NYC waterways

Free Newspapers Saved From Becoming Litter

By Linda Longo

"I thought to take the photo after I picked up the papers, but notice the green NYC recycling box in the background."

On many New York City street corners you’ll see those free newspaper boxes.   There’s one on my block in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.   Every so often I’ll notice our box is tipped over and the wind has scattered the free papers and everyone walks past oblivious. I’ve done it too. I’ll walk past thinking “well, I should pick it all up because a garbage can is right there”,  then I’m two blocks past and figure someone else will do the good deed.   This Sunday on my way to the local farmer’s market on 5th avenue and 4th street I saw that the wind was really enjoying the free papers.  The entire box was tipped over and the flimsy lid was open.  I placed my grocery cart off to the side and began to pick up the heaps of newspapers.  I quickly noticed the papers were not badly damaged so I righted the tipped over box and proceeded to place the papers back inside.  The few that were muddy I conveniently placed in the green NYC newspaper recycling box just feet away.   No one pointed and laughed at me like I secretly imagined they would.  People kept to their business, but I hope they noticed me because maybe the next time they see spilled free papers they’ll do the same.

I don’t go around picking up trash on a regular basis because I don’t want to get dirty, but that’s my hang up.  We need to understand that trash makes it way to the streets and into the sewer openings where it clogs our drainage system.  And when as little as 2” of rain happens our NYC sewers can get overwhelmed and sometimes this trash ends up in our waterways.  So if we all take a little effort to think about putting our gum wrappers in our pockets till we pass a trash can, or picking up the spilled newspapers, we’ll all contribute just a little to the welfare of our city.  And by the way, on the way home from the market I saw a lady open the free newspaper box and take one.  That made my day.

About the author: Linda started her career with EPA in 1998 working in the water quality program. For the past 7 years she’s helped regulated facilities understand how to be in compliance with EPA enforcement requirements. Outside of work Linda enjoys exploring neighborhoods of NYC, photographing people in their everyday world, and sewing handbags made from recycled materials that she gives to her friends.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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New Frog in New York City | In Search of the Richmond Ribbiter

In the wilds of New York City (photo: Seth Ausubel, EPA)

By Seth Ausubel

The air was chill and the skies leaden as our party slipped quietly through the thick woodland underbrush.  We soon reached a densely overgrown pond.  The still dark waters roiled as dozens of unseen creatures fled the pond’s edge at our approach.

An eerie calm beset the pond as we began a silent vigil.  Soon the chorus of alien clucks that had guided us toward our destination resumed.  Then, a ripple…a vague form in the murky waters… a pair of eyes.  There it was — the Richmond Ribbiter!

O.K., so the part I left out is that the pond is a mere twenty-five feet from the edge of a busy road, next to a gun club and stone mason yard in Staten Island, a.k.a. Richmond County, one of New York City’s five boroughs.  What is truly remarkable is that our quarry was a newly discovered species of leopard frog.

I was there that March morning of 2012 with my friends and fellow naturalists, Dave Eib, Mike Shanley and Seth Wollney, all native Staten Islanders.

You’re probably incredulous that a new species of frog has been discovered in New York City.  It is an extremely rare occasion when any new vertebrate species is discovered in a major population center.  But, in fact, while the existence of these frogs has been known, it was only recently shown that they are genetically distinct from the other leopard frog species in the region – the Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens), and the Southern Leopard Frog (Rana utricularia).  The new frog has not yet been described in scientific literature, nor has it even been named.  So for now I’m dubbing it…well, you know already.

While the Richmond Ribbiter looks very much like the other leopard frogs, its calls are quite distinct – a single “cluck” unlike the “chuckle” of the Southern Leopard Frog, and even less like the “snore” of the Northern Leopard Frog.  Seth Wollney has posted video and audio on his blog.  The calls of the other species can be found by following the links above.

Way back in 1936, Carl Kauffeld, the renowned herpetologist and Curator of the Staten Island Zoo, wrote that he thought there may be a third species of leopard frog in New York City.  But he never investigated further and the frog remained shrouded in obscurity.  Wollney, whose local knowledge is unparalleled, says he and others noticed the presence of an oddly singing frog a few years ago.  But it was the studies of Jeremy A. Feinberg, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolution at Rutgers University that identified the frog as a new species.

The range of the Richmond Ribbiter is still being investigated, but it is likely that only a small fraction of its former range still supports the frogs.  This shows the importance of habitat conservation, even in urban areas.

So, yes, there are wilds in New York City, and a unique frog.  Who knows what discoveries remain?

About the author: Seth Ausubel is Acting Chief of EPA Region 2’s Watershed Management Branch, and an avid birder and naturalist

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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We Care About NYC’s Clean Beaches

By Teresa Ippolito

Do you go to the beach when it rains? Probably not, but your neighborhood’s street litter may end up there!

New York City waters and beaches really are cleaner today than they were 20 years ago. Part of the reason for that is the Clean Streets = Clean Beaches campaign.

On a recent Tuesday, a perfect day for the beach and a ball game, a group of EPA and New York City officials kicked off the 2012 campaign at Coney Island’s MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Deputy Regional Administrator George Pavlou stood with several NYC commissioners to remind New Yorkers how important the street/beach connection is. The speeches over, they made their way into the ballpark where the ceremonial first pitches also highlighted the campaign to the crowd. Most of the spectators that day were kids attending day camps in NYC. They really “got” the message: don’t toss litter in NYC streets. Clean Streets = Clean Beaches.

So, how can street litter end up on a beach? During heavy rainfalls in New York City, street litter, like potato chip bags, plastic bottles and other trash that people drop in the street, can wash down storm drains into sewers and end up being discharged into nearby waterways. Then, the litter washes up onto the beaches with the next high tide. THAT is how stuff usually gets on the beach…from the street! Amazing! Also amazingly preventable.

What can you do? Simply this: don’t litter. Use a litter basket. If none is around, hold onto it until you find an appropriate place to get rid of it. The street and storm drains are NOT where litter belongs!

NYC government trucks are displaying posters with the Clean Street=Clean Beaches message. Look for them!

About the Author: Terry Ippolito serves as the region’s Environmental Education Coordinator out of EPA’s Manhattan office. A former science teacher and school administrator, she brings real world insights into the challenges and delights of teaching about the environment. Terry holds a B.S in Biology and a Masters in Environmental Health Science.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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