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• Intro / Home
• Historical Neighbors
• Street and Backyard

• Park and Green Places

• Shore and Wetlands

• Salt and Freshwater

• Tiny Neighbors
• Unwelcome Neighbors
• Occasional and
  Unexpected Neighbors

• Wildlife Sighting Log
• Resources

• Hours and Tours


 Salt and Freshwater Neighbors
Salt Intro| Image: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

New York City’s underwater inhabitants are often overlooked because they are seldom seen except by anglers, fishmongers, marine and freshwater researchers, and divers. Yet in number and diversity, fishes and numerous other water creatures certainly equal land-dwelling wildlife in interest and importance. This section portrays some of New York City’s water neighbors. Because of their importance in the city’s economic history, and an abundance of excellent ichthyological art, illustrations of local fishes predominate. But images of the myriad invertebrates, and of two water mammals, are also on view.

New York Harbor, the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers, Jamaica Bay, and satellite inlets and streams are often erroneously considered separate entities, but in fact all are part of an enormous ecosystem, the Hudson Estuary. Twice a day, high tides send saltwater upstream, with fresh water flowing downstream with the receding tides. The mixed salt and fresh (brackish) water, which extends 153 miles up the Hudson River to Troy, has historically supported a rich variety of animal life. Regrettably, New Yorkers, from colonial times, have responded to Nature’s bountiful gifts by exploiting them – overfishing to the point where species eventually disappeared – and by using waterways as giant sewers for organic and industrial wastes. By the end of the 19th century, local waters were in sad shape.

The Federal Clean Water Act of 1972 spurred governmental and private efforts to reverse these conditions, and the last thirty years have seen dramatic improvements in water quality. There have been encouraging increases in the diversity and numbers of aquatic creatures in New York’s major waters, and also in smaller watercourses such as the Bronx River, Newtown Creek, and the Gowanus Canal. (Not very long ago, Newtown and Gowanus were often compared to smelly open sewers.) Despite these heartening developments, serious problems persist, including toxic PCB residues in bottom sediments and many animals, and continuing risks of oil spills.

Check out the sighting log to record your interaction with some of the native New York City wildlife featured in Urban Neighbors. You may also browse the sighting log by animal, borough, park or natural area, and/or habitat to view a sighting you have submitted or to read others’ observations.



Blue Crab / NYPL


Atlantic Cod / NYPL


American Shad / NYPL


Goldfish / NYPL


Harbor Seal / NYPL



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