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Has Ridge hum been solved?

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City Councilman Vince Gentile thinks he’s solved the mystery of Bay Ridge’s great hum-conundrum. But this columnist isn’t ready to award him a MacArthur grant.

The lawmaker was obviously responding not only to local complaints of a hum coming from the water near the Owls Head sewage treatment plant, but also a series of columns I’ve done about the mysterious sound.

It all started in April, 2005, when chiropractor Concetta Butera noticed “this awful noise.”

The hum returned in the following summers and has been so loud that some residents blamed passing trains, the treatment plant, and even UFOs — until this humble columnist floated the theory about a humming fish.

It seemed like a good fit.

The oyster toadfish has been described as “homely” for its large protruding eyes, broad mouth, and flesh-like whiskers surrounding a short snout. To attract a mate, it produces a vocalization that some liken to a “foghorn.”

But that isn’t all.

The toadfish’s spawning season extends from April to October, which corresponds to the time when residents in Bay Ridge hear the mysterious noise. The male locates a private nesting area (often using old tin cans or decayed wood lying on the bay bottom (how romantic), and then calls out in the low, mournful “foghorn” to spawning females.

“The toadfish is Bay Ridge’s story of the century,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “Fox News was even here.”

Still, despite all the media attention, the noisy toadfish was always more fish theory than fish fact — at least until I got the call the other day.

“I think we have solved the mystery,” said Eric Kuo, who is Gentile’s spokesman. “We tracked down a marine biology professor from Staten Island and he did some tests.”

Yellow Hooker was downright skeptical. But Gentile had done his homework, and had Cornell University professor of neurobiology and behavior Andrew Bass test the waters — literally.

“He came to the pier for the morning and dropped a microphone into the water and listened,” said Kuo. “He heard fish, but they weren’t toadfish.”

So I was wrong all along? We can now rule out these aquatic adventurers?

Not exactly. Turns out, there are some problems with the test performed by Bass (if that’s really his name).

Not only was the test performed near the end of the fish’s mating season, but also it is a well-known fact that these gilled Casanovas prefer to mate on hot summer nights. So why did Bass perform the test on a morning in September?

Of course, there is nothing about this mystery that has an easy explanation.

“I placed an underwater microphone into the water at several locations off of Pier 69 and heard no signs of toadfish sounds,” Bass told me, sticking to his story. “It is highly unlikely that any of the noise that residents are complaining about have their origins from fish.”

But if it isn’t the toadfish, then what is making the noise?

Like many great mysterious, every answer gives us more questions — and another column down the road.

Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink

They call that “express”? Sources tell The Sink that residents are up in arms over overcrowding on the express bus, particularly the X37 from Brooklyn into Manhattan. Residents say that not only are the buses late, but finding a space to stand, much less to sit, is impossible. Maybe it is time to rethink the water-taxi idea. …

Hippies beware! Apple Tree natural market, at 7911 Third Ave., may be the local go-to spot for organic health foods and everything natural, but their tie-dye-wearing clientele may need a heavy dose of nag champa after hearing conservative shock-jock Michael Savage blaring through the store radio speakers. “I guess it is kind of strange, but we always turn the channel if people complain,” said one employee. …

Time to stock up on pitchforks and torches. Look for a local group of concerned citizens to begin storming local meetings in an effort to force the hand of community officials into action against a suspected crack house, on 93rd Street between Third and Fourth avenues. …

Earlier this month, Bay Ridge Neighbors for Peace held a rally outside of Rep. Vito Fossella’s Bay Ridge office to protest his support of the War in Iraq — but someone forgot to tell them they were supposed to at least pretend to support the troops. Fliers scattered all over Bay Ridge depicted American soldiers intentionally targeting innocent Iraqi civilians. …

Congrats to Ridge resident Isabella Noonan, who was recently accepted into the United States Naval Academy, where she is also a member of the crew team. Noonan graduated from Our Lady of Angels in the Class of 2006.

Updated 4:32 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Michael says:
Interesting news. The Toadfish explantaion for the hmming noise never really sounded like a valid one. Are there any other, more fact based explanations?

About the Bay Ridge Neighbors for peace rally, more power to them. The war in Iraq has had awful consequences for Iraqi civillians. The millitary's tactics in this war have resulted in far too many casualties and deaths of totally innocent persons. As instigators and executers of this war we must take responsiblity for our actions, and not just chalk everything up to mistakes or try to stick the blame on others. I am glad to hear that the people of Bay Ridge still value human rights and will let local politicians know this.
Sept. 25, 2007, 8:16 am

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