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“I’ve never seen anything like it…”

By Susannah Black
July 1, 2016

The Bronx River, for those among you whose northern NYC geography is rusty, is a 23 mile long waterway that snakes down through Westchester and the Bronx, flowing into the East River at Hunts Point, just above Riker’s Island.

Not exactly a rural idyll. Still, the Bronx River Alliance reminds us of its history:

The river valley remained thickly forested well up into the 1800s. In his 1817 poem “Bronx,” Joseph Rodman Drake described “rocks” and “clefts” full of “loose ivy dangling” and “sumach of the liveliest green.” The water was considered so “pure and wholesome” that during the 1820s and 1830s the New York City Board of Aldermen debated ways to tap into it to supply the growing city with drinking water.

That didn’t last.  By the late 19th century, thanks to the usual combination of untreated sewage and waste from unregulated industrial plants constructed along its banks, the river had become a toxic sewer.

But things are changing once again… thanks to good legislation and the hard work of people like those who give their time to the Bronx River Alliance, even the water in the lower reaches of the river has drastically improved.  So much so that one of BOP’s major restoration reef sites is at Soundview Park; we also have an oyster restoration station site nearby, at Concrete Plant Park.

The reef site was originally established by the Oyster Restoration Research Partnership, a partnership that included Harbor School and Harbor Foundation and from which BOP was launched. This is, as oyster restoration sites in New York City go, a fairly long-established one.

And yesterday, Sam Janis went for a visit.  Here’s what he wrote:

Whist docked yesterday at the shore of Concrete Plant Park, I was surrounded by literally millions of baby bunkers [i.e. menhaden –Ed.] and dozens of white herons chowing down on them. I’ve never seen anything like it.  See below and celebrate the great community reef!




“And by the way,” Sam added,

I’m not just talking about the aquatic community. From oyster socials to volunteer networks to curriculum arcs to gigantic underwater filing cabinets of life, you people are doing darn good work these days! I gotta say.

Given half a chance, life returns.  Our job is to shepherd that process along, and help create the conditions where humans and oysters – and menhaden and herons – can all live, and thrive, together.