Oysters - QUEENS
From a Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries of the State of New York in Charge of the Oyster Investigation - 1885.
This report estimates that 250 families were supported from the Rockaway oyster industry.

Jamaica and Hempstead Bays "The Western portion of the south shore of Long Island presents a series of moderately deep channels forming an intricate network of waterways, surrounding numerous small and large marshy islands, the whole being guarded by a formidable outer beach of sand, which secures the lagoon-like stretches within and the low-lying islands and shores from the direct fury and action of the waters of the ocean upon the outside. During full or high tides many of the islets are entirely submerged...Ordinarily, however the islands are slightly above tidal limits...The shallower channels surrounding these islands, and those portions of the larger channels nearest to the islands may, at low tide, be left entirely uncovered, or with only a thin covering of water upon them.
"In Jamaica and Hempstead bays changes of the bottom are taking place nearly all the time, old flats and sand-bars are being torn up and new flats and sand-bars being laid down; what was good oyster ground last season has six inches or more of soft mud upon it this year; what was passed over as worthless ground last season may be found to be in fine shape for oyster culture this; and where, only a year or two ago, an opening through the outer beach admitted plenty of fresh sea water and food for the oysters, to-day is solid beach with no opening for miles upon either side.
"In fine, the oystermen here must be on the watch nearly all the time, lest shifting sands and mud transform their beds of living animals into beds of dead and buried shells. The general shallowness of the waters, which, even in the channels rarely attains to a greater depth than twenty feet, offers another serious difficulty to the oystermen of these bays, for in the winter season if the oysters were left upon any of the flats or shoal-water areas, they would almost certainly be killed by the fine ice lodging upon them, or be frozen when left exposed by the ebb tides, and, in the case of an early cold snap, thousands of bushels are sometimes frozen into the ice and lost, so all of the oysters of the shoal-water beds have to be marketed before cold weather sets in, or else removed to deeper water. If the oysters here did not grow with great rapidity this would be a very serious matter to the oystermen, but fortunately this very shallowness produces its counter-balancing good, since the water by being spread out in a comparatively thin sheet over a comparatively wide area, attains a high temperature and thus encourages the growth of the oysters upon the beds, so that the oysters, having plenty of food, grow as much here in one season as they would elsewhere in two or three years; in fact, this growth in certain cases, is simply amazing...
"The oysters ... have to be "drinked," or freshened, before they are sent to market, on account of the close proximity of the beds to salt water. For this purpose, some of the planters of Jamaica bay have built small enclosed docks around springs in the bank and cull their oysters, as they are brought from the beds, into different sections of this dock. Here they are left for a day or more, or until wanted to fill orders, the dock being so arranged with gates that can be filled with perfectly fresh water from the spring around which the dock is built, or with any desired mixture of fresh and salt later. The flavor of the oysters, so far as being salt or fresh, can thus be regulated to a nicety, at the option of the planter.
"In East Rockaway, some of the planters are building large cribs around springs in the bank of the inlet stream, covering these cribs with slatwork, and building houses upon top of the cribs as guardhouses, etc. for the oysters which maybe stowed below. Some of these cribs will hold hundreds of bushels of oysters, and communicate, by means of a flood gate, directly with the outer stream. By opening this gate and admitting the water during flood tide, boats can be moved directly into the crib, unloaded and backed out before the tide falls and empties the place. The gate is then closed and the fresh water fills up the crib, and give the oysters the "drink" necessary to freshen them. if it is not desired to take the oysters to market, they can be left in the crib for an indefinite time by partially opening the gate, so that the salt water shall enter at each flow of the tide and they will be perfectly safe from any two-legged enemy who might wish to appropriate any of them. The house, which is built upon the crib, answers indeed as a guard-house, but is intended more properly, perhaps, as a sorting and packing house for the oysters, which can be raked up directly from the crib through traps in the floor of the house...

"By having a number of these houses, or one very large one , the planters can have hundreds, or even thousands of bushes in readiness to be shipped to market at once upon demand... The Rockaway laws were considered protective, exempting Jamaica and Hempstead bays from 'Public waters', requiring a one year residency to plant, that the proposed planter must prove the land is not planted and have five witnesses to his residency, and limiting the number of acres any farmer could plant and harvest, and establishing penalties for taking from others beds, or planting after residency ends."