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June 30, 2000

Contact: Geoff Ryan (718/595-5371)

New York City Department of Environmental Protection Welcomes Tall Ships and U.S. Navy to the Harbor and Announces Results of Annual Harbor Water Quality Survey

Monitoring Shows Continuing Improvement in New York Harbor Waters

In recognition of Op Sail 2000, the arrival of the Tall Ships in New York Harbor and the International Naval Review, Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E., (Rear Admiral, Retired, NYSNM) of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the results of the 1999 New York Harbor Water Quality Survey at the South Street Seaport on June 30. Commissioner Miele also announced a collaboration between DEP and the South Street Seaport Museum, commencing in the fall of 2000, to provide educational programs for the public.

Commissioner Miele said, "Bring on the armada, the harbor is ready. In this, the 90th year of the survey, there is clear evidence that New York Harbor's environment remains cleaner and the water quality continues to be better than it has been since the early 1900s. Evidence of this improvement ranges from breeding populations of double-crested cormorants, herons, egrets and water fowl in the Harbor area, to improved populations of benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms in Lower New York Bay. Perhaps the best indication of a cleaner environment to both New York's residents and visitors," continued Commissioner Miele, "is the fact that beach closures have been virtually eliminated and certain shell fishing restrictions off the Rockaway Peninsula and parts of Raritan Bay have been lifted. Much of this improvement is directly related to improvements and enhancements to the City's wastewater collection and treatment systems. All of the tall ships and naval vessels will be welcomed to New York City's beautiful, clean harbor."

As documented in the report, under average conditions (representing a mix of both dry and wet weather) monitoring data shows fecal coliform bacteria (indicative of wastewater pollution) to have decreased nearly two orders of magnitude from 1974 to present. Furthermore, sampling data shows that, over the same period of time, significant harbor-wide increases in dissolved oxygen, critical for most aquatic life forms, has also occurred.

Improvements to New York Harbor include:

  • the continued opening of all New York City public beaches since 1992;
  • the relaxing of state advisories on human consumption of striped bass and the possibility of opening a limited commercial fishery in parts of the Hudson River;
  • the resurgence of aquatic organisms, including game and commonly sought-after fishes; and
  • the recovery of Hudson River shortnose sturgeon, a Federally endangered species, to record breaking numbers.

These improvements are attributed to:

  • the virtual elimination of raw wastewater discharges (including illegal discharges) into harbor waters;
  • the increased capture of rainfall that enters the sewer system (including trash or litter washed into storm drains); and
  • the reduction of toxic loadings to the waste stream through DEP's Pollution Prevention and Industrial Pre-Treatment efforts.

The Harbor Survey Program provides the longest documented assessment of the impact of human activities on the City's water environment. By sampling the water at 53 stations and measuring more than a dozen water quality parameters throughout the Harbor, the survey:

  • identifies changes in the environment and ecosystem of New York Harbor;
  • describes long-term water quality trends; and
  • provides a unique data base (dating back to 1909) for scientists, educators and citizens.

The full 1999 Harbor Water Quality Survey Report will be available in August on DEP's Web site at, or by calling 718/DEP-HELP (337-4357).


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600