2003-05-09 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks Stones

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

This picture was not taken in 1996, piling up mosquito swarms! It’s the strip-mining of Arverne dirt and plants serving government purpose (insiders included) at public expense!  Commissioner Doherty et al, where did all that dirt go?This picture was not taken in 1996, piling up mosquito swarms! It’s the strip-mining of Arverne dirt and plants serving government purpose (insiders included) at public expense! Commissioner Doherty et al, where did all that dirt go?

There is Biblical commentary that foretells that, at the end of time, the Almighty will be revealed as the cause of events in the natural world (storms, earthquakes, etc.), as well as the fact that there is a clear distinction between right and wrong!

So, in terms of "mosquito control" it is "existential moral nihilism (the destruction between this difference)" to lie that taking topsoil and living vegetation (from public and private land) serves this purpose!

The acquisition and record of ownership of land is important in the Bible and so the West Nile Virus may be thought of as a Biblical plague to punish property rights violations whether locally - specifically Rockaway- and globally (e.g. Third World, and natural resources specifically too!) How much land ownership transfer happened with the city lot cleaning program for "empty lots with no buildings" would be interesting to determine. The West Nile Virus may not be a big epidemic like malaria but out of nowhere from Egypt, Israel and the lands of the Bible comes this "reminder" that something is amiss in the ethics of land operations and transactions!

Mr. Albert Frankel, a landowner, expresses concern that when the Sanitation bulldozers entered his property they acted like Nazis. They damaged his property, took good topsoil, and even billed wrongly. Mrs. Wallingford of Arverne could not understand how this agency could make off with land and leave her backyard a foot above the land-scraped level the agency produced, etc.

Steve Cooper, President of Frank Avenue Civics, has been one Community Board 14 member conscious (in public) of the travesty of taking topsoil and live vegetation and calling it a service (whether the guise of cleaning, mosquito-weed control, or rat control)! His communication with local government (representing NYC) gained a reply from Maria Termini (Assistant Sanitation Commission) in 1994, which said to him (through District Manager Gaska) that Beach 39 to Beach 49 Street lots would be accorded special review before bulldozing and there was voiding of some lots in the mosquito-weed program as of that September….copies went to Sanitation Commissioner Doherty, the Queens Borough President Shulman, other elected officials, Sanitation bureaucrats, and to Steve.

Visitations were observed in the "land grab" and to repeat it was only by 1999 that some slowdown was observed. By then a big mower (Alamo) was brought in, but the city had 2 smaller mechanical mowers that it was reported often broke down…..so bulldozers were used…..

So the Sanitation Department – on inquiry – never reported where Mr. Frankel’s land was transferred to. Commissioner Doherty (appearance at Lew Simon’s Good Government Democratic Club) in presence of Chief Timpone (reportedly Rockaway resident) said the dirt was taken, sifted, but not brought back necessarily to the same site bulldozed. But according to the Consolidated Plan (of HUD), Vacant lot Cleaning Grant, this transfer is prohibited! And the "White Paper" City Sanitation recycling program of 1988 (edited out last column) has the clear intent (to the credit of Mayor Koch) of keeping topsoil on site!

Commissioner Doherty was at that time a lower category functionary I corresponded with on the dumping around Dubos Point, and it’s hard to figure what influences took the program to high levels of existential moral nihilism that so much topsoil is gone, leaving the same mosquito control mess and grief to me!

Note what is even more pathetic is that communication to Councilman Walter Ward, way back when, had resulted in a sanitation program to deal with public health issues. Certainly, the mosquito swarms are still healthy! Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer brought in the State Environmental Conservation Agency Rep (Domenick Ninavagi) who introduced the idea of opening up creeks to feed mosquito larvae to fish as tides flushed them out of the stagnant swamp waters.

But the city chose to strip-mine topsoil in a mosquito-weed program. Congressman Schumer was told mosquitoes breed in plants and topsoil removal was minimized!……

So it should be grief to all that existential moral nihilism has become part of a city service! A city consultant even (by omission) has said the mosquito-weed program does not exist……Should Steve been told that in 1994, would he have believed it?…….Councilman James Sanders has obtained $250,000 from warehouse developers (in the swamps of Jamaica Bay) for environmental programs. Maybe he can introduce some cash to move the mosquito control/wetlands restoration program at Dubos Point forward?

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