2004-05-21 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken

It is with great relief to read in this newspaper last week that Councilman Joseph Addabbo announced funding to repair the boat ramp at Beach Channel High School.

It made no sense to me why a school on waterfront property which specializes in oceanography and environmental studies would be without a boat ramp.

The whip cream on the cake was the announcement that the ramp will remain open to the public, rather than be restricted by the New York City Board of Education bureaucracy. This is a giant step forward since there are no public boat launches in the Rockaways.

I would like to think the ramp will be usable this season, but bids have to be placed and the repairs commenced, so I don’t think you can count on using it this season. Let’s hope this project can be completed before the opening of flounder season next year. I will personally thank the Councilman at the ribbon cutting to the new ramp. It would be my honor.

As this paper goes to press, the Jamaica Bay Task Force will be holding a meeting at Floyd Bennett Field. It is great to meet a diverse population of people who come from all areas surrounding the bay.

I have personally met a few, but speak to many other attendees via e-mail via listserv on the computer. Various community environmental groups, multiple Community Boards, elected officials, City, State and Federal regulatory agencies, civic groups and businesses were represented at the last meeting, encompassing concerns regard Kings, Queens and Nassau Counties. We’re all stakeholders if we benefit directly or indirectly by the bay. Soon power will be generated to the Rockaways by turbine engines from Bayswater. The Rockaway Waste Treatment Plant discharges into the bay.

Our friends at Kennedy Airport make use of our waters in more ways than I want to list here (both good and bad). In between all that there are the recreational users, the wildlife refuge, an environmental center at Floyd Bennett, other environmentally sensitive areas, an inactive landfill in Edgemere, people bathing in it, the few eelmen left (no more licenses are available) who making their living on the bay, two closed landfills undergoing remediation and renovation for the long range plan of making a new park along the Belt Parkway, our shipping channel for commerce and passenger ferry service to the airport (in planning stages), two bridges and a train trestle connecting Rockaway to two different counties, our waterfront neighbors, many of whom are at or below sea level, our schools and our streets.

How about the barging of fuel to the Bayswater power plant once the turbines are on-line? Of course I left out many other benefits and uses of our bay, but I think you get the idea how important the bay is to all of us.

There are no easy answers to problems that affect the bay because there are so many interests, one side may be unfairly benefiting or negatively affecting the bay. The good thing is that we are meeting, communications are open and there is a growing census of stakeholders who bring their various experiences and expertise to this one table to explore issues together.

Just this week the commissioners of the NY State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health announced a new tool being used by State officials to inform the public of potential risks to health caused by exposure to ozone, fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), or both.

Fine particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter. PM 2.5 can be made of many different types of particles and often come from processes that involve combustion (e.g. vehicle exhaust, power plants, and fires) and from chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

The number one concern in our local area is J.F.K. Airport, followed by our power plants. The number three concern in this local area are the plants that produce concrete, perform recycling of soil, gravel, asphalt and concrete.

Air Quality Health Advisories will be replacing ozone advisories as a more comprehensive gauge of risks facing communities during warmer weather months. This will assist in the aim to reduce ozone and other pollutants in our communities by providing increased notice for at-risk individuals to reduce exposure.

This will more accurately gauge the effects of air pollution on our lives and our environment. This project was long and hard-fought in courts by large corporations and financially significant interests throughout our country and they lost. This was also tied up in litigation in our state for a long time as well.

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