For the Birds: Restoration Along the Harlem River
For the Birds: Restoration Along the Harlem River and How You Can Help
By Gillian Bower
In a city where even land and air come at a premium, preserved open space is a luxury for the people. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers and organizations such as Conservancy North, New York Restoration Project (NYRP) and Harlem River Working Group, nature is reclaiming the waterfront along the Harlem River, resulting in beautified recreation and environmental education areas such as Mill Pond Park in the Bronx and Sherman Creek Park in Northern Manhattan. For some, however, the continued transformation of this city space is more than an amenity: it’s a refuge.
Tucked between a train yard and an industrial parking lot at the end of 9th avenue, the North Cove existed for many years as an illegal dumping ground before James Cataldi, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator famously known as the Birdman of Inwood, began the cleanup necessary to create a wildlife sanctuary. The inlet supports a variety of life forms as a salt marsh; over 70 different types of species, including 45 types of birds, were identified at North Cove by volunteers last year. The habitat is particularly ideal for migratory birds, many of which stay through the colder months. According to Mr. Cataldi, at least 1,800 ducks and geese took up residence in the winter of 2013.
After five years of work, incredible progress has been made; however, much more is needed to finish clearing out the garbage and replace the topsoil necessary to develop a strong and stable ecosystem. The cove now resides under the care of Mr. Cataldi’s organization, Manhattan Wetlands and Wildlife Association, which provides educational and community cleanup activities. Check their website for upcoming events and information about how to support the North Cove.
For additional volunteer opportunities along the Harlem River, visit the NYRP site.