Heartbeats in the Muck traces the incredible arc of New York Harbor s environmental history. Once a pristine estuary bristling with oysters and striped bass and visited by sharks, porpoises, and seals, the harbor has been marked by centuries of rampant industrialization and degradation of its natural environment. Garbage dumping, oil spills, sewage sludge, pesticides, heavy metals, poisonous PCBs, landfills, and dredging greatly diminished life in the harbor, in some places to nil. Now, forty years after the Clean Water Act began to resurrect New York Harbor, John Waldman delivers a new edition of his New York Society Library Award´winning book. Heartbeats in the Muck is a lively, accessible narrative of the animals, water quality, and habitats of the harbor. It includes captivating personal accounts of the authors explorations of its farthest and most noteworthy reaches, treating readers to an intimate environmental tour of a shad camp near the George Washington Bridge, the Arthur Kill (home of the resurgent heron colonies), the Hackensack Meadowlands, the darkness under a giant Manhattan pier, and the famously polluted Gowanus Canal. A new epilogue details some of the remarkable changes that have come upon New York Harbor in recent years. Waldmans prognosis is a good one: Ultimately, environmental awareness and action has allowed the harbor to begin cleaning itself. Although it will never regain its native biological glory, the return of oysters, herons, and a host of other creatures is an indication of New York Harbors rebirth.This excellent, engaging introduction to the ecological issues surrounding New York Harbor will appeal to students and general readers alike. Heartbeats in the Muck is a must-read for anyone who likes probing the wilds, whether country or city, and natural history books such as Beautiful Swimmers and Mannahatta.
You might or might not want to fish in the East River now. In 1850, though, it was a hot spot for anglers: an able dockworker once caught seven sharks in a day. "New York Harbor's vast network of moving or placid, fresh, brackish, and salt water" still holds a startling variety of marine life whose past, present and future Waldman surveys in this exemplary and compact work of popular ecology. Sometimes describing his own trips through creeks and up inlets, in the manner of John McPhee, Waldman (who edited Strippers: An Angler's Anthology) explains what sorts of marine life live in and near the Hudson, the East River and the Meadowlands, how engineering and shipping have affected them and how decreased pollution around New York has allowed various species to begin to return. Recent cleanups have made the waters around the city a magnet for wading birds, while "sea horses are common around Pier 26." Even dolphins, manatees and sea turtles have been spotted straying through area waters. Sometimes pollution has had ironic benefits. Industrial runoff in the Hudson actually helped increase its striped bass population: few people wanted to catch the PCB-laden fish, so more of them lived to breed. And the contaminants at the mouth of the Hudson helped preserve the wood of its piers, which are now under attack again from tiny animals called marine borers. Waldman also covers matters of infrastructure, concluding with looks at present and future construction around the water's edge, with an optimistic overview.