2002-01-19 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks and Stones

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

A press release from the NYC Audubon Society of 1987 (the year Dubos Point, AKA "Mosquito Point" was dedicated in Arverne) points out "the need for the creation of accessible inland and shoreline greenbelts" as identified by the President's Commission on American Outdoors as top priority. The Jamaica Bay estuarine shoreline thus presents an opportunity for New York City and State to set a national example through the creation of an accessible, linked and protected urban shoreline park system…" Thus "Mosquito Point", as it still is, thanks to local and extra-local agreements, ushered in this "Buffer the Bay" shoreline park system, and as in last week's column there is a need to scratch for answers to figure out what went wrong, why anything other than conservation was achieved.

But as we all know, by 1996 it was observed that the "estuarine Jamaica Bay" had not been sufficiently buffered and the wetland islands have been crumbling away. Maybe it's the sum total of all past acts: stabilizing Rockaway inlet and channel dredging into the bay, digging pits to obtain landfill, dredging the bay for beach nourishment, pouring excessive amounts of raw sewage and treated sewage effluents of high nitrogen and phosphorus content, using the bay for road run-off from even the JFK Airport (good dose of antifreeze chemicals, etc.), and other stressful manipulations including Runway 22R/4L extension onto Joco Marsh which stagnates currents, thereby adding to sedimentation rate of poisoned sediment particles settling to the bottom, etc.

The last Jamaica Bay Task Force Meeting had members vociferously pointing out how NYC Department of Environmental Protection scientists were not in the right locations for testing and observing the death of the bay ecosystem as in the last big raw sewage emission and in previous events. And so while the bay is still vital the edges are dying according to such local experts.

So Buffer the Bay of 1987…and it's a bit late 1996…and a worst case scenario is before the end of the decade. The islands are kaput but for Joco Marsh and some dredge spoils marshes.

But all is not lost pollution-wise. The Baykeeper and Soundkeeper (Long Island Sound) recently reported having completed litigation with NYC Department of Environmental Protection to reduce high nitrogen polluting effluents into Jamaica Bay and other parts of the Harbor and the Sound. But for Jamaica Bay say a prayer too for better stewardship with agency compliance!

In fact NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) under Commissioner Albert F. Appleton (who came out of NYC Audubon) formulated a â018Jamaica Bay Plan' that incorporated "Buffer the Bay", but also emphasized bathsymetric (shallowing up the bottom) changes over Friends of Rockaway's assertion that Runway 22R/4L should have a big pipe run through it in accordance with National Park Service Gateway Management Plans.

Note the concept of buffering water bodies to protect them from runoff and road runoff pollution depends on the natural environment to assimilate or slow down the pollution impact so that the aquatic ecosystem is not destroyed. Jamaica Bay has thus not been sufficiently buffered but, it's still a beautiful and productive water body to protect by the Harbor Estuary Program and member agencies like NYCDEP.

Commissioner Appleton is now Senior Fellow at the Regional Plan Association which is developmentally oriented, employing regional specialization-type think tank analysis. If you don't believe and wonder what Rockaway's specialization is, contact the group and find out.

In 1995 a local activist wrote a leading politician as follows: "A community filled with single room occupancy units that are no longer needed to accommodate tourism because there are no tourists. Your party has fixed that too. And so available housing is…" even for prison gangs. And so the writer had some sense of â018specialization', and maybe the current building boom (post a Technodrome tourist mirage manipulation) is a response from the powers that be on this complaint.

At least a â018recognition of tourism specialization' as appropriate to this sand bar was expressed. And while we didn't get Technodrome elsewhere there is action. For example, the Economic Development Corporation, along with other agencies, has expressed interest in using Jamaica Bay for poisoned sediment "applications". It has proposed a twenty million dollar "Bush Terminal Piers Open Space project, in the Sunset Park part of Brooklyn, as linked to Port of New York maritime development. While it's not a golf course along with wetlands conservation and restoration, the soccer/baseball field, waterfront promenade, fishing pier, cultural facilities, skating pavillion, etc., are suggested for the passive and active recreational component. Funding is to come from a NYS Department of State Environmental Protection Grant, which has mosquito control potential in wetlands restoration, as well as City capital budget funds allocated by the Brooklyn Borough President, the local councilman and the Mayor.

Then there is a Brooklyn Bridge Park that gets its due attention: seventy-five acres of open green waterfront park with spectacular views, a legacy for the new millennium. While it's still in the proposal stage, reportedly the Port Authority, an advocate for poisoned dredge spoils applications, has provided some grant money to move this other tourist-oriented project forward. Will Rockaway ever get such tourist-oriented largesse?

Maybe some powers that be are waiting for this sand bar to wash away, and they are just mum on the subject mirages and all. According to Columbia University experts, the industrial age of the last century poured 600 billion tons of greenhouse warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And it if continues at the end of this century to a level of 3000 billion tons, the acidity caused by the dissolved gas will kill the coral reefs and the rest of the marine ecosystem. So there is a lot to look forward to after the next Noah type flood when the fishes are done in too!

But not to fear there is always the US Army Corps of Engineers beach nourishment with dunes. And the experts contemplate producing building materials in the form of magnesium carbonate from equipment that will dissolve the carbon dioxide in lime water. Updates should appear in future tabloid reports, and of course the Corps and others can build levees and dikes, etc. from building materials derived from trying to save the planet from too much heat. Mosquitoes like heat so at least there will be more of them in the floodwaters from all too tropical rains.

Next time more on the NYNJ Harbor Estuary Program and mosquitoes.

It was reported that astronomers early in January observed a near miss (2 lunar distances to Earth) of a space rock big enough for a big splash or deep pit penetration. Shades of dinosaur extinction and more prayers for ecosystem survival are called for mosquitoes and all!


In 1998 at Harbor Estuarine Program meeting with map of Jamaica Bay on wall. Corps scientists Bob Will points to Norton Basin bathsymetric (shallow up) change diagram. The Corps say this will restore the basin. Environmentalists disagree that using much cheap poison sediments is restoration and given a lot of marine life thriving in there that will be buried.

Bernie Blum discusses Dubos Point and Buffer the Bay at a 1987 Parks Department gathering.

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