Food & Drink Why Thousands of Oyster Shells Are Being Dumped Into New York Harbor

18:28  09 august  2018
18:28  09 august  2018 Source:   food52.com

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Without oysters , New York Harbor ’s ecosystem lacks a crucial element. Each adult oyster can filter dozens of gallons of water each day, and an oyster With thousands more oysters in this installation project, there is a higher likelihood that oyster larvae will latch on to shells and grow into adults.

New York used to be lousy with oysters . When Henry Hudson arrived in what is now New York City in 1609, there were approximately 350 square miles of oyster reefs in the harbor and its But Kurlansky says it was named after a nearby midden (a pile containing a thousand discarded oyster shells ).

In the summer, Manhattan’s seemingly ubiquitous sidewalk chalkboards change their tune. They sport a new adage: “$1 oysters on the half shell.” Like sirens, they beckon, urging passersby inside with fresh briny bounty and, in a city where they’re increasingly harder to come by, the promise of a deal.

Patio sitters slurp happy hour bivalves to the tune of rush hour traffic, and as the sun sets on yet another languid summer day, the city’s kitchens are greeted by a very new, very seasonal, very specific kind of trash: heaps and heaps of craggy, gray oyster shells, hulking mounds of clacking detritus that tear seams in plastic trash bags.

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Without oysters , New York Harbor ’s ecosystem lacks a crucial element. Oysters may not object to effluent, but it’s an unnerving aspect of New York life that so much of the city’s waste is still dumped into the harbor .

Photo. Stephanie Perez inspects an oyster at New York Harbor School on Governors Island. Credit Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times. These grids were then placed on a bed of empty Fishers Island oyster shells .

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One organization, the Billion Oyster Project, sees these shells not as refuse, but as a chance for renewal.

The New York City–based initiative traverses the five boroughs, collecting discarded oyster shells from over 70 restaurants. The mission of the organization is to restabilize New York’s waterways by dumping massive amounts of oyster shells into the murky waters surrounding the city. It seems strange, yes, but the team at the Billion Oyster Project is onto something.

The shells, which would otherwise toil away in a landfill, are sent to New York Harbor, amassed in large numbers where they serve to anchor new reefs in the waters surrounding Manhattan.

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Believe it or not, as recently as 1600, New York Harbor held an estimated 220,000 acres of oyster reefs that continually filtered regional waterways, creating natural habitats for thousands of species. Had they not been gradually destroyed by pollution and overfishing, we’d have Blue Points all year

Harbor oyster shells from these middens measured up to 10 inches, and early European travellers describe the shellfish as being about a foot in length1. Naturally, the terrapin disappeared off of menus when their own diet of New York harbor oysters became polluted.

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The restaurant collection program is but one arm of the organization's oyster appreciation. Ultimately, they want to create an environment in New York Harbor that allows for live oysters to flourish in its waters. By 2035, they hope to have 100 billion oysters distributed around 100 acres of reef.

The inspiration for their project is rooted in history. The Billion Oyster Project calls upon New York Harbor’s rich legacy as one of the most productive and plentiful water spaces in the North Atlantic. Their mission hearkens to a day when New York City once proudly wore the label of oyster capital of the world.

Long before English explorer Henry Hudson arrived in what is now New York Harbor, the Lenape people (New York’s native population) were pulling from the waters great quantities of oysters. Early European settlers marveled at the size and number of the bounty upon their arrival.

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STORY: New York Harbor , once blanketed with a thriving population of oysters is no more. On Tuesday (October 4) ships carrying hundreds of tons of oyster and clam shells and porcelain pieces from recycled toilets were in Jamaica Bay, dumping the materials to form a layer of hard material

Welcome to NYC's first and only Oyster Shell Collection Program. This program turns thousands of pounds of would- be waste into a value-added ecological resource for our Harbor . Find out how your restaurant can get involved.

Much has been said about New York City’s long history with the famous fruit of the sea: That there once existed over 200,000 acres of oyster reefs in the waters surrounding the city. That before hotdogs and dollar slices, oysters on the half shell were the city’s most iconic street food. That Pearl Street, a downtown thoroughfare, was named after the shell’s iridescent contents. That the whole city once shut down to honor Thomas Downing, a famed and beloved black oyster salesman.

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Yet much of that reality slipped away as the city, and its pollution, multiplied. Contaminated waters combined with overharvesting led to the city’s closing of their oyster beds in 1927. Oyster consumption continued, but at a reduced scale. New Yorkers were no longer eating their very own oysters, and New York City was no longer the world’s oyster capital.

The Billion Oyster Project hopes to reinstate that legacy.

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The Hudson estuary stretches 153 miles from Troy to New York Harbor , nearly half the Estuaries are among the most productive of Earth's ecosystems. Native Americans discovered the Hudson's bounty thousands of years ago; evidence of their repasts remains in heaps of oyster shells on its shores.

