor produced half of the world’s oysters.
From NYPL: When Henry Hudson first sailed into the river that would one day bear his name, the Lenape people had long been plucking its supple oyster beds. Archaeological evidence gathered from tremendous mounds of oyster shells called “middens” indicates that the New York Harbor oysters were not only plentiful, they were much larger than the kind familiar to us today. Harbor oyster shells from these middens measured up to 10 inches, and early European travellers describe the shellfish as being about a foot in length.
Oysters used to be so plentiful in NYC, you’d see piles of the shells on the sidewalks. photo New York State Archives via Grist.com
In the new documentary Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves, director Emily Driscoll says, “Oysters were on every street corner the way that hot dog stands are today,” [they] were so ingrained in culture and society, then completely vanished in a couple of decades.” The New York Harbor School’s oyster restoration project is featured prominently, as the film looks at the past and future role of oysters in our region.
Shellshocked Movie Trailer:
Kate Orff’s project Oyster-techture presented at MoMA Rising Currents Exhibition in 2010 proposes a “living reef is constructed from a field of piles and a woven web of “fuzzy rope” that supports oyster and mussel growth and builds a rich three-dimensional landscape mosaic” around Red Hook and the Gowanus Canal. An underwater park of sorts, the reef would reduce the force of storm-powered waves and the oysters would filter the polluted waters around our harbor.
Orff’s Oyster-tecture proposal offers a new landscape where New Yorkers can work, play and ride out the storm. photo: Kate Orff via Wired Magazine
But what of our vital shipping lanes of the working harbor? From Public Radio International: Writer Paul Greenberg wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times, “Of course New York will still need ship lanes. Which means there will need to be some sort of human intervention as well to protect the harbor from storm surge. But Greenberg hopes that oysters and human creations can work together. Under one theory, a series of habitats would be created around the harbor, where the oysters could grow. If they were setup properly, they could be shaped to provide for ship lanes naturally.”
One thing is certain, working on solutions to handle New York’s storm-battered future is a necessity.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
And we’re off! photo: Will Van Dorp/tugster
What a fantastic race it was with 22 tugs churning up the Hudson River! Here’s a quick peek from the mainstream news outlets on the events of the day.
From DNAinfo: Now in its 20th year, the tugboat race, which starts at West 79th Street and ends at Pier 84 (near West 43rd Street) brings out the hearty watercraft to show their stuff in a Hudson River race, nose-to-nose pushing contest, and parade.
Kenny McCoy, a volunteer for the USS Lilac Steamship, a preserved ship at Pier 2, said he and his wife Lynn came as fans. “We came down from the Bronx to cheer on the Bronx’s tugboat. This is a great and unique event,” he said.
Another spectator, Mike Fitz, said he and a friend drove from Westfield, N.J. to watch the races.
“We saw an ad for it,” he explained. “I’m shocked at how big the tugboats are up close — they always look so small on the water.” Read more here.
Pegasus v. Thornton Bros. photo: Will Van Dorp/tugster
More from NY1: New Yorkers watched Sunday as more than a dozen tugboats of different sizes battled for harbor honors in the 20th Annual Great North River Tugboat Race on the Hudson River.
Organizers said it is a great way to teach the public about what they do.
“Gives the crews the day to show their pride for their boats. They fix them up and paint them up nice and show their skills with the boat handling and the line throwing,” said Captain Mike Keenan. Read more here.
Vulcan III v. Lincoln Sea. photo: Will Van Dorp/tugster
I literally have thousands of photos to sift through and will try to get them up as soon as I can. Until then, many thanks to tugster, whom I am in constant awe of how quickly he get’s his photos online. You’re lighting fast, Will!
Many thanks also to Capt. Mike Abbot and crewman Mike, for their fantastic maneuvering of the New York Harbor School’s Blue Classroom between the tugs and wake and getting us right in the middle of the action!
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
Before the 20th century, New York Harbor was home to hundreds of thousands of acres of oyster reefs, reportedly half of the world’s oysters. The bivalves were threatened by pollution, and in the early 1900s, typhoid and cholera outbreaks traced to oysters from Staten Island caused many oyster farms to be shut down. Since, oysters presence and role on the harbor has almost been erased from our collective memory.
For the past year and a half, New York Harbor School has been working to reestablish oysters in NY harbor by launching an ambitious project to rebuild our lost oyster reefs – growing colonies of filter-feeder bivalves that will eventually reduce aquatic waste and clear the water of some pollutants.
From International Business Times: As an oyster filter-feeds by drawing water through its gills, it traps a lot of particles – both plankton and pollution. The bits it can’t eat are mixed with bunch of mucus, ejected, and settle down to the floor as sediment instead of remaining suspended in the water. A single adult oyster can process nearly 50 gallons of water a day.
Murray Fisher, founder of the New York Harbor School said, “We need an army of talented, skilled, interested students to help restore a degraded ecosystem.”
Instructor Pete Malinowski helps students from New York Harbor School place live oysters on Soundview Reef.
credit: Ildiko Reisenbigler for USACE
From Mission Blue: The New York Harbor School, a public school located on Governor’s Island with a focus on water job skills and environmental stewardship, recently joined the Oyster Restoration Research Partnership. Together with about 20 partners, the high school is working to rebuild the Hudson River’s historical oyster reefs.
Watch this video to learn more about the New York Harbor School, and their oyster reef revitalization project.
The New York Harbor School project which began with only a few hundred oysters, has grown to five reefs around New York, Governor’s Island, Staten Island, Soundview, Bay Ridge Flats, and Hastings.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee