Since its creation in 1967, and many years before, construction waste, run off from Co-op City and river floatables from sites north of the Sanctuary have accumulated in the Thomas Pell Sanctuary. The Sanctuary, which is located on the east bank of the Hutchinson River in Pelham Bay Park, is the second largest salt marsh habitat in New York City. (Only Jamaica Bay is larger.) Because the Sanctuary is a salt marsh, it is not accessible by land and must be cleaned up from the Hutchinson River. To the best of our knowledge, there has never been a major cleanup effort, mainly because of limited access to the Sanctuary (water access only), lack of knowledge by the community of the existence of this Sanctuary and the cost and complexity of a clean-up. In 2010 HRRP launched the first Cleanup effort of the Sanctuary. At that time it was recognized that this was not a single shot effort and it would take many Cleanup efforts to remove “OUR” waste from the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary and return it in its natural beauty to its wildlife residents.
Hutchinson River Restoration Project: Beginnings
In Westchester County, New York is a sign that tells passersby that the parkway and the river whose path it sometimes follows are named for Anne Marbury Hutchinson. My curiosity about this woman, who was murdered in the Bronx in 1643 by the Siwanoy Indians, has led me to write and speak about her. I have also been led to learn more about the river that was named for her.
It begins in a swampy area that serves as the dividing line between New Rochelle and Eastchester, flows south through Westchester County, through the mainland Bronx and then passed City Island, ending in Eastchester Bay in Long Island Sound (see Hutchinson River map above). Five of us have been exploring various areas of it during the past few months and following are some of our findings.
We have visited three of the four sites in Westchester County where samples were taken by the state. The report, received by the governor in 2000, stated that the river is characterized as belonging to the most polluted category that the state employs. Remedial action was to be taken immediately but nothing has been done. We have been in contact with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation on this matter. Also, we have spoken with residents who live at the source of the river as well as people with houses in the areas where it has been impounded. These people have expressed concern about the lowered quality of the water over the years, caused by such activities as fertilizer runoff from lawns and sewer overflow.
Following it south into the Bronx in New York City, we have found that it is not easy to view the river because it is surrounded by, e. g., asphalt plants, heavy auto crusher facilities, fuel corporations and a huge bus terminal. Although we have not left public property during our investigations, we have been asked to leave the area by security guards. One of our workers lives in a high rise apartment overlooking the river but her calls to 911 about illegal dumping have yet to receive a response.
Leaving the mainland, you enter City Island via a bridge. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, it flows past the west side of the Island, ending at its southern tip. I have been using this information as a hook to involve City Island residents and we are developing a viable working group for a clean and healthy river. We have studied the 2003 New York Harbor Water Quality Report and been in contact with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, that has informed us that it has become too silted to accommodate their research vessels. As a result of this response, we have decided that we need to obtain a small boat so that we can better see the condition of the river firsthand. Also, we are exploring the possibility of a web site for the project. If what we are doing interests you, we would welcome your personal and/or financial input. If you wish to make a monetary contribution, you can send a check to C:WED , a 501c3 organization and let us know that it is intended for use only on the this project.
The Hutchinson River Restoration Project (HRRP) Committee meets monthly. Minutes of recent meetings may be viewed on the Documents page.