Life after an Oil Spill

The Arthur Kill estuary runs for 15 miles between Staten Island and New Jersey, a shipping lane kept busier than the Panama Canal by garbage barges destined for the Fresh Kills landfill, tugboats pushing white mustaches of surf and oil tankers that dock at the refineries that fill the skyline with odd smokestacks. Some flare like cigarette lighters, while others have frets on their side like flutes. “If you blindfolded me, I could still tell you where we are on the Kill by the smell,” says Carl Alderson, a restoration ecologist for the New York City parks department, giving a tour in his Boston whaler.