Even native New Yorkers might be surprised to discover Inwood’s North Cove, an oasis tucked behind a parking lot off West 207th Street.
Flocks of ducks, geese, river crows, herons and falcons call the green space in the northernmost tip of Manhattan home. Yet, North Cove’s migratory birds and aquatic wildlife are in danger of being dislocated after city officials approved a rezoning plan.
North Cove, adjacent to where developers plan to erect residential towers, is vital to migratory birds along the East Coast, and supports 34 species of birds and other wildlife. I am outraged at the lack of conversation about the development’s impact. It would leave resident birds in a distressed environment.
The project, approved by the City Council in August, is part of the Inwood NYC Action Plan that will span 59 blocks. It includes turning the area into a recreational park and building residential units along the southern border of North Cove. The complexes could be 30 stories, with major retail space and private parking. The council claims that a new waterfront park will be part of an effort to “reclaim the waterfront for the public,” according to the city’s Economic Development Corp.
But James Cataldi, a New York State wildlife rehabilitator, says the plan is an “environmental death knell.” Known by locals as “Birdman,” he fights on behalf of animals and wetlands as a volunteer.
Inwood’s wildlife symbolizes the last remnants of pre-metropolis New York. And the city’s plan to “reclaim the waterfront” will only disrupt the ecosystem that existed before the public inhabited Manhattan island.
To protect this oasis, we need to recognize that it isn’t our land to reclaim. Instead of residential towers, council members should invest in cleaning up the litter. There’s enough recreational park space in Inwood Hill Park, so the city doesn’t need to develop North Cove into a formal park, too. Locals should urge the city to leave the area for the wildlife, preserving the remaining wetlands before it’s too late.
“If North Cove is to be a ‘recreational park,’ not a wildlife refuge and community gathering place, that will certainly finish the story of these birds,” says Cataldi. “Our migratory birds will collapse without people holding the hand to the fire.”
Alyssa Ciardi, a journalism and design major at The New School in Manhattan, is a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator at Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.