MCNY Blog: New York Stories

Today, it’s hard to find an oyster for less than $2 a pop, but until the turn of the 20th century, oysters were so plentiful in New York, rich and poor alike enjoyed them.  New Yorkers ate them raw, pickled, stewed, baked, roasted, and fried.  They were so abundant, their shells were used to pave streets (hence the name Pearl Street), as fertilizer, and as a cement-like substance used in construction.

With over 350 square miles of oyster beds, oysters were always popular in the Harbor, dating back to the era of the Lenape Indians.  However, they weren’t  an unlimited resource–conservation efforts began in the mid 1600s, precipitated by fear of overfishing, and as with many disputes over a natural resource, tensions occasionally ran high.  The “Oyster Wars” of the 19th century saw bitter rivalries over fishing beds.  The rivalry was most heated between New Jersey and Staten…

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