What's so special about Lower New York Bay?
If you are like most folks who live or work in the NY-NJ metropolitan region (and there are over 15 million people that do), then you probably think there is not much real, wild nature around New York City, North America's most hectic and crowded coastal region. It's true that space is a premium, but Lower New York Bay is the ultimate wildlife park!
Throughout much of the 20th century, water quality in Lower New York Bay was incredibly dirty and dreary due to over a century of factory-made pollution and sprawling population growth. Traditional coastal commerce, such as fishing, farming, and tourism, gave way to sprawling housing development and the rise of ceramic, chemical, and paint manufacturing plants. Forests and wetlands were gobbled up and altered to fit the short-term needs and profits of people. In turn, polluted runoff flowed directly into the bay and degraded coastal ecosystems for robust fish, shellfish, and bird populations to thrive.
Today, the good news is all is not lost. Even in a largely man-made environment, the bay's wildlife still manages to surprise and inspire in this daring urban world. Thanks to the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972, water quality in Lower New York Bay has improved. This piece of federal government legislation put in place the groundwork for many people, government agencies, and non-profits to restore the environment and make significant albeit slow improvements to the health of the bay. Although Lower New York Bay still suffers from many problems including high amounts of fecal coliform bacteria and an overabundance of plastic pollution, wildlife endures in this great metropolitan region!
From the point of view of the many animals that call this place home, Lower New York Bay is a patchwork of parks and wildlife sanctuaries that encircle the surroundings. Places like Jamaica Bay, Cheesequake, Conaskonck Point, Great Kills, Sandy Hook, and the tip of Breezy Point to name just a few are valuable places to view a rich diversity of flora and fauna every season. Because of surrounding urban development and suburban sprawl, many animals are persuaded into these marvelous pieces of enduring open spaces to rest, feed, nest, or spawn. Take away the hodgepodge of preserved ecosystems, such as mature maritime holly forests, mud flats, sand dunes, wetlands, and small waterways, and wild nature in the Lower Bay will be all gone.
Join me as I try to capture and record some of the greatest wild wonders of Lower New York Bay throughout the year.