Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
lock 2189, lot 50 is teeming with life.
The lot has no address, and no owner, but it is by no means empty. Better known to locals as the North Cove, this partially submerged mudflat on Ninth Avenue near 207th Street is to waterfowl as Times Square is to commuters.
New York State-licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator James Cataldi believes it is an age old stopover on a timeless migration route. Cataldi has seen a number of bird species flock there. They include several kinds of ducks, herons, kingfishers, Peregrine falcons, mocking birds, magpies, as well as sandpipers, geese, and other migratory birds at the cove. On a recent winter day, a collection of feathered fauna quacked, mingled and flapped and about like school children in a cafeteria, only louder. Many of the birds rely on nutrients in the mud and algae to sustain themselves.
When one looks at the vast collection of feathers, wings, and legs from a certain angle—a view that does not include wood pilings that used to be a dock, or the halfway submerged tires—the cove is a portal that transports you to a different Manhattan, a green, sparsely populated island that went by the name of Manhahatta.
It did not look like this five years ago when Cataldi, an Inwood resident, decided to clean up the cove.
Cataldi, who left a Wall Street job after 9/11, comes to the cove nearly every day to clean up. After five years of work, he has removed 1,300 cubic yards of trash, including kitchen sinks.