2005-07-29 / Community

Bloomberg Signs ‘Disappearing Marshes’ Bill

By Alyssa Goldstein

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a City Council bill that he hopes will save Jamaica Bay’s vanishing marshes.

The bill requires the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to devise a plan by September 1, 2006 that will protect marshland in Jamaica Bay.

The law also sets up a seven-member advisory committee that will assist the Commissioner in carrying out the protection plan.

Between they years 1924 and 1999, when a study was instituted, the marshland has shrunk by 51 percent, according to local experts, and is estimated to continue to disappear at the rate of 40 acres a year.

The marshes on Jamaica Bay are tidal in nature, freshwater and salty. Such marshes are common in the United States along the eastern coast from Maine to Florida, then continuing to Louisiana and Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.

Tidal marshes provide food and shelter for clams, crabs and fish; absorb nutrients before they reach the oceans; slowdown erosion; and prevent flooding.

The marshlands in Jamaica Bay, which cover 3,400 acres, perform those functions and experts say their decline would harm the ecology of the entire coastal area.

According to a report from the New York City Council, factors affecting the fading marshes include residential development in Queens and Brooklyn around JFK Airport, erosion, sewage and stormwater pollution and illegal dumping.

Efforts to save the marshland were first taken in 2001 by Congressman Anthony Weiner who secured a $598,000 grant from the National Resources Protection Program to research the problem and put forth measures to save the area.

In November of 2002, the Committee on Environmental Protection, chaired by Council Member James Gennaro, addressed the problem. And now, nearly three years later, a bill has been passed to address the problem, which is also being studied by the federal government under the auspices of the National Park Service and Gateway National Recreation Area.

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