2003-06-20 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks Stones

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

Mayor Giuliani rose to national prominence on the dead bodies, body parts, and pulverized human beings that were a result of the attack on the World Trade Center in September 11, 2001!

He was quota driven even to the amount of topsoil piles that disappeared from Rockaway lots (public and private), and he did not care about people’s feelings. Abuse of Constitutional rights cases skyrocketed and it was all pathetic!

His Commissioner of Parks, Henry I. Stern, when Mayor Koch’s Commissioner of Parks, had published a New York Times article map that showed the entire Rockaway Peninsula sent to waterfront oblivion! It was mapped into Nassau County and not as an oasis for recreational enjoyments. But Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk were there in this Park’s Department Guide – the "Green Pages of 1988."

Dubos Point Wetlands Park was inaugurated by Stern in 1987 and the strip-mining of topsoil and living vegetation (in the Community Board 14 mosquito-weed program) effort with the Queens Division of Lot Cleaning (under Commissioner of New York City Sanitation Department John J. Doherty (sanitation bureaucrat under Mayor Koch) had begun or was in planning phase. By 1995 it was unstoppable!

There must have been a quota on volume of stagnant water at Dubos Point (Beach 63 Street and DeCosta Avenue in Arverne) versus the density of mosquitoes within swarms that could be achieved! Since there is a municipal regulation against storing water, Department of Health Commissioner Neil Cohen must have looked the other way at this quality of life achievement in reverse! He never answered my letters on this stagnant water problem. Commissioner Stern did but it seems that ‘access for mosquitoes’ in Rockaway is more important than public access to the shorelines especially beaches (Dubos Point wide open to mosquitoes/ my beaches 67-69 closed and sentrified by Parks enforcement personnel)! Letters sent on the closure issue were also ignored – must have been a quota on how many beachgoers could be chased away (and given access to the B. 67 Street "A" train stop). So there was outstanding quota productivity here too!

Mayor Bloomberg is trying to emulate these kinds of achievements, which bury Rockaway as waterfront! Hopefully, protests will be successful and access to beach and boardwalk use will be promoted! Mosquitoes were always there at night on the boardwalk and hopefully lessening the stagnant water at Dubos Point as a quota will be achieved too. But officials and bureaucrats can be stubborn…..

Here it should be noted – to be fair – that the Giuliani administration, through the efforts of Commissioner Stern and his Natural Resource Coordinator Marc Matsil did a super job on preserving a lot of green space with wetlands restorations that involve mosquito control. So what factors in Rockaway should be examined that hindered this kind of excellence in conservation and access elsewhere…..

But back to access. Take surfing, for example……So in connection to the above on Rockaway waterfront being made ‘more inaccessible," at the June meetings of the Management Committee of the NYNJ Harbor Estuary Program (NYNJHEP), when I again insisted that "Surfing" be inserted in "Goal 3. Public access – Ensure that all residents in the Core area of the Harbor have public waterfront access sites within 30 minutes of their home for boating, fishing, swimming, and/or waterfront leisure (e.g. walking, bird watching, and picnicking) without harming important habitat areas."

Robert Nyman (NYNJHEP Director) again rejected the point made with all the other Management Committee members present. How many live in New Jersey, Connecticut or upstate New York, I don’t have information on. But the program gets at least a half a million dollars a year to carry on its goals of protecting habitat, water quality, cleaning up toxic dredge spoils for disposal, and improving waterfront accessibility, etc., ‘at least surfing’ should be included and because in this phase of the program the language of "Goals and Targets" is being worked out.

For example if public access is a goal, then a target to increase the waterfront access points by 2009 by a given amount is stated.

And when all the problems with the specifics of Rockaway is brought up, it’s never discussed (e.g. harassment ticketing, liability issues, etc.)

So the readership might do the following:

Call Robert Nyman at (212) 637-3809 and remind him that surfing access is important to Rockaway and should be inserted in goal 3.

Or better write him, NY/NJHEP Director, at USEPA offices at 290 Broadway, 24th Floor. New York, NY 10007, and explain the importance of Rockaway and Jamaica Bay having a separate and specific "goals and targets" treatment given problems (especially experienced ones). Copies to The Wave might pile up for visual impact for positive change.

Hopefully, The Wave will publish the 1988 Parks Guide map and the Army Corps map showing the creeks.

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