2003-08-01 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks Stones

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

Eugenia Flatow, left, the chairperson for the Coalition For The Bight and the co-chair for the Harbor Estuary Program, listens to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Scientist Len Houston at a recent environmental meeting that will one day impact Rockaway.Eugenia Flatow, left, the chairperson for the Coalition For The Bight and the co-chair for the Harbor Estuary Program, listens to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Scientist Len Houston at a recent environmental meeting that will one day impact Rockaway.

It’s getting hot and humid in the Arverne/Edgemere area and in the mosquito impact zone that runs from bay to beach in that area!

Sarah Colson, Corresponding Secretary of the Arverne Civics association, put a list to my face and blurted out something about me willing to destroy the local sanitation department (she did that while sitting next to me at the July 24 CB #14 review meting for the Draft Environmental Impact statement on the Arverne Urban Renewal Area).

Colson just nodded when asked about following upon a suggested draft of a request to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to fund opening up the "Mosquito Farm Creeks" at Dubos Point Park in Arverne (Beach 63 Street and DeCosta Avenue in Arverne).

By opening up the creeks the volume of stagnant water is reduced (so there is less effective mosquito breeding) and bait fish also feed on the mosquito larvae. The tall reed grass Phragmites also disappears because it does not tolerate as much salinity as the free flowing creeks brings into the marsh. Technically, this is called "Open Marsh Water management" and tidal flow restoration is used to feed the baitfish with the mosquito larvae!

Hostility should be directed at the Parks Commissioner Benepe who has so far refused to fund opening up the "Farm Creeks" and the Sanitation Commissioner (John J. Doherty) whose agency removed plants and topsoil (not just refuse) but not mosquitoes (that still tryst the life fantastic at Dubos Point)!

If activist Barbara Hillary (who was featured in last week’s Wave) reads this column, she should feel the same about that agency’s indifference to a longstanding problem with a simple solution- ‘open the creeks!’ The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a plan, but a city agency local sponsor is needed! A state sponsor is also a possibility to share costs!

As to any hostility to myself and piping plovers in the review process, environmental agencies and groups have already put in a bid to preserve Arverne/Edgemere URA’s green open space and "the system" blocks cross communication between the development-oriented local groups and the environmental coalitions concerned with habitat preservation!

The "system" operates at Community Board #14 level and is hostile to information input at meetings (though some is tolerated during meetings if enough effort is made). But back to review and the previous column…

Imagine Vincent S. Castellano (co-chair Arverne Renewal Committee) and Zandra Meyers (also co-chair) as leaders of an island primate troop that feeds mostly in a fig tree jungle. I am a leader of a smaller troop of primates that feeds on the same figs.

The bigger troop leaders say we can knock down the fig trees that feed us, go onto others and sources or move to another island. (A third troop wants to thin out the fig trees or natural events are killing them).

I am saying that we should save more of the fig trees for the future! It’s called sustainable development and a good idea given all the global extinctions taking place where human population expansion crowds out green open space.

Naturally there is the right to disagree and while ‘island-like Rockaway’ may not be the "Garden of Eden" metaphorically, good stewardship (Genesis 2:15) saves more of the fig trees than the type of dominion (Genesis 1:28) that in the extreme form dominates the fig trees to extinction (so no more benefits from figs)!

Gerry Wall, an architect and city planner who leads the HPD consultant group for the Draft Impact statement is at the review meeting and says –unquestioning – that the green open space (the fig forest) has been reduced from 116 acres to 59 acres (compares former 1990 Oceanview to current one) and the Central Park is down to 30 acres from an original 50. Whether the environmental review agencies will accept fewer fig trees under local and political pressure is hard to figure. A vote at the Habitat Work Group of the Harbor Estuary Program in December already has called for a much larger green open space (bigger fig fruit).

There is also another program that overlays the Habitat Work Group and the Harbor Estuary Program. It’s called the Hudson Raritan Estuary Needs and Opportunity Program and will be deepened and widened for increasingly large container ship to enter the Harbor (naturally deep to begin with).

As un-requested volunteer and unofficial Rockaway waterfront specialist, I have called for more green open space in Rockaway (includes beach to bay park in Edgemere) and Dubos Point to be prioritized for restoration that includes mosquito control. Along with the Natural Resources Protective Association of Staten Island we have called to keep out toxic dredge spoils for Norton Basin and Little Bay, Grassy Bay, etc.

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