The lost and future wildlife of New York City’s East River

New York City’s East River was once a bustling wildlife habitat. Could yesterday’s ecosystem return to today's metropolis?

April 8, 2021
Brooklyn Bridge Park, East River
New York City’s East River is lined by numerous green spaces and parks, including Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn and the East River Esplanade in Manhattan. [Photo: Ingfbruno | CC BY-SA 3.0]

Right in the heart of New York City is the East River, separating Manhattan and the Bronx from Brooklyn, Queens and the suburbia of Long Island. For many New Yorkers, the river is just water running under the many bridges they cross over during their daily commute. 

But before the confluence of the Hudson River and the harbor became New York City, the East River was home to a diversity of wildlife including fish, oysters and whales. 

What would it take to reincarnate this lost ecosystem of New York City’s central body of water? In this episode of the Scienceline podcast, we try to find the answer.

You can also listen to this episode of the Scienceline podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher.

Waltz in B Minor, Op. 69 no. 2 by Olga Gurevich | Public Domain Mark 1.0
Fairy Chant – Elven Song – Epic Music & Vocals by Julius H | Pixabay License

Sound Effects:
Whale: davidou | CC0 1.0
Birds: hargissssound | CC0 1.0
Woodpecker: shelf_employed | CC BY 3.0
Owl: shelf_employed | CC BY 3.0
Frogs: sweetjuniper | CC0 1.0
River: CastleofSamples | CC BY 3.0

About the Author

Ethan Freedman

Ethan Freedman studied biology and environmental studies at Tufts University and the School for Field Studies. This took him to field work in the grasslands of Tanzania, rainforests of Costa Rica, swamps of Massachusetts and islands of California, mainly studying birds. But it also reminded him how much he likes telling stories, so that’s what he does now. Other than that, he likes cross-country skiing, live music and cooking with friends.


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