Governors Island in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Oysters in the Harbor: A History
Oyster reefs were once a key feature of the New York / New Jersey Harbor Estuary’s ecosystem. Oysters helped to feed New Amsterdam residents, particularly in winter when other foods were scarce. Oysters in fact remained the most common local street food through the 19th century. Yet as New York City grew, overfishing, pollution and siltation took their toll on the Harbor’s oyster beds. By 1900, these were largely depleted or destroyed. Despite the fact that harvesting from any remaining beds was outlawed during the 1920s, the oysters never really returned.
Thanks to federal mandates and local investments, water quality in the Harbor has improved significantly in the last several decades. Oysters have begun to reappear, but only in some places, and in small numbers. In 1998, The River Project, an environmental organization based in Lower Manhattan, observed a significant “set” of wild oysters on the pilings beneath Pier 26 in Tribeca. The number of wild oysters on these pilings has increased since then, but not significantly.
A complete recovery of the oyster population in the Harbor appears to be hindered by a lack of oyster habitat – the reefs themselves, which chemically attract larval oysters and provide a surface to which they can attach.
Location. 40° Touch for map. Marker is located on the eastern end of Governors Island. Marker is in this post office area: New York NY 10004, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Middens and Reefs (a few steps from this marker); The Buttermilk Channel and Brooklyn Waterfront (within shouting distance of this marker); The South Battery (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named The South Battery (within shouting distance of this marker); St. Cornelius Chapel (within shouting distance of this marker); Tower Carillon Chimes (within shouting distance of this marker); Maj. General Hanson E. Ely Retirement (within shouting distance of this marker); John Peter Zenger (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Governors Island.
More about this marker. A picture at the top of the marker depicts vendors selling oysters on the street of New York in the 19th century. Three photographs provided by the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School appear at the right of the marker showing Harbor School students conducting oyster experiments.
Also see . . .
1. The Governors Island Alliance. The Governors Island Alliance is a coalition of organizations and individuals working to celebrate the Island’s rich history, create memorable parks and public spaces, and ensure appropriate reuse of the Island and its historic structures. (Submitted on September 16, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
2. Governors Island National Monument. National Park Service website. (Submitted on September 16, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Categories. • Animals • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 16, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 345 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 16, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.