Q: A guy at work told me the fish in the Hudson River are getting sick from all of the antidepressants in the water, from people flushing them down their toilets. This guy’s always saying weird stuff like this. He’s out of his mind, right?
—Jeremy Steiglitz, Yorktown
A: He might indeed be out of his mind, but he’s right about what is called pharmaceutical pollution. In a July 2016 study, Cornell environmental scientists examined the Hudson River Estuary and found a long list of pharmaceuticals in the water, ranging from the antidepressant venlafaxine, commonly known as Effexor, to the insect repellant DEET.
Now, to be accurate, the chemicals are found in low levels and are considered micro-pollutants, but that doesn’t mean they are harmless to aquatic life. Some chemicals effect photosynthesis, and others disrupt the nervous systems of fish. They even conjecture that some of the pharmaceuticals have caused fish to develop both female and male sexual characteristics. (I’m surprised your wacky friend didn’t lead with that one.)
In a July 15, 2016 press release from Riverkeeper, Damian E. Helbling, one of the authors from the Cornell University School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was quoted as saying: “The results of this study are not surprising. We use chemicals in nearly every facet of our daily lives. The fact is, many of the chemicals we use are excreted in toilets, washed down the drain or transported by rainfall from urban or agricultural landscapes.”
The effect of antidepressants on the river isn’t yet fully known. I’m actually pretty proud of the fact that I decided to skip “the fish are much happier now” joke. Pollution isn’t funny.
Q: Recently you wrote about Bruce Springsteen’s show at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, which actually occurred in New Jersey, not Port Chester. I have another Boss-related question. According to his autobiography, his first two albums and the hit “Born to Run” were recorded at 914 Sound Studios. Where in Westchester was the studio?
—Matthew Barone, Peekskill
Studios in Blauvelt, New Jersey
Photo By Claire sheridan
A: I really don’t think Bruce has anything against Westchester; I really don’t.
The fact of the matter is, the iconic studio wasn’t in Westchester at all. It was in Blauvelt, which is in Rockland County. The 914 area code formerly encompassed not only Westchester and Rockland but also Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, and Delaware Counties. In June of 2000, the 845 area code was created and assigned to Rockland, Putnam, Orange, and Ulster Counties, as well as parts of Dutchess and Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, and Columbia Counties.
The 914 Sound Studios closed in 1975. Janis Ian’s number-one album, Between the Lines, was the last album cut there.
Peekskill’s Birdsall House
Courtesy of Westchester Breakfast Club
Q: I once read that the Birdsall House in Peekskill was once George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Is this true?
—Megan Reese, Katonah
A: Is it true? Well, sort of. According to my BFF, Patrick Raftery of the Westchester Historical Society, Washington did use Birdsall House as an HQ in the Revolutionary War, but it wasn’t the current building in Peekskill. The current structure, also called Birdsall House, is a restaurant.
The original was demolished in 1853. In 1931, a committee placed a plaque at 965 Main Street to commemorate Washington’s time there. That address is now a parking lot across the street from Birdsall House.
Perhaps more useful is that Birdsall House restaurant gets a 93 out of 100 rating from www.beeradvocate.com for their selection of brews. So you can go there and raise a glass to the Father of our Country.