HUNTS POINT — Two days ago Hunts Point developer Steven Smith noticed something unusual in the waters off The Bronx — a harbor seal.
The seal, which was first reported by The Daily News, seems to be settling in around the 5-acre wetlands preserve, which Smith helped build two years ago.
"I've been here 15 years and have never seen a harbor seal," said Smith, the president of Oak Point Property. "It's pretty cool he came in."
Oakie, as Smith has taken to calling him, chose the location where Oak Point Avenue runs parallel to the East River for its tranquility and growing fish population, Smith guessed.
Smith built the wetlands in exchange for development rights on other parts of the property after the community successfully fought to keep the city from building a jail on the site.
"[We] started removing debris and pulled out wreckage and brought in barge load of clean sand," said Smith. "We planted shrubs, trees, vegetation and put in irrigation."
Birds from a nearby sanctuary started to migrate over and the project was nearing completion when natural disaster struck.
"Just when it was looking really good, Sandy came along and took a big chunk out of it," Smith added. "There was tremendous wood debris and wreckage."
But Smith was undaunted and began working with the Department of Environmental Protection to rebuild the wetlands and make them more resilient to future storms.
Eventually, he plans to build a porous pavement road above the wetlands so community members can enjoy views of nature and wildlife.
Half of the Oak Point land he owned now houses the countries largest restaurant depot, which supplies fresh food to local sellers like bodegas, Smith said.
He's working to use the other half the parcel to build a facility promoting the disruption of local produce and foods. There are also plans to put a greenhouse on the facility's roof and have it house several restaurants.