2004-06-11 / Community

Talk Of ‘Swampy’ Land Sales Causes Stir

By Brian Magoolaghan

Talk Of ‘Swampy’ Land Sales Causes Stir


Members of the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers and Broad Channel residents look at the DEC Wetlands Inventory map. The undeveloped wetland area behind them, which is shown on the map, goes up for bidding in August. From left to right: Ted Rauert, Dan Mundy and Joe Young.Members of the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers and Broad Channel residents look at the DEC Wetlands Inventory map. The undeveloped wetland area behind them, which is shown on the map, goes up for bidding in August. From left to right: Ted Rauert, Dan Mundy and Joe Young.

By Brian Magoolaghan

A group of residents and local environmental watchdogs have called for the preservation of five "swampy" Broad Channel properties the city plans to auction off in August.

The Residents for the Preservation of Wetlands and Open Spaces sent a letter this week to elected officials on the borough, city, state and federal levels, and to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, calling for permanent protection of about 53,000 square feet of land, spread out over five properties in the island community.

The group says the land, which has escaped development since Broad Channel was established in the 1920s, is part of a thriving ecosystem, provides a "buffer" between wildlife, salt marshes and homes and provides residents with open space. The properties are mostly on the west side of Cross Bay Boulevard between 16 and 19 Roads. They are characterized in a city Department of Citywide Administrative Services listing as having "irregular topography," being "mostly below grade" and as "swampy."

But those descriptions haven’t toppled developers from their foundations – residents have reported seeing potential bidders stopping to survey the territory.

"It’s not a huge problem, but it is a huge concern," said City Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr. Residents fear multi-unit dwellings that would change the face of the community, but that is not likely to happen on these properties, Addabbo told The Wave. "What developer would want to build on ‘swampy’ land?" he asked.

Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska had similar thoughts. "Who is going to buy the land if you can’t do anything with it?" Gaska wondered. He said existing DEC regulations could make building on that land nearly impossible.

Donna Reardon, who along with Dan Mundy, of Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers, is leading the opposition to developing the properties, disagrees. She said moneyed developers flout rules and find loopholes to build what they want.

Mundy sent a letter to DEC Regional Director Thomas C. Kunkel this week urging him to advocate transferring the land to the city Department of Parks and Recreation, which he says could maintain them as they are now, with little cost, and keep them "forever wild."

Mundy and Reardon also suggested that the plan to sell the land for development was ironic considering the state of other wetlands nearby.

"Does it make any sense to sell [the properties] off to developers when nearby we’re losing the marshes in Jamaica Bay and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to rebuild them," Mundy asked.

Both Addabbo and Gaska, who are listed on the DCAS announcement of the auction, pledged to hear and react to the community’s concern, but, a at press time, a formal meeting had not yet been planned.

A total of 20 Broad Channel properties – the unsold parcels from two land sale periods, which allowed the community’s land-leasing residents to own the land where they had planted their roots – are slated for auction in August with minimum bids ranging from $1,000 to $234,000.


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