Oyster dredging in Long Island Sound

Fifteen years ago, just a month after moving to Brooklyn, I was at a Christmas party when the subject turned to the revitalization of New York City. This was December 1997 and while The Turnaround had already been underway for some time this was the period of exuberance at its most irrational. The Dot Com boom was going full steam here in Gotham and the city was flush with young internet entrepreneurs spending money like no tomorrow before they eventually had to move back to Nebraska and live with their parents after it all went bust. This happened to someone who lived on my block. Many of the other guests were younger folks in their early 20s (I was thirty at the time.) and when I noted how clean New York City had become a few of them scoffed. One girl even challenged me, asking me if I truly believed New York City was “clean” and looking t me incredulously when I answered in the affirmative. It was then that I realized how much older I was than the others. Old enough to remember the 1970s, I considered it progress that the Hudson was no longer catching on fire. In the 1990s kayakers were again paddling the waters around Manhattan. 1997’s twenty-year-old, too young to remember the chaos that was New York in the 70s, had no concept of this. It was one of my first experiences on the other side of the generation gap. Things have improved since the 1990s as well. Just last month several hundred swimmers came to Governors Island to swim the circumference of the island. The waters are cleaner but there is still a ways to go. A major problem is the pollutants embedded in the much. Enter the humble oyster, once a staple of New York’s many island.

(image/Popular Science Monthly, 1893-94)