2015 River Sweep Gathers Advocates, Locals, and Politicians to Clean NYC Waterfronts Near North Cove
By Zainab Tahir, Editor-in-Chief
New York City is a bustling metropolitan- one of the most renown in the world. It’s famous for its looming skyscrapers, flashing lights, and timeless fashion. It’s the city where dreams come true. That’s how New York City has been represented in classic movies like Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. That’s how New York City has been sung about in pop culture with songs like Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, and Welcome to New York by Taylor Swift. However, New York isn’t just the glitz and glamour that attracts tourists and makes for beautiful postcards. It’s not just the New York experienced by those who can afford it.
New York City has an undercurrent of many aspects which help make it what it is. These include the many issues that are interspersed within the city’s structure. One of the issues that remain at the forefront include the waterfront. When initially discussing New York City’s many waterfronts, one imagines the breathtaking view of the skyline from The Hudson River Park, Hunter’s Point, The River Cafe Park, and all the other lookout points. The clean and visually environmentally friendly parks present a stark contrast to the pollution that the city, as every other city in the word, generates on a daily basis. These parks are designed to attract tourists and cover up one of the biggest problems facing New York: pollution in the waterfront.
In September 2011, the New York City Council passed Int-53, a bill which increases the transparency of issues plaguing the waterfront and strengthens enforcement against illegal dumping into the water. While this was a huge step in reforming the management of keeping the waterfronts pollution free, many of the waterfronts have felt the impact of many years of pollution. It’s not that simple to clean them up. It’s because of this reason that the non-profit organization Riverkeeper, launched their River Sweep event in 2011. This year, one of the locations in the city included Inwood, a neighborhood in the Northern point of Manhattan. Inwood juxtaposes sharply against the cleaner, tourist friendly waterfront parks scattered around New York. Polluted with trash, the murky waters invoke sadness within the residents living nearby.
The cleaning of Inwood’s North Cove began with a man named James Cataldi, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and former computer programmer. Starting 2009, Mr. Cataldi single-handedly rid the waterfront of over a hundred pounds of garbage. This waterfront specifically, is home to thousands of birds. Cataldi said of neighborhood residents, “They call me Birdman.”
During this year’s Riversweep event, many residents of the neighborhood came prepared, some with their families, to contribute to the clean up. One particular individual was Councilmember Ydonis Rodriguez of the New York City Council. The councilman was helping to clean the river himself, and stated that, “President Obama said that the biggest challenge that humans beings face in the world is climate change,” further advising, “even if we don’t have a big solution to this problem, each of us can contribute.” The purpose of restoring Inwood’s North Cove isn’t to allow it to become a popular tourist attraction, but to protect the wildlife and allow the younger residents to learn about the importance of environmental conservation.
The situation with Inwood is one which applies to many forgotten waterfronts all around New York. The impact that urbanization has on the environment is one that is glazed over with picturesque parks, and hidden under piles of dump. Communities attempt to gather support and provide relief to these waterfronts, and subsequently, the wildlife affected by the pollution. However, in order to successfully ensure New York City waterfronts are all clean once more, the city and all of its residents need to recognize the consequences of allowing environmental instability. The general strong state of the environment is what is conducive to our success. Without the environment in proper shape, New York City won’t have enough resources to continue to be one of the greatest cities in the world. Without environmental equilibrium, we not only disrupt the natural cycle, but put the world and its inhabitants in danger.
It is individuals like the residents of Inwood and influential figures like Councilman Ydonis who represent the ideal relationship between the City and its people. Together, both can bolster the process in cleaning up and restoring the forgotten and grubby waterfronts. Only through determination can we begin the long, but necessary journey towards relieving the environment of urban impact. As Councilman Ydonis passionately affirmed,“We need to save Mother Earth.”
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