2004-03-12 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

ByElisa Hinken

A few weeks ago, as reported in this paper, the Jamaica Bay Task Force met to receive an update on activities related to the Jamaica Bay region. A nice turnout of people from various regions surrounding the bay showed up at the Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park.

This being the first meeting I personally attended, I met many people I only spoke to or corresponded with for the last few years. It’s nice to be able to put the faces and the names together. It’s even nicer to know that we are united and concerned about the future of Jamaica Bay.

First on the agenda was a presentation from a representative of the New York State Department of Environ men tal Conservation. Basically put, Steve Zakan said that all data received as part of the feasibility study to fill the borrow pits in the eastern portion of Jamaica Bay will be released in the next sixty days. This voluminous data will be archived at the Jamaica Bay Institute for public viewing and re search. It’s nice to know that it will be held locally, rather than having to trek to Long Island City or Manhattan to view this. A summary of data will be released to appropriate agencies, individuals and others who request it.

So now is the waiting period. We’re waiting for one shoe to drop. We don’t know whether to gear up for a fight
or not. However, we’re ready for one. It is beyond human imagination to fathom why millions of dollars of government money (OUR government money, mind you) are being used to save the marshes and restore wetlands when there is a possibility of massive machinery coming through to tear up these marshes and wetlands in order to fill the borrow pits. It is be yond human imagination to fathom that water levels WON’T rise further as a result of filling holes with over two million cubic yards of dredged material. It is beyond human imagination to fathom how contaminated dredged materials won’t float to the top during filling of the borrow pits and make the entire bay un-fishable. If it saves the U.S. Government $850,000,000. by dis posing of contaminated dredged material via these borrow pits, the Government has every intention to go ahead with this project, regardless of the consequences. This is a scary thought.

Imagine that we can no longer feel that it is an asset to live near or on waterfront property, but rather a liability. Oneida Lake in upstate New York is such a liability. Hotels can no longer attract summer visitors be cause the lake provides poor recreational uses. Oneida Lake is the most toxic body of water in New York State. I always thought the Gowanus Canal was until I read about Oneida Lake. In 2002, researchers began a $3 million, five-year study to determine the best way to detect algae blooms so toxic they’ve killed dogs. "Within 60 minutes of exposure, a 60-pound Labrador retriever was flat-out dead. This stuff can be very toxic," said Dr. Gregory L. Boyer, a State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry scientist.

Not to jump to conclusions until the data summary is released, there are many more questions out there right now than answers.

Another presentation, rather leng thy, was given by Dave Arvin, As sis tant Superintendent of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Rec reation Area. The 30-40 minute slide presentation read like a brochure from a travel agency with lovely pictures, flush with environmental initiatives. Now don’t quote me here, but I think he covered something like 600 acres of activity. At the end, though, there was one glaring thing missing. Not ONE fishing pole was noted in the slide presentation. Not ONE word about fishing was noted in his oral presentation. Why not? Why did Mr. Arvin have to be poked and prodded to respond to inquiries the audience had about fishing? Mr. Arvin finally re sponded that there are 500 permits issued to off-road vehicles for fishing access. Also, the price of parking permits have been doubled this year. So, in our quest to purchase a fishing permit this year, the office at Fort Tilden was closed TWICE during normal business hours so permits could not be purchased. On our third attempt, we were told that all 500 were sold out and in September another round to 200 permits will be placed on sale. Personally, I find it pretty difficult to figure all 500 permits were issued in a two month period in WINTER.

After the meeting, I met with Mr. Arvin to ask why fishing access is not preserved by the GNRA. He told me that he was led to believe that the beaches and bays of Rockaway Point and Breezy Point are private according so "some court case". I asked him if he ever saw such documentation – he replied "No." I personally spent one en tire day looking up court cases regarding Breezy Point and beach access using Lexis-Nexis, an online computer program used by even our Supreme Court! No such case or cases listed! There was one case listed where the NY State DEC brought suit against the Breezy Point Cooperative because of removal of fencing used to protect sand from blowing and dune repair. The Cooperative was fined $10,000.00 That is unrelated to fishing access and the belief that the bays and beaches of the western portion of the Rockaway Peninsula are private! Now I hear a few weeks ago fences were erected in the southern part of Floyd Bennett Field by the seaplane ramp to further restrict fishing access.

Folks, this isn’t lying well with me. Art Wenner and members of the Farragut Fishing Club met with a representative of Congressman Anthony Weiner’s office to address this issue for a SECOND time. If you remember, late last summer the Congressman met with concerned fishing enthusiasts at Riis Landing to hear our position. I think this issue will have to go way over the Congressman’s head. If the fences recently came down in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, the fences will come down here. Fishermen are not second class citizens. GNRA, Jamaica Bay Unit and SPECIFICALLY Dave Arvin wants us to go away and the Congressman is simply being polite.

Next, Bernie Blum from Friends of Rockaway presented his agenda re garding the stripping of topsoil from empty lots and the seasonal invasion of mosquitoes at Dubos Point. Bernie’s position on both points have merit. I’ll write about the stripping of topsoil issue in an upcoming column. How can the city IGNORE the mosquito problem affecting Dubos Point is beyond me. Especially in light of West Nile Virus, one would think the Depart ment of Health would look into this. Maybe it’s Bernie’s way of presenting things that turns people off, but Bernie is definitely correct on these two issues.


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