2001-12-29 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks and Stones

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

Hopefully, the burial crypt of Dr. Rene Dubos in the St. John the Devine Church in Manhattan did not suffer any damage in the fire on December 18. The Dubos Point dedication to the Pulitzer Prize winning author and environmental philosopher (he coined the expression, "act locally, think globally") has been made a mockery by the failure to open up the blocked creeks that keep mosquito breeding stagnant water from flushing with the exchange of tides. All of the parties responsible for substituting the mosquito-weed program of Community Board 14 (bulldozing away topsoil and living vegetation with or without refuse) have perpetrated a mosquito breeding swamp on Arverne and environs and it’s simply pathetic that they have done that.

Five wetlands sites have been chosen by New York State for improvement, but Dubos Point is not one of them, yet Dubos Point (Beach 63 Street and DeCosta Avenue) should have a facility for environmental education as exists at Marine Park in Brooklyn. This should have been incorporated into the Beach To Bay concept that once was part of the New York City Audubon Society’s Buffer the Bay program.

It is still possible to work into the Arverne-Edgemere development plan this north to south wildlife habitat corridor conservation concept, but there has to be a higher level of dialogue and discussion that that was presented on the front page of The Wave last week.

Do fools rush in where angels might be hesitant?" Is The Wave trying to provoke friction in the environmental faction and not just between this faction and those hungering for development? The "Queen of Jamaica Bay" is no earth mother casting wiccan supernatural spells into environmental deliberations. Besides, there is a king, duke, a duchess and some other vassals and pawns in the great game of Jamaica Bay balanced management for development and conservation.

Go to the Jamaica Bay Task Force for direction. This would call for intergovernmental dialogue (between agencies with jurisdiction on bay shoreline and land use issues). There is no power other than that of the individual agencies, however. Were there a legislated Jamaica Bay Agency (Authority, Council) with governance powers, it would be a different case.

The Task Force came out of the 1984 Jamaica Bay Symposium backed by Congressman Joe Addabbo and Robert Alpern of the Citizen’s Union, and now the special assistant to the NYC environmental commissioner. Alpern was holding meetings on Gateway and Jamaica Bay planning associated with a large federal program to improve waste treatment facilities and sewers in areas around the bay. There was already a Flushing Bay Task Force, and it was natural to conclude that one was needed for Jamaica Bay as well – not only for the agencies, but for the public as well.

Since this was not a governance agency, it became like a "show and tell" for agencies and that is what The Wave reported on, even though that report was based on little experience. Hopefully, more Waves rolled out to public attention spans and there will be a more educated presentation of dune grass and built environments interplay on the Rockaway landscape. Designing it will take more public participation. I tried to get an announcement for the reported meeting into The Wave well in advance, but it never got in. Hopefully, a connection has been made for future announcements. I don’t want my lobbying efforts and Bob’s and Eugenia’s efforts for a task force to go to waste.

There has been no help from Eugenia Flatow, who chairs many organizations and belongs to many more, on keeping toxic dredge spoils out of Jamaica Bay. She believes it’s for "restoration," because she is a pragmatist and wants to keep the harbor competitive for shipping and she is right. Even for backup, I do not wish to see Jamaica Bay studied and Jim Scarcella of Staten Island gave an excellent presentation of underwater taping of marine life in Norton Basin to show that no restoration is needed. I call for delisting Jamaica Bay for both disposal and restoration (which is really disposal with a cherry on top). Jamaica Bay has been mined and has too much nitrogen acting as fertilizer and has other pollutants as well. The wetland islands may well be gone in five years (in the worst case scenario). Where is this latest scheme to introduce poisoned sediments into Jamaica Bay leading? Next time, I will write about Arverne and the relevant agencies developing that area.

Just found two beach pictures with no dune grass in the 1940’s. They were necessary for flood protection in those days. Note, on a narrow beach, how packed the crowds are at Beach 69 Street. That beach is blocked off to swimmers today. Wouldn’t an entertainment center there bring back a tourist economy?

There are crabs or fish in the bucket. My Brother and the other bungalow kids used to assemble quite an assortment of marine life. Kids today do not seem to be interested. The object in the rear of the picture is not a "junked car," but a style of wooden groin now covered over by rocks while the beach is elevated to about 10 feet above mean sea level, which makes swimming more dangerous.

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