The dead menhaden fish that bobbed at the surface of the water off Lower Manhattan and throughout the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and Long Island Sound during the month of December are gone now. But the concern remains. What killed the fish?
Scientists in the region are putting forth theories.
Described as “the most important prey species in the Atlantic Ocean” by David Molnar, a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection biologist, menhaden (also known as bunker fish) are a favorite food of whales. (Last month, when local observers noted many dead fish in the Hudson River, a lucky few also saw a humpback whale swimming and surfacing.)
For several years, scientists have been noting larger schools of menhaden in the waters off the Eastern Seaboard, and some—including Mr. Molnar and Bill Lucey of the environmental organization Save the Sound—think that the numbers of dead fish are naturally commensurate with the abundance of live fish. “When you have a massive run, you just see a lot of dead ones scattered about,” Mr. Molnar said in a recent story in CT Examiner.
Why is there an abundance of menhaden? Part of the reason, experts say, could be that over the past couple years, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has reduced the quota for commercial bunker fishing.
Climate change also has an impact on the types and numbers of fish in the region. Menhaden spawn in Chesapeake Bay, swim north as far as Maine in the spring and migrate back to Virginia in the fall when temperatures drop. Because northern waters are warming, menhaden are lingering in the waters of the metropolitan region when they would normally return to the Chesapeake Bay. But when the water temperature does eventually drop, supplies of plankton and algae—food for the menhaden—also drop.
“I think they were in here, it was warm and there was food, and then the temperature started dropping,” Mr. Lucey was quoted as saying, seeking to assuage fears of disease or pollution being the cause of the fish die-off.
His colleague agreed that because there was no evidence of other species dying and water quality appeared fine, the menhaden die-off was a normal occurence. “We tested the water, the water’s fine,” Mr. Molnar said. “They’re just dealing with temperature shock, not enough food, and low salinity.”
The Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus)
Credit: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
But others are not so sure. The sight of dying fish seeming to gasp for air at the surface of the Hudson River last month caused some to think lack of oxygen might have killed them. But, as Graeme Birchall, president of the Downtown Boathouse, pointed out, oxygen levels in the Hudson River are normal.
“Given that the locations of the deaths have been widespread and that we are long past summer heat, hypoxia doesn’t fit well as an explanation,” said Dr. John Waldman, biology professor at Queens College, and quoted in last month’s NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program newsletter. “Likewise, cold shock doesn’t seem right as our waters are above normal in temperatures this fall and we haven’t had sudden pronounced chills. Depending on their severity, both hypoxia and cold shocks would be expected to either kill all or none in a school. But what we see is that the numbers of dead individuals at any location is small compared with those that remain alive in those waters. All in all, I’d bet on a disease.”
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation performed necropsies on the fish, but could not determine the cause of the mortality. While reports of dead fish have slowed, DEC continues to look for answers. Report dead fish to the DEC by emailing email@example.com or calling 845-256-3199.
To the editor:
I read Can Anybody Spare $100,000 Per Month?(BroadsheetDAILY January 6) with interest; thanks, Matthew Fenton.
While I support and encourage the effort, thanks to Daniel and John for your advancing this; I think it has been tried before, and as is typical in government, it dragged on for what seemed like forever, and the outcome—well-intended I am sure—fell far short of what was desired and needed; but better than nothing.
The reality is the Battery Park City Authority should come up with a mechanism for buildings to purchase the land they are on. Whether the Authority could act as a lender is a question, but that might have considerable benefits to all.
The ability to own the land would provide buildings with many more options than they have now, ability to borrow being the greatest one. Buildings, the present asset, depreciate, but the land generally increases in value. Clearly a financial analysis would need to take place, but the ten times the annual ground lease paid in 2020 is a great start. If the buildings could get a mortgage through the Authority, and borrowing based on appraised value, the boards could also assess future capital needs and borrow appropriately.