Large industries dumped tons of pollutants like PCBs and heavy metals like chromium into the Hudson and Raritan Rivers, rendering shellfish from those beds inedible. By the late 1930s, oysters in New York and all the benefits they brought were finished.

The organization's goal isn’t just waste management, but to use the oysters to restore environmental equilibrium to New York Harbor. According to Maddy Wachtel, who runs the restaurant collection program, “The primary benefits of having oysters is that they help with the balancing and filtering of different elements in the water. They also provide a lot of habitats for marine species. They can also protect the shoreline.”

In addition to the restaurants from which they collect discarded shells, the organization is quick to engage other institutions: “We work with many schools across the city, nearly a hundred. The New York Harbor School, located on Governors Island, is a maritime high school—the students are taking on a significant leadership role by helping us out in the field, thereby gaining technical skills like growing oysters, welding reef structures, and ocean engineering.”

Unfortunately, due to the level of water pollution surrounding New York, the oysters themselves aren’t edible. “At the moment we have six oyster reefs involved across the five boroughs. We’re working on five more now,” Jennifer Ballesteros, the Communications Manager at the Billion Oyster Project tells me.

There's one in Canarsie and another by Governors Island. They just recently installed one near Coney Island. Ballesteros mentions some by Jamaica Bay, as well. Some reefs, like the ones they're installing near Staten Island, will help with breakwaters, easing the sometimes violent flow of water as it enters the harbor. They estimate that this may help temper the damage done by storms like Sandy.

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Why Oysters ? Oysters were the keystone species and original ecosystem engineers of New York Harbor . Oyster reefs once covered more than 220,000 acres of the Hudson River estuary.

Now, the Billion Oyster Project is building a long-term plan to restore 100 acres of oyster reefs by housing one billion live oysters in New York Harbor The structure itself is made up of 250 custom-cast “reef balls” made of a special concrete mixture that uses oyster shells as aggregate and are

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There are two types of oysters that comprise every new reef: live oysters that attach themselves to the top where they filter water, and dead ones at the bottom, a giant mound of shells licked clean by hungry New Yorkers across the city.

“In the beginning it was just myself and a teammate who would walk into restaurants and try to sell them on our program,” Wachtel remembers. Now, she traverses the city visiting her cadre of over 70 restaurants, often multiple times a week. (Depending on the restaurant, she’ll give them a five-gallon bucket, a 32-gallon bin, or a 64-gallon barrel.) “We try to share with the restaurants we work with the history of New York harbor and why it’s important that oysters live there. We try to make the whole process as straightforward as possible.”

At the moment we have six oyster reefs involved across the five boroughs. We’re working on five more now. Share

Earlier this month, Blue Point Brewing pledged $20,000 to the nonprofit and released a beer to honor the organization’s work. They're titling their new ale, aptly: Good Reef Ale.

So much of the energy at the Billion Oyster Project is spent on education. Ensuring that not just students, but also New Yorkers at large, understand the important of the waterways around them: “There’s a way for all people to learn about their blue space in the way they learn about their green space,” Wachtel says.

Thomas Downing and his iconic oyster restaurant are but relics of the past, and oyster carts no longer dot the city’s streets. Yet oysters, as part of the fabric of New York, are here to stay: The shells New Yorkers slurp on hot summer afternoons may no longer come from their surrounding waters, but that doesn’t mean that isn’t where they’ll end up.

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The Best Oysters in California—& My Favorite Day Trip Outside San Francisco .
Pack your bags! In honor of life’s most delicious highways, we give you Hit the Road, Snack, our travel guide of things to eat, see, and do this summer, from coast to coast. Photo by Alex Citrin Before I moved to San Francisco, I espoused the typical notion of what my getaways would involve: sun-soaked weekends in Wine Country and visits to Half Moon Bay. Arguably, that’s what most of us food obsessives have read and heard about when it comes to vacations in the Bay Area. But there are many other interesting and exciting spots to explore outside the city. One of these local gems, tucked away by the coastline, is Tomales Bay, a region famous for its delicious oysters, for which I have a particular fondness. Growing up on the coast of India, I ate more fish than meat, including fried oysters and scallops and shrimp pickled with chiles and turmeric. When I came to the United States, I was exposed to a new world of raw oysters, crudo, and gravlax, all of which I've grown to love eating now on the coast of California. Photo by Nik Sharma I could spend an entire weekend in Tomales Bay, shucking oysters with my husband, exploring the different parts of the coast. I love its proximity to both SF and Oakland, and that within a short period of time (traffic depending), you can be right next to the water. The mountains are right there, too, which makes Tomales Bay a wonderful place to relax and get away.

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