2002-07-20 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks and Stones

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

Eugenia Flatow’s bios describe her as an engineer/businesswoman who has also been a professor. She has worked for HPD and the Army Corps of Engineers, at the NYNJ Harbor Estuary Program (which is a federal program to protect water quality, habitat and to solve problem of toxic dredge spoils disposal from Port of NYNJ channel and birth maintenance), as CAC Co-chair and dominating figure, she has proclaimed a balance between commercial (read Port Authority) and public interests (the stakeholders in the program), but as I have observed she is more a rep of PA issues; e.g. toxic dredge spoils disposal to keep the Port of NY competitive with other ports in a period of bigger world commerce ships needing deeper channels.

My view of a Citizens Advisory Committee is that when a rep from the public comes in with a problem. An example is the blocked creeks at Dubos Point generating untold numbers of mosquitoes and with too much Phragmites (tall tasseled reed grass along bay shorelines). And Sanitation Department Bulldozers are confiscating topsoil and vegetation without court orders, and Government calls this mosquito weed control. You would expect, that there would be a response from her that protects habitat and reduces mosquito numbers by opening up the creeks. Phragmites recede as true saltmarsh grasses grow back. Small fish swim into the creeks to feed on the mosquito larvae. In technical language it’s called Open Marsh Water Management and even small depressions are dug in the creeks for survival of these killifish at low tide.

Well she never gave support to give high priority or even priority to do this at Dubos Point form 1993-4 to date, while other sites listed in my last column were dealt with for funding. Were it not for the Corps of Engineers taking some initiative, Dubos Point would be on no list for opening creeks even with West Nile Virus bringing new awareness about mosquitoes and standing water in bulldozed strip-mined sites.

I gave two presentations at the Harbor Estuary Program Habitat Work Group on the Dubos Point problem. I sent out numerous mailings to agencies, including to her in various positions (CAC, New York City Soil and Water Conservation District, etc.), communicated the issues on Public TV (Bill Mulcahy and then John Baxter Shows), and practically stood on my head for some response from her and/or agencies in her sphere of influence. Finally, she sent a couple of letters to two Sanitation Commissioners about the strip mining, but there was no follow-through as might have been for shipping channels open by disposal of toxic dredge spoils……

She would not let me make a presentation as Chair of the NYC Soil and Water Conservation District. This U.S. Department of Agriculture backed entity has funding, can apply for funding like a municipality or agency, and is supposed to conserve topsoil among other goals. So when the goal is to conserve topsoil in Rockaway as it’s bulldozed away and vanishes while mosquitoes flourish, then what is the conclusion to be made? How to explain so much indifference? I can’t!

Then as the Leader at the Jamaica Bay Task Force, an entity I co-originated with her associate Robert Alpern (then at Citizens Union, now at NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection), she preferred not my presentation that includes bulldozing topsoil problems in mosquito control, but that of the Community Board 14 DM that ignores the issue and only "rutting" or "backblading" is observed and not the massive bulldozing and transport out of Rockaway, a fine export of a product indeed!

Well Bob Alpern did check the Rockaway "weedy fields" and did confirm mine and others’ observations, wrote a report. But wherever it was sent it accomplished nothing because there was no follow-through because one of Eugenia Flatow’s "associates" would not agenda the issue and regulations governing bulldozing land at a subcommittee designed for regulatory integration of agency operations. She gave me no support and I was not informed about certain of these meetings when a key bureaucrat was to show up!

So it is wished that when this analysis is read it makes the points that no support ‘needed strongly’ was received from "a key gatekeeper of environmental management for Rockaway/Jamaica Bay was received. And it’s not badmouthing just for the sake of it. So if you want Norton Basin filled with Port Authority agenda toxic dredge spoils (or adjacent Little Bay, etc.), contact Eugenia Flatow because she calls this "restoration," and not disposal. And by this processing of information pattern, has she really considered topsoil confiscation a form of mosquito control when so many people were getting bitten up at a project I conceived of to reduce the mosquito infestation and bring in environmental programs?

To her credit she keeps tabs about funding sources and government operations and lobbies and has access to politicians and so does a lot of good! But it’s here in this section of the Harbor that she is too influential! For example, has she lobbied Senator Schumer or his protégé, Congressman Weiner, to help out on the mosquito problem on a wider scale to open up creeks at Dubos Point while Congressman Meeks is into housing/commercial improvements?

Senator Schumer has taken up the cause of not shooting resident Canada Geese which is good because shooting all the mosquitoes one by one would be bad and only Rice Krispies should be associated with gunnery solutions! Well he contacted his staff to help me on the bulldozing/mosquitoes, made some calls, got no help…

Audrey Pheffer, longtime assemblywoman, deferred once to Senator Waldon and nothing happened. She and Councilman Ward did bring to town ‘an opening creeks specialist’ from the State Encon. But bulldozers took over and no one would listen to change the course of mosquito control by improving the water circulation at mosquito Point (Dubos Point) until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers broke the pattern. If all the politicians acted in concert, there would not have toba a wait until 2005 to get the ball rolling at Dubos….just a hope…..

Note: mosquito magnets don’t improve needed recirculation of water, for permanent solutions politicians should be aiming for….

Councilman James Sanders once installed Bird Houses at the Point for hungry Barn Swallows (Operation Push), and hopefully will discover the Army Corps approach as more effective.

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