2004-07-23 / Front Page

One Year To Get B.C. Properties In Parks Portfolio

By Brian Magoolaghan

Members of the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers and Broad Channel residents look at the DEC Wetlands Inventory map. The undeveloped land behind them is one of the properties removed from the auction.
Members of the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers and Broad Channel residents look at the DEC Wetlands Inventory map. The undeveloped land behind them is one of the properties removed from the auction.

Five canal properties in Broad Channel were scheduled for auction in August but the city is holding them back in reaction to opposition from residents, environmental watchdogs and City Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr. – a move that creates a window of opportunity of about a year to permanently protect the land.

“[We] conducted further review of the canal properties and subsequently decided to withdraw them from the August 4 auction for additional consideration,” said Warner Johnston, a spokesperson for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which oversees city public land auctions. Seventeen other properties – more than 100,000 square feet of land throughout the community – will go on the block as planned.

The locals who opposed the sale of the canal properties now hope to convince DCAS to turn control of the lots over to the Department of Parks and Recreation so that they can be maintained as community gardens. The lots, which environmentalist Dan Mundy called near-perfect examples of tidal wetlands, were never developed. Instead, residents have maintained them – policing for trash and using the areas to take a break from urban life. The lot on 16 Road, for example, is protected from cars and dumpers by a nautical themed fence, which neighbors installed.

Jonathan Gaska, Community Board 14 District Manager, said that if a maintenance agreement can be forged between Parks and DCAS it will be “virtually impossible” for the properties to ever be sold for development. But Parks’ budget might not support the addition of property to its inventory, so a not-for-profit or community-based organization might play a funding or maintenance role, Gaska said.

Mundy thinks Mother Nature will do most of the work. “They’re natural. You just leave them alone,” he told The Wave.

Johnston said DCAS generally holds land auctions once a year, so locals have until at least 2005 to work out an agreement to preserve the properties.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Gaska eyeing a possible one-year deadline.

The August 4 auction will be held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and will start at 9 a.m. A pre-auction seminar will be held on July 21. Call 311 for more information.

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