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City brings oysters to Soundview

The city now has some little helpers in the fight to restore the water and marine habitats in the New York Harbor.

Fifty-thousand of them to be exact.

On Thursday, October 28, crews with the NYC Parks Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bronx river Alliance and Rocking the Boat planted about 50,000 young oysters, known as spat, in the bay off Soundview Park.

The project will help the city to see if the species, which naturally filters the water and provides choral-like habitats for a variety of marine animals, can flourish once again in the area.

“It’s really a pilot project to see if this can grow to be sustainable,” Victoria Ruzicka, with Randall’s Island Sports Foundation, Inc. and former city Parks Department worker, said.

More than a dozen people stood in the water in hip-waders, shuffling around in the clam shells under the mud, trying to find the best place to set the young oysters.

Days before the Army Corps of Engineers dumped nine tons of clam shells into the bay, which should provide the initial habitat for the young crustaceans. As the oyster colony continues to grow, it will create a choral-like structure that can provide a habitat for the blue crabs, and fish that live in the water.

But that is a long ways away. For now the parks department just wants to see how well the species can survive in the area, which has been badly polluted and is less than a mile from the Hunts Point Wastewater Treatment Plant.

More than 100 years ago the area was flush with the edible sea life. Over fishing and disease all but wiped them completely out.

Maret Larson, with the Parks Department’s Natural Resources Group, said that restoring the oyster population will not completely restore the ecology, but it is important to bring the biodiversity back to the local ecology.

“It’s not a realistic for restoration in this urban environment, but it is a step towards bringing some of the species back,” she said.

The reef is one of six that were placed around the new York Harbor, as far north as Hastings.

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