Addabbo: Save Our Vital Wetlands
City Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., Chairman of the Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, announced that he held a joint oversight hearing on June 20 with the Council’s Select Committee on Waterfronts on "Protecting City-Owned Wetlands Within and Currently Outside the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation."
Councilman Addabbo called on the City to transfer several wetlands it already owns to the Department of Parks and Recreation to ensure their protection.
Addabbo said that Wetlands are valuable resources for several reasons. The councilman explained that Wetlands provide ecosystem services that serve various interests pertaining to the City’s infrastructure and economy. The vegetation of forests and wetlands protects soil, reducing the amount of sediment washing into the harbor and filling up navigation channels and making basins shallower, which saves dredging costs. Wetlands keep our bays and harbors cleaner as plants naturally absorb pollution and act as natural tools for bioremediation and protecting fish and shellfish, and humans who consume them. The shallow water and grasses provide nesting and grounds for fish that the City’s commercial fishers depend on. Finally, the wetlands fringing bays, harbors, and river mouths protect upland communities during storms and high tides by slowing down incoming waves and storing large volumes of floodwaters. Tourism and recreation are also fundamental industries from the Northern Bronx to Jamaica Bay.
Addabbo noted that about 80 percent of the harbor regions historic wetlands have disappeared, taking with them unknown members of plant and animal species and natural controls on pollution and erosion. In the city there are approximately 14 square miles of wetlands, where historically more than 100 existed. The loss of wetlands in the harbor region is especially detrimental to ecological diversity, as the New York region is home to an astounding diversity of ecological characteristics. Each specific reach has astounding importance; for example, Jamaica Bay is home to 20 percent of all species of birds in North America, as it is located where migratory patterns intersect. Addabbo listed the following properties of concern in Queens: Four hundred acres of sensitive habitat in the Arverne Urban Renewal Area in Rockaway; several small lots between Brookfield Park and Springfield Park just north of JFK Airport; two lots that comprise the eastern most portion of JFK Airport and are bordered on the North East by Thurston Basin; several scattered lots throughout the Rockaway Peninsula that would extend park land along protected habitats.
At the conclusion of the hearing the councilman called for the City to transfer these properties to the Department of Parks and Recreation. He said that advocates have testified before the Committees on the value of the wetlands, the importance of their protection, and the significance of these particular properties to New York City.
"From a strictly environmental perspective, it is imperative we preserve our natural heritage. We must also consider the benefits wetlands provide to educational efforts, real estate values, and the integrity of the City’s infrastructure," said Addabbo.