2006-11-17 / Columnists

It's My Turn

Coastal Zone Management Act Important To Rockaway
Commentary By Richard George


Richard George is a long-time local environmentalist and the president of the Beach And Bungalow Association, a group dedicated to restoring and land marking local bungalows.

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) was approved by Congress in 1972 which authorizes federal funds to all coastal states and municipalities to develop coastal management programs. The CZMA legislation incorporated the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) recommendations and President's Message that was transmitted to Congress in August 1970. The CEQ basically found that there was a need for a National Land and Water use program because the state and local governments were ineffectively managing land and water uses. The public's confidence in the local zoning boards was jaded by granting variances and approving development that did not follow local zoning laws and land use regulations when development pressures were on. The report concluded that the state and local governments needed to follow Federal law and would do so through federal funding and a legal frame work established through a federally- approved coastal management program and financial contract award.

The Coastal Zone Management Act 16 U.S.C. 1452. Congressional declaration of policy (Section 303) The Congress finds and declares that it is the national policy: (1) to preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance, the resources of the Nation's coastal zone for this and succeeding generations; (2) to encourage and assist the states to exercise effectively their responsibilities in the coastal zone through the development and implementation of management programs to achieve wise use of the land and water resources of the coastal zone, giving full consideration to ecological, cultural, historic, and esthetic values as well as the needs for compatible economic development, which programs should at least provide for the protection of natural resources, including wetlands, floodplains, estuaries, beaches, dunes, barrier islands, coral reefs, and fish and wildlife and their habitat, within the coastal zone, the management of coastal development to minimize the loss of life and property caused by improper development in flood-prone, storm surge, geological hazard, and erosion-prone areas and in areas likely to be affected by or vulnerable to sea level rise, land subsidence, and saltwater intrusion, and by the destruction of natural protective features such as beaches, dunes, wetlands, and barrier islands, the management of coastal development to improve, safeguard, and restore the quality of coastal waters, and to protect natural resources and existing uses of those waters and priority consideration being given to coastal-dependent uses and orderly processes for siting major facilities related to national defense, energy, fisheries development, recreation, ports and transportation, and the location, to the maximum extent practicable, of new commercial and industrial developments in or adjacent to areas where such development already exists.

In addition, the CZMA is designed to insure public access to the coasts for recreation purposes, assistance in the redevelopment of deteriorating urban waterfronts and ports, and sensitive preservation and restoration of historic, cultural, and esthetic coastal features, the coordination and simplification of procedures in order to ensure expedited governmental decision-making for the management of coastal resources,

The State and City worked together with the Department of Commerce to put together an FINAL Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for its Coastal Management Programs that establishes the statutes, laws, regulations, and 44 enforceable coastal management program polices that shall be applied for all activities and projects in the coastal zone boundary. New York has the authority to implement the CZMA through its state legislation under Article 42 of the Waterfront Revitalization and Inland Waterways Act and the State Environmental Quality Review Act and City's Environmental Quality Review Acts under Executive Order 91. This State and City legislation is exactly the same policies and goals as the CZMA.

The main requirement in the FEIS is that NYC revises its zoning regulations and building code to conform with the essential neighborhood character as part of the CZMA preservation requirements. So far since 1982 the City has not completed any revisions to the zoning or building code for the entire Rockaway Peninsula and for over 22 years the State and Federal government has done nothing about enforcing these requirements.

The New York State Coastal Management Program (CMP) and New York City's Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP) were approved on September 30, 1982 by the Department of Commerce. Once approved Federal Policy applies to NYC WRP and NYS CMP which is a product of Federal financial awards and controls funded with U. S. Treasury Congressional Appropriations, which are for a public purpose as declared in the CZMA Declaration of Policy above. The legal instrument of the financial award contract that binds New York City and State as recipients of awards legally required to adhere to the authorities to implement the CZMA defined in 15 C.F.R 923.132 (e) in order to accomplish a public purpose authorized by Federal statute: for the general Welfare of the United States, shall be uniform through out the United States, 1451(b) "to the present and future well being of the Nation" (e) essential to the well being of all citizens." The only problem is that the State and City have received federal funding of over three billion dollars since 1982 to advance public access, parks development and wetland restoration but are not adhering to their management programs or the legal instrument of the federal financial award contract with land and water uses in the coastal zone that include the Rockaway Peninsula.

The Federal government is not enforcing the contract award by allowing the State and City to give away the waterfront to developers who have eliminated public access streets and easements and with out of control and out of character development that is in violation of the CZMA.

A prime example being the approval of Arverne by the Sea that has eliminate 46 public streets and 10 park areas to the public beach and Atlantic Ocean in violation of the CZMA and the citizen's basic civil rights under the Civil Rights Act.

Despite all the efforts of Congress and the Council on Environmental Quality the public's confidence in the local zoning boards remains jaded as the City continues granting variances and approving development in violation of Federal Policy, Civil Rights and CZMA and the State and Federal Government do not enforce the provisions of the CZMA contract award. John Baxter is right the public is not getting their money's worth.

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