While I get the challenges with the facilities fee and generally throughout the city the parks and facilities are paid for through taxes; the attention to the Battery Park space used to be better than it is now. Patrols in the community were also more effective as was compliance and enforcement of the rules. The level of engagement and quality of this service was reduced when the function was outsourced. When services deteriorate, folk start to wonder and question if they are getting their money’s worth and not sure we are. If it takes an additional fee to improve and enhance, with input from the community, real input, I for one would be OK with that. The improve and enhance is very important; the community deserves that.
Extending the ground leases should not be an option as it will simply perpetuate the existing challenge and push bad news forward, never a good idea. Allowing the buildings and property owners to purchase the land should be the objective. Coming up with a lending facility and package based on many or most buildings wanting to proceed this way could also be a benefit. Long term, the enhanced ability to borrow would be a big plus, especially as the buildings age and there is a need for capital projects to be completed.
As for property taxes, assess and tax, based on the process throughout the City eliminating the PILOT.
The Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority is a New York State public benefit corporation and Battery Park City has been the cash cow and funding source for City Hall and Albany for a long time. We are supporting a duplicate “government” (the Authority) and while I am sure they are well intended, do the appointees really serve us well? There is a very material staff that in the overall scheme of things is probably much larger than would would be needed under a new model. The undertaking is material and needs to be taken to Albany, as that is where the decisions will be made.
The Battery Alliance needs the support of the community. Let’s hope we can get it right.
Can Anybody Spare $100,000 Per Month?
CB1 Discussion Tonight Will Review Skyrocketing Costs of Home Ownership in Battery Park City
Tonight (Wednesday, January 6) the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) will host a discussion about affordability for condominium owners, for whom the cost of owning a home in the neighborhood is becoming increasingly prohibitive. The online meeting (which starts at 6:00 pm) is open to the public. Anyone wishing to attend should browse this link: https://live.mcb1.nyc, and follow the instructions posted there.
The discussion will feature a presentation by a new grassroots organization, the Battery Alliance, which was recently founded by longtime residents Daniel Akkerman and John Dellaportas, both of whom serve on the boards of their condominiums (Hudson View West and Liberty House, respectively). Their organization can be found online at SaveBPC.org, and contacted via email at Info@savebpc.org. To read more…
Architects Propose to Reclaim Park Tribeca Lost Nearly a Century Ago
Community Board 1 (CB1) is supporting a plan to create a new park in Tribeca, within the Holland Tunnel Rotary, the six-acre asphalt gyre of exit ramps that connects traffic from New Jersey to Lower Manhattan’s street grid.
The husband-and-wife architecture team of Dasha Khapalova and Peter Ballman are proposing to create a constellation of small, street-level parks at the corners of the complex (bounded by Hudson, Laight, and Varick Street, as well as Ericson Place) which will double as entry points for a new, submerged central plaza. This plaza is anachronously known as St. John’s Park, although it has not been a publicly accessible space since the Holland Tunnel opened, 94 years ago.
A Leader Who Presided Over Transformational Times in Lower Manhattan Passes from the Scene
Anthony Notaro, a Lower Manhattan community leader for decades and chair of Community Board 1 (CB1) from 2016 to 2020, died on December 30, after a years-long battle with cancer. He was 69 years old. A resident of Battery Park City since the late 1990s, Mr. Notaro joined CB1 shortly after moving to Lower Manhattan. To read more…
Eyes to the Sky
January 4 – 17, 2021
Early nightfall and late sunup beckon to stargazers before days lengthen
The last of the longest nights of the year are bookended by planet Venus taking final bows in early morning twilight in the southeast and planets Jupiter and Saturn poised at the edge of the southwest skyline in afternoon dusk. The latest sunrises of the year – 7:20am through January 10 – and early sunsets, around 4:40pm, motivate this stargazer to greet starry skies, mostly in short jaunts or from a window or balcony, during morning darkness and half-light, 6am to 6:50am, and in the afternoon from just after 5pm – 5:40. To read more…
Did you know that the dumpling, a world-renowned symbol of Chinese cuisine, did not originate in China? On Thursday, January 7, cultural historian Miranda Brown will take us all the way back to the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD) to trace the dumpling’s roots deep into Central Asia. It’s a journey that will take us through foreign dynasties, epic Mongol expansion, and the family recipes of a Ming dynasty Shanghai noble, to understand the how the ubiquitous “Chinese” staple came to be. Free
Judith Koeppel Steel escaped Germany with her family in 1939 aboard the MS St. Louis, only to be turned away by Cuba and the United States and sent back to Europe. She disembarked in Belgium and was imprisoned in the Gurs internment camp, and then hidden by a French Catholic couple who were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations decades later.
