2003-04-05 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks Stones

by Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum
Sprayview Sticks Stones by Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

My previous column in last week’s Wave is opposite the obits on page 43 and not indexed. So read it for suit ability given a history of ecological mismanagement of Jamaica Bay ‘due to excess fertilization’!

To continue certainly would create a "dead bay," and we have to ask if this is an agenda we should be following when Dr. Dubos was promoting the Bay as the city’s first environmental (restoration) success story (with all the investment in sewage treatment plants built on its shores to remove excess fertilization)? Is the ‘alternate plan’ to kill the Bay over time for economic activity, like a sick patient with a caretaker – the Park Service – until it passes on? Then it can be filled in again with toxic dredge spoils and refuse in some declared emergency? Several piers were left in Sommerville Basin after the Edgemere Landfill was regarded – for ferries (or garbage scows)?…….Coney Island was more an island till the Bay behind it was filled in (as best recalled) so it’s a distinct possibility the way the Jamaica Bay’s so called restoration program has been managed through the ‘90’s to date by the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program.

Alfred F. Appleton, partner of Eugenia Flatow and former Commissioner at NYC DEP, did get the centrifuges in to dry the sewage sludge but one wonders why the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is not requiring the ‘highly fertilized centrate’ to be shipped elsewhere for fertilizer use (processed or not)? Why continue the eutrophication (algal blooms – oxygen depletion by decay)? And this question is important, since while the partners Flatow and Appleton are influential, it’s ultimately NYS policy that counts whether in water quality or even in the strip-mining of topsoil and habitat for mosquito control (which is not actual control by restoring tidal flow to blocked creeks at Dubos Point and other marshy sites). Even the threat of West Nile Virus and other potential mosquito vectored diseases does not prompt the NYS agencies to fund Dubos Point or a comprehensive program….Why?…

Commissioner Appleton, by the way, was Conservation Chair of the NYC Audubon Society and was a functionary in the Cuomo administration. Governor Cuomo’s son, Andrew Cuomo, became Secretary of HUD in the William Clinton administration. Written communications to him could not stop the ‘improper’ funding of the Vacant Lot Cleaning Grant (but not of wildlife) in the Department of City Planning and Office of Management and Budget administered "Consolidated Plan" of HUD Grants and Housing and Development projects (includes Arverne), which brought on all of the top-soil mining that is being done by the Department of Sanitation on Rockaway’s empty lots. Government was used to "coordinate" strip-mining (actually land clearing) with development. It’s not heroic to eradicate wildlife though it may be to remove snow from blocked streets and a genuine service all the same….

In a review of the City’s overall coastal program, the CD 14 wished to see what I was going to say (which was somewhat outrageous) and obviously the local housing clique was into a done deal, but did not wish any opposition at all!

The current program, mostly residential development, is unbalanced for neither recreational, economic development nor conservation! Conser­vationist Appleton came on like gangbusters promoting Buffer the Bay with a series of Parks with Dubos Point to initiate the process of protecting it from being walled off by development (plants keep pollutants from directly washing into the Bay). There was even a beach to bay park connecting the oceanfront to the bay for wildlife and people.

Before parties unknown snapped their fingers and all the construction began, there were utterances by locals that Rockaway did not need housing and certainly not more than the recreational economic development of a Technodome (indoor year-round recreational center for local employment). It’s still not too late to shift from a sardine can to some aspects of appropriate development where scenic views and rights of way are promoted for coastal access. Or is it?

The State Department of Environ­ment and the NYS Coastal Program policy let the topsoil be removed though the federal grant says this should not happen. The state agencies are fostering unbalanced development and certainly not protecting Jamaica Bay. Federal agencies are not helping much either…..

The mystery in all this is why the liberal democrats – who run Rock­away – would let the Dubos Point dedication and its liberal message be dumped on with year after year of mos­quito bites from huge swarms generated by standing water that does not have to be there! Dr. Dubos coined the expression "Act locally – think globally," and expressed a lot of idealism and spiritual faith! Mosquito traps function but locally are no match for standing water and the tall reed Phragmites (which prefers standing water) un­sightly for many residents. Why Band-Aids and not funded creek openings will be the mystery until it’s accomplished.

There is funding available that the State can release for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin its already planned project for Dubos Point. It was easier to get cooperation from the great Senator Daniel Patrick Moyni­han (just deceased), to arrange the same successful marine biological dred­ging by U.S. Coast Guard patrols off Far Rockaway than getting cooperation to make Dubos Point less a mosquito nuisance. He was indeed a great Senator, and his wit, sensibility, and intelligence will be missed!


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