2003-08-08 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken
On The Bayfront By Elisa Hinken

This week I took a break from my desk. I haven’t had the usual quell in work this summer as much as I usually get to enjoy, but I’m not complaining either! After a very tense week of dealing with a tedious, nit-picking project, I broke free for a few hours, rounded up my husband and youngest daughter early one morning and headed for Howard Beach. Next door to the firehouse moors a party boat, "The Angler". Growing up in Arverne, I developed a great love for fishing and the nearby waters at the age of nine. What was the real highlight of the day for me was the opportunity to view history in the making. The Fountain Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue landfills are closed for remediation and renovations. There are no more seagulls hovering over tons of rotting garbage. No more odors stemming from a vast garbage can, even in the heat of a summer day. I passed those landfills millions of times in my car, but by sea, it was an entirely different view. I was actually in awe!

Municipal landfills in New York State are closed or closing in accordance with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Clean Water/ Clean Air Bond Act. The bond act provides funding for projects to protect and restore New York’s environment, an investment in the long-term health of the state’s environment and economy. Not to mention the health and well-being of people and the shores of Jamaica Bay. A win-win situation for all.

As our boat headed toward our designation of the Marine Parkway Bridge area for some fabulous porgy action, I had the chance to observe the operations at the landfills. A pier was constructed at each of the landfills so soil could be brought in by barge to be used for fill, grading and ultimately, planting. Many vents are visible, which provide for the escape of methane gases under controlled circumstances. Methane gas smells like rotten eggs when released untreated into the air. No smell of rotten eggs noted on my trip. Watching bulldozers, excavators and dump trucks digging, traversing and delivering soil all at once looked like the successful performance of a well-thought operation. Barges being unloaded, awaiting to be unloaded or being "tugged" away for refill by approved contractors was as well coordinated as the upland activities.

Ultimately, the goal of the project is to turn these former heaps of garbage (literally) to four hundred completely landscaped acres of parkland with hiking, biking trails and increased, safe recreational access to the Jamaica Bay waterfront. The residents and visitors the western point of the Rockaway won’t have to put up with the obnoxious views they once suffered with. Nor the garbage that once washed ashore from parts across the water. An oasis in the making. Last year, my family and I visited the Norman J. Levy Preserve in Merrick, another former landfill that has been transformed into a wonderful multi-use park that had beginnings just like the ones we’re discussing today. Wouldn’t we like to see such remediation and renovations at DuBois Point or the former Edgemere Landfill?

Experience these operations from the bay and you can really visualize and appreciate the enormity of the area involved. "The Angler" provides ½ day trips (four hours) for fishing on a clean, family oriented boat with staff that will bend over backwards to make your day a wonderful one. We came away with over a dozen jumbo porgies for dinner, but more importantly, we came away with a breath of fresh air. Methane gas-free fresh air. And a fresh outlook on life.


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