In 1946, after learning that both her parents had been killed in Auschwitz, Judith was sent to the United States, where she was adopted by her aunt and uncle in New York and ultimately became a Cantor. Join Judith and Jacqueline Smith, the Museum’s Manager of Gallery Education, for this Stories Survive program exploring Judith’s experience of rescue and survival. $10
Nikola Tesla, Serbian-American physicist and engineer (1856 ~ 1943)
1608 – Fire destroys Jamestown, Virginia.
1610 – Galileo Galilei makes his first observation of the four Galilean moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa, although he is not able to distinguish the last two until the following day.
1785 – Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries travel from Dover, England, to Calais, France, in a gas balloon.
1835 – HMS Beagle drops anchor off the Chonos Archipelago.
1894 – William Kennedy Dickson receives a patent for motion picture film.
1927 – The first transatlantic telephone service is established from New York City to London.
1954 – Georgetown-IBM experiment: The first public demonstration of a machine translation system, is held in New York at the head office of IBM.
1959 – The US recognizes the new Cuban government of Fidel Castro.
1980 – President Jimmy Carter authorizes legislation giving $1.5 billion in loans to bail out the Chrysler Corporation
2015 – Gunmen commit mass murder at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, shooting twelve people execution style, and wounding eleven others.
1768 – Joseph Bonaparte, Italian king (d. 1844)
1800 – Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States (d. 1874)
1899 – Francis Poulenc, French pianist and composer (d. 1963)
1922 – Jean-Pierre Rampal, French flute player (d. 2000)
1925 – Gerald Durrell, Indian-English zookeeper, conservationist and author, founded Durrell Wildlife Park (d. 1995)
1961 – John Thune, American lawyer and politician
1963 – Rand Paul, American ophthalmologist and politician
1985 – Lewis Hamilton, English racing driver
1536 – Catherine of Aragon (b. 1485)
1943 – Nikola Tesla, Serbian-American physicist and engineer (b. 1856)
2013 – Ada Louise Huxtable, American curator and critic (b. 1921)
The Not-So-Okay Corral
DOT Overrules Community Concerns about Delivery Bike Facility in Tribeca
The City’s Department of Transportation has ignored calls from Community Board 1 to address concerns of Tribeca residents before installing a cargo bike corral on Warren Street (between West and Greenwich Streets), to facilitate the use of powered bicycles when making grocery deliveries. To read more…
An End to Screen Time
City Announces Public School Admissions Changes with Significant Impact for Lower Manhattan
On December 18, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced that they were provisionally barring public middle schools (for at least one year, and possibly longer) from evaluating applicants based on academic criteria such as test scores, report-card grades, and attendance records, while permanently forbidding public high schools from giving admissions preference to students who reside with the same district as those schools.
Non-Profit Outlines Plan for ‘Safe Haven’ Shelter on Washington Street
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to create a homeless shelter at a historic building on Washington Street, in the Greenwich South neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, in partnership with a highly regarded non-profit, the Center for Urban Community Services.
“This facility will not for warehousing,” said CUCS’s chief operating officer, Douglas James. “We aim to move people from the streets to permanent housing.”
Niou Joins Lawmakers Calling for Rollback of NYPD Unit
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou has joined a coalition of elected officials calling on the New York Police Department (NYPD) to investigate and possibly disband the troubled Vice Unit, which has been plagued by allegations of bias and corruption in recent years. To read more…