I’ve been reading Herbert Asbury’s, All Around the Town which is a great read on legends and notable events in Old New York. In one chapter he describes the wilderness that was, before the city came to be and the abundance of wildlife that flourished and even overpopulated. From the first arrival by the Dutch through the beginning of the 19th century, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and further inland were all hunting and fishing playgrounds for the sportsman. Deer and bear roamed in great numbers and were actually considered food for the poor because of their abundance. Bison were even present during certain seasons. Wild turkey and other small birds were so bountiful that during the 16 & 1700’s they actually had exterminators to keep their population under control. This just amazes me to think of New York City as anything other that what it is, let alone a forest with bambies, bears, and bison running around! Exterminators for turkeys, get real!
Asbury also describes how plentiful the fish population was in the early years of Old New York. Sharks, whales, and dolphins could be seen on a daily basis from the battery, and often times even up the rivers. Salmon and sturgeon from 4 to 6 feet in length caught in unimaginible numbers in the Hudson and East Rivers. Fisherman coming back with loads ranging from 5,000-20,000 fish in the belly of their vessels. I find this unimaginable! To think that a river where you’d be more likely to see a mob hit corpse floating around than even the most mutated fish, was once a fisherman’s paradise and an economic dream.
But this is obviously no longer the case. Manifest Destiny ran its course and the only wildlife that can be found in the area now is hookers, homeless, and… pigeons. Asbury mentioned that they even tried to restock the rivers surrounding the metropolis in the latter years of the 19th century, but the pollution was too prevalent. Don’t get me wrong, New York City is an outstanding achievement and a symbol of American determination, but it does display how quickly we can drain or destroy a natural resource. It took less than 300 years to turn an abounding wildlife habitat into a concrete jungle. Negative evolution.
Just thinking out loud.