2003-04-26 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks Stones

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


Bernard Blum standing in front of NYC Audubon Society Conservationist Chair, Al Appleton, at Dubos Point cleanup in 1984. By 1994 the Conservationist Chair was NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner with a Jamaica Bay plan that includes “Buffer The Bay” and sludge dewatering and the Idlewild storm sewer. Ron Burke, NYC Audubon Society activist, is opposite them.Bernard Blum standing in front of NYC Audubon Society Conservationist Chair, Al Appleton, at Dubos Point cleanup in 1984. By 1994 the Conservationist Chair was NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner with a Jamaica Bay plan that includes “Buffer The Bay” and sludge dewatering and the Idlewild storm sewer. Ron Burke, NYC Audubon Society activist, is opposite them.

Angelo Guarino (letter in April 19 The Wave issue) has a praiseworthy expression of discontent though it is a bit late to curb the one-dimensional housing developmental trend that has developed for the Rockaway Peninsula Federal and State/City Coastal Zones.

Guidelines exist for these zones. But has the New York City element, the NYC Local Waterfront Revitalization Program or LWRP, guidelines seen applied well by bureaucrats if topsoil stripping is called mosquito control and even rights of way to the water and view corridor guidance are ignored?

Some explanation goes like this: Edward I. Koch, former Mayor of NYC and former "Voice of Reason" WABC Radio talk show host, has written several books on politics and his mayoralty years. Index checks have never turned up a section on the ‘city’s Arverne/Rockaway’s local sandbar politics’ that would have ‘foisted’ the Oceanview "cash cow" on "Rockaway the Remote" locals (actually yokels) a mini-city of urban sprawl with lack of proportionate transportation for a legal 20,000 units with the fallback on more projects if homes and condos did not sell! Queensboro President Claire Shulman and other elected officials also supported this major coastal development initiative. Habitat replacement, storm water pollution reduction, and beach erosion/flood control were issues to be addressed (mitigation of impacts, the jargon).

This ‘sardine canning’ (eventually 7500+ units were approved by the Board of Estimate) could be undertaken in the "Remote Lambs" of the happy zombie population by the mayor, et al. The mayor, a figurehead for all the development forces. After all, the Harvey Schultz, ex DEP Commissioner and Oceanview head honcho, impact statement ‘negated the need to adhere to waterfront guidelines by "insisting" that because the boardwalk separates the beach from inland, it wasn’t necessary! Note beach use there over ten years later is a liability issue and much reduced!

For Friends of Rockaway, Inc, this columnist had been a participant in the review of city/state Waterfront Revitalization Programs, a.k.a. Coastal Management Programs (CMP), for coastal zones, and so recognized a ‘phony argument!’ But few opponents of the huge proposal focused on this issue. Yet the U.S. department of Commerce had funded the state and city programs (the city LWRP and insert in the state WRP) with the idea that the federal initiative guidelines will be followed….by the city/state guidelines compliance bureaucrats….

But the NYC Department of NYC Planning Commission’s Waterfront Division gave Rockaway zilch attention and although Community Board #14 was asked to object there was no response…....an Oceanview proposal of 10,000 units was Board approved on 17 conditions that were unlikely to be complied with in a short period of time if ever….no interest in recreational/eco-tourism dollar…..

The 1984 Duke Kahanamoku Way dedication at Beach 38 Street (father of American surfing and Olympic swimming Champion) was mapped out – then on protest mapped in – which proves it takes a little protest to promote even symbolic waterfront recreational access and development for "Rockaway the Remote!" (also refers to appearances of "remote control" by insiders.)

At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administered hearings for the city and state waterfront programs (1978-82) was the first encounter with the highly influential Eugenia Flatow (then of the Environmental Policies Forum). With her was an associate Robert Alpern (from the Citizen’s Union) who had been holding Gateway and Project 208 sewering improvements programs meetings. This columnist attended for Friends of Rockaway, Inc. Unfortunately there was not much local interest….But the "Jamaica Bay Taskforce" (post 1978-82) did come out of the meetings after a 1984 Jamaica Bay Symposium that Congressman Joe Addabbo lent his support to (see previous Flatow references).

To speed up gushing of high fertilization water, Appleton’s plan has also called for shallowing up/restoring borrow pits. Note the plan, since NYC was blocked from dumping sewage sludge in the ocean, caused even more fertilization pollution from sewage sludge dewatering and "the centrates" should be directed elsewhere given the crumbling wetlands island problem and algal blooms that decay and lower bottom oxygen levels.

So there appears to be a consensus or conspiracy by a power elite and NYS to botch up coastal zone guidelines applications meant to protect the Jamaica Bay and watershed habitat and water quality!

The "Buffer the Bay proposal" of the NYC Audubon Society and Trust For Public Land (Includes Friends of Rockaway site) for the periphery of the bay "could not buffer against alleged mismanagement! Note plants and soil are considered effective in reducing immediate pollution impacts to adjacent water bodies like Jamaica Bay. Paved water impervious parking lots with no bordering plants, for example, are ‘more polluting’ than pervious gravel ones in a buffering program.

Is this columnist angry in a ‘reasonable sort of way’ and justified? So Mr. Guarino, whatever has happened to the Rockaway/Jamaica Bay element in coastal zone programs has been influenced by power elites, bureaucrats and politicians in whatever order you wish to choose! Does a mix of residential/tourism appropriate for close to home enjoyment seekers in a reduced economy have the potential to lift more local boats or just residential/real estate economy ones?

Note the ex-mayor, at a public meeting on Arverne, referred to Rockaway as a "remote" location "and fit for such an unreasonable development proposal from the city developer/political com­­plex?"

But to repeat it’s an easy feat in happy zombie land! Mixed use Tech­nodrome type plans have shifted to the NJ Meadowlands and Coney Is­land has retained its waterfront rec­reation with aquarium and baseball stadium an addition…

….not even street signs for the Duke Kahanamoku Way "symbolic dedication" of 1984….and his wife, who donated use of his name, only wished correct spelling. Where is there local gratitude?

To be continued….


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