|It seems to me that we live in a world of "more is better"; more development, more cars, more home products, more electronics, more, more, more. The question that begs to be asked is, what happens to all of the "more"? Most of us at EPA understand that some of it ends up disposed of properly in the landfills, (aka, the dump) but much "more" ends up disposed of illegally at local dump sites such as what happened in the North Cove located in Inwood, NY.
This was until one man decided to do something about it. If you have ever read the environmental story of the LORAX, by Dr. Seuss, one will remember that the LORAX, while seemingly deflated, defeated and extremely disappointed, leaves a sign with one word on top a pile of rocks. The word is "UNLESS". The story defines this word profoundly. "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not." the message driven straight to the heart of the reader is that one person can make a difference. I introduce to you, James "The Birdman" Cataldi. Mr. Cataldi is that "one person" who is making a difference and who cares a whole awful lot, as evidenced by his undertaking of the local environmental concern at the North Cove.
The North Cove located off the Harlem River was once a thriving ‘tidal wetland that included waterfowl, kestrels, hawks, muskrats and various other wildlife. That was until the early 1900’s when the "more" began to arrive and the natural ;environrnent began to change. Over the years, North Cove began to see the deposition of tens of thousands of pounds of garbage,— including car and truck parts, plastics, glass, syringes and much, much "more". Some of this debris washed up into the cove as what we know as marine debris, while much of it was deposited illegally as the North Cove became the dumping ground for the community and local businesses. What is worse is that much of this garbage and debris sits below the sediment – making the clean up more difficult. Much of the wildlife disappeared from the area leaving the North Cove a decimated dumping ground. About three years ago Mr. Cataldi began removing the debris and garbage from the North Cove, totaling to date 700 cubic yards.
In the story of the LORAX, the area surrounding the Thneeds factory was also decimated, leaving the reader to only hope for the restoration of the land and the return of the "Swornee Swans, the Humming Fish and the Brown Barbaloots". Hope arrived for the North Cove and it is on its way to being restored. Mr. Cataldi has seen the return of the mallard ducks, geese, hawks, kestrels (including the peregrine falcon), shell fish, muskrats, and other wildlife. Although the area has been significantly improved, he expects that it will take years of continuous work to clean up the area and restore to it to a viable tidal wetland. His vision, to see the acres of the North Cove restored to a natural state and preserved as a wildlife sanctuary.
Mr. Cataldi has conducted 99% of this clean up on his own without any funding, and few resources. He was able to negotiate proper disposal of the debris, most of which is recycled with the nearby MTA and a recycling company. He has had a handful of volunteers, a few students from a local college and one high school. He continues to reach out to the local community educating them about the importance of this area and environmental stewardship. Mr. Cataldi is that one person, a modern day "LORAX" if you will, trying to improve one small piece of a global environmental issue.
To view Mr. Cataldi’s work on the North Cove please go to
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/04/bird-week-birdman-of-inwood/ for the video – footage.
Background: The North Cove is located in Inwood, NY off Ninth Avenue near 207th Street behind a small parking lot, adjacent to the MTA subway yards. The North Cove is slated as one of the areas included in the Sherman Creek Restoration and Esplanade Site. As stated in the Master Plan, Sherman Creek and the North Cove are proposed to be restored to function as wetlands once again bringing back the natural habitat. The unfortunate part of this plan is that it is to be completed in phases and is dependent upon funding.
–The master plan for the Sherman Creek Esplanade was unveiled by the City’s Economic. Development Council (NYCEDC) this past week to local residents. The plan calls for an ambitious renovation of the Harlem River waterfront from Sherman Creek inlet to West 208th Street. and is projected to cost $83 million to execute."
The master plan unveiled at Wednesday’s meeting, which NYCEDC expects to officially release in the next month, is projected to cost $83 million to execute. "Unfortunately, as beautiful as these plans are, this project still needs funding to see completion," explained Council Member Rodriguez explained. "Since the Mayor spent so much energy promoting his Vision 2020 plan for the city’s waterfront, I hope he will spend an equal amount of money putting this plan into action." (Manhattan Times July 19, 2011)
Mr. Cataldi felt that waiting 15 or more years for the cleanup and restoration of the North Cove was just too long and so he began his own cleanup and restoration effort. After approximately three years of work, the North Cove is slowly returning to its natural state. Some support is provided by the local businesses in the area. Mr. Cataldi was able to negotiate with local businesses to provide dumpsters for proper sorting, recycling and disposal of the debris as well as monitoring for illegal dumping. Mr. Cataldi is in communication with the local government agencies and other community organizations sharing his progress with the technical team leader. This is truly a grass roots effort. His passion is evidenced by the hours he spends cleaning up the cove and his love of wildlife.
Once a Wall Street computer programmer, that was until the attacks of 9/11/2001, Mr. Cataldi desired to something more meaningful. This is his calling. Mr. "Cataldi is a practicing New York State Wildlife licensed rehabilitator, and works under Wild Bird Fund with the Federal Wildlife Rehabilitation Authority, and under the Federal Medical Usage Authority of Animal General, and Center for Avian and Exotic Medication of NYC. He is also a New York State Rehabilitation Counsel Member, member of National Wildlife Federation, River Keepers, and National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association. Cataldi is the founder of Manhattan Wetlands and Wildlife Association." (http://NYCWetLands.org)
Manhattan Wetlands and Wildlife Association (MWAWAI
Recently founded, the MWAWA is currently being incorporated as a nonprofit 501 (c) (3). Mr. Cataldi’s vision and mission for the organization is the restoration, enhancement and protection of the North Cove as well as other waterfronts, wetlands, and city habitats of Northern Manhattan. As part of this mission he plans to offer environmental and wildlife stewardship education to local schools and colleges.
He is known in the community as the Birdman. Testimonials to his efforts can be found at http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/04/bird-week-birdman-of-inwood/ and a few are provided below.