New York

Don’t Call Them Shark Bites

Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll see whether there are more sharks in the waters off New York, or whether it only seems so. And we’ll find out about the city comptroller’s audit of a $432 million no-bid contract with a scandal-plagued migrant services firm.

Credit…Michael Sohn/Associated Press

It has been six weeks since a shark bit a 65-year-old woman who was swimming off Rockaway Beach. State statistics indicated it was one of 17 “negative human-shark interactions” in New York waters since 2018, raising a question: If more people are encountering sharks, are more sharks out there?

Merry Camhi is not turning up the volume on the theme from “Jaws.”

“We don’t think there are more sharks,” said Camhi, the director of the New York Seascape Program at the New York Aquarium. “We don’t have any scientific data to support that.”

She is an author of a paper published in the Journal of Fish Biology that said that “more systematic surveys are required” to get a better sense of what sharks are here and whether the population is shifting.

Even DNA from water samples can answer some of the questions. Scientists did genetic analysis on tooth pulp found on a bite victim to identify the transgressor as a young sand tiger shark. That species is known to use the Great South Bay, off Long Island, as a nursery, the paper said.

The paper acknowledged the perception that there are more sharks in the water off New York, but Camhi suggested that perception exists because more people are in the water with more gadgets, like cameras that can record videos and drones that can fly overhead, doing the same.

Despite all the footage and anecdotes, she said, scientists are not seeing a jump in shark populations, which she said remain lower than they were in the 1960s and 1970s. More than two dozen species of sharks are known to circulate in the New York Bight, from Cape May, N.J., to Montauk, N.Y.

The paper mentioned possible explanations for the increase in interactions, including climate change, which some marine specialists say has driven other marine animals north in pursuit of the fish populations they feed on. More menhaden in New York waters means more whales, the director of the South Fork Natural History Museum on Long Island said in June, after two humpback whales died off New York and New Jersey.

But the paper on sharks said that without reliable data about changing populations, “assigning any immediate causality would be irresponsible and risky” to sharks and to “human stakeholders.” Camhi said a workshop planned for November at the aquarium would bring together shark experts to assess possible explanations.

Experts say shark attacks are rare. The Rockaway Beach attack last month appeared to be the first confirmed shark bite off New York City in decades. The family of the victim, Tatyana Koltunyuk, said the attack left her with a “permanent disability.” Her family said that after five surgeries in the eight days following the attack, she would need prolonged medical follow-up and physical therapy.

The city quickly expanded its shark-monitoring efforts, sending more drones, boats and helicopters to watch the waters off Rockaway Beach.

Camhi said there was probably nothing more to see than usual. She said there had been indications that more black-tip sharks were in the area, but that could be a case of mistaken identity: “They are difficult to distinguish from another shark that occurs here regularly, the spinner shark,” she said. “It may be that people are misidentifying sharks.”

Humans are not natural prey for sharks, she said. “If we have to be in the water when they’re in their kitchen looking for dinner, there’s the possibility of interactions,” she said. “I don’t like to call them ‘bites’ and definitely not ‘attacks’ because that infers intention on the part of these animals to hurt humans. That’s not what’s going on. It’s usually an accidental interaction.”


Prepare for a sunny day with a high in the mid-70s. At night, it will be mostly clear, with temps dropping to 58.


In effect until Monday (Yom Kippur).

The latest New York news

Credit…Benjamin Cleeton for The New York Times

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Audit of $432 million contract with migrant services firm

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The New York City comptroller is auditing a no-bid $432 million migrant-services contract and could limit Mayor Eric Adams’s authority to make such deals unilaterally.

The comptroller, Brad Lander, said that the crisis was no longer “an unexpected situation” that emergency contracts were intended for. Lander, who granted City Hall the authority to make such deals months ago, can direct City Hall to stop. That would mean that Adams could no longer spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the crisis using emergency powers.

Lander also told the city, in a letter on Friday, that he was beginning an audit to see how a no-bid contract for $432 million had been awarded to DocGo, a medical services firm that lacked experience with asylum seekers, according to investigations and news reports, including in The New York Times, that also found problems with the company’s performance.

The contract with DocGo took effect in May, but the city did not forward it to the comptroller’s office until last month. Lander then denied approval of the DocGo deal — the first time since taking office last year that he had rejected an emergency contract. But the mayor has the power to override Lander, and the comptroller signaled last week that he would not block payments to the company.

“There are just too many outstanding questions and concerns about this contract and this contractor,” Lander told my colleague Jay Root.

The contract included provisions that seemed structured to benefit DocGo. The company was authorized to bill taxpayers $170 per hotel room per night to house migrants — even though many of the rooms were in upstate motels that cost less than that amount — and then profit from the difference.

The scrutiny comes amid turmoil in the company’s top ranks. DocGo’s chief executive, Anthony Capone, quit on Friday, a day after admitting to the Albany Times Union that he had falsely claimed on his résumé and biographies that he had a graduate degree in artificial intelligence. DocGo’s stock, which was trading at $9.07 on Sept. 1, has dropped through the month and closed at $5.29 on Monday.

A spokesman for the mayor, Charles Kretchmer Lutvak, said that if Lander revoked fast-track approval of emergency contracts, “asylum seekers will have to sleep on the street while they wait for the comptroller to approve city contracts.”



Dear Diary:

I called it the rasp: the steep, treeless blocklong scarp of a sidewalk that connected Amsterdam and Convent Avenues in Harlem and was my playground when I was a 6-year-old girl growing up in the 1950s.

It was a time of learning. I learned to roller skate. Before that, I could only watch the big kids do it. Now, I had my own pair, hand-me-downs from my older sister.

I used the skate key to affix the metal skates to the soles of my red oxfords, a worn-out pair of shoes my mother held in reserve for playing outside.

I learned about momentum. Without a care, I tested my mettle, staring down the rasp from the top of the hill, and took off — whoosh! Flying, unrestrained, astonishing myself, Newtonian laws be damned!

But before I could take a second breath, the clamp on my left skate came loose. Attached only by a tattered strap, it dangled treacherously from my ankle, while my right foot rocketed on, detached and indifferent to the plight at hand.

I learned that the rasp was a flesh-eating serpent, and that roller skates can betray you. Together, they had colluded to take a respectable chunk of my tender young flesh, and blood, from my knee.

I learned that Mercurochrome stings … a lot.

— Lorenza Vidris

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Bernard Mokam and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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