In 1979, twenty-seven dedicated National Audubon members who believed that a voice was needed for New York City's natural environment founded the New York City Audubon Society (NYCAS). Pioneering the protection of grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and wildlife throughout the five boroughs, the new chapter addressed the critical task of preserving New York City's natural habitats. That small beginning grew to a membership of over 8,000 environmentally-committed city residents, becoming the largest of National Audubon Society's 518 chapters.
The chapter's conservation work started with the Grassland Restoration and Management Project (GRAMP) at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, a model habitat reclamation effort for grassland species in 140 acres on Jamaica Bay. Recognizing the need to further safeguard Jamaica Bay's coastal area, NYCAS collaborated on Buffer the Bay (1987) and Buffer the Bay Revisited (1993), proposing strategies to preserve 14 sites on this fragile wetland.
NYCAS also initiated the Harbor Herons Project, a program that monitors the nesting patterns of colonial birds on five uninhabited islands off Staten Island, Bronx and Queens. The scientific data collected from these extraordinary rookeries since 1987 has been fundamental in assessing breeding success of egrets, herons, ibis, and other wading birds, and negative impacts of oil spills in the Arthur Kill. In the fall of 1996, the chapter launched a new study, inventories of neotropical migrants using the islands as stopovers.
In and around the city and as far away as Alaska, Guyana and the Galapagos, NYCAS naturalists lead numerous field trips, including special Saturday morning bird walks from the Dana Discovery Center and the northern end of Central Park. Tens of thousands of local school children receive NYCAS' nature publication Look Around New York. Each year, the chapter awards New York City educators with scholarships to attend Audubon ecology camps.
NYCAS offers classes in bird identification and nature photography. Monthly membership programs (open free to the public) are held on such topics as marine life in Jamaica Bay, butterflies and moths of the region, wildlife of the arctic tundra and more.
An annual photography contest is held in June.
NYCAS confronts important local issues and is a founding member of the Pure Water Alliance, a coalition of activists dedicated to protecting New York City's drinking water. Participating in National Audubon's Armchair Activist Campaigns, the chapter also addresses national issues.
In true Audubon tradition, NYCAS Board members and volunteers carry out these chapter programs and projects, with assistance from an executive director and an advisory council. Committees focusing on wetlands, wildlife/endangered species, The Urban Audubon, field trips and nature photography meet regularly.
In 24 years, New York City Audubon has assumed a leadership role in environmental education and stewardship of the city's grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and wildlife. The chapter receives financial support from members, foundations and corporations, as well as from local, state and federal funding sources.