2002-11-09 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks and Stones

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

The "grey line of eminence" was the way retired fireman, Joe O’Connell (of the Hammel Seaside Civic Association) described the experts planning Jamaica Bay restoration back in the hopeful 1980’s.

Not only a bay guardian, he was a giant defense against muggers during the night subway rides to Manhattan environmental meetings.

Joe was intent on reviving the old Rockaway Chamber of Commerce Bay restoration plans for waterfront revitalization and pollution control by restoring the "Far Rockaway Canal."

Filled 1911-12 for real estate development old post cards show it was wide and deep enough for yachts and sailboats as it ran from B. 35 Norton Basin down to B. 31 St. and the ocean.

The idea was that the difference of height of the tides when they changed would push water through the Bay and with the water out goes the pollution (dilution the solution).

So simple – too good to be true – it was on the radar screen of agencies and "experts," but fishing and clamming interests expressed concern with bay disease germs contaminating ocean marine life (measured by fecal coliform tests).

Another complication was that a canal construction could be taken over by large vessel interests with the potential for flooding enhanced.

At any rate when he suffered a stroke and died, I kept the proposal alive at planning meetings. Ocean outfall solutions, as suggested by Wave historian Emil Lucev (with pumps), are alternate approaches to a canal.

After review of previous columns on pollution, readers might wonder whether the "grey line" is just maintaining a sick patient for more programs – not a cure! The crumbling wetland islands ‘symptom’ may be the result….

For how else to explain the Halloween like witching/wizardry ‘spell of offering toxic dredge spoil’ as part of a restoration program for the patient? Let all Rockaway zombies applaud with studies, monitoring, photo-ops and silence….

Another retired fireman, Bill Mulcahy (VP Friends of Rockaway) has taken a skeptical view of another big pipe – the Idlewild Storm Sewer – for flooding relief of Southeast Queens and pollution control.

Whether it will be long time effective with rising sea level and groundwater levels there is this concern as follows.

While flooding relief is one worthy objective, it can be used to conduct north and mid-Queens pollution away from Western Long Island Sound and down into Jamaica Bay making the bay move polluted and flooding the wetland islands more. The design flow for this pipe is 2.46 billion gallons a day. There was no impact statement, nor "gray line of eminence" concern for any problem whatever from such a huge water flow into a sick patient!

So maybe a canal as at Shinnecock Canal Long Island (with locks) would be best to bring back the crowds that once enjoyed Rockaway shores. Have the street signs for Duke Kahanamoku Way been installed yet? There has been one stamp of approval!

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