2010-01-08 / Top Stories

Beach 88 St. Proposed For New Bayfront Park

By Nicholas Briano

The site, located at Beach 88 Street and Beach Channel Drive, may soon be transformed into a new waterfront park. The site, located at Beach 88 Street and Beach Channel Drive, may soon be transformed into a new waterfront park. A vacant lot on Beach Channel Drive at Beach 88 Street, within view of the Cross Bay Bridge, may one day become Rockaway’s newest bayfront park; it was announced last week by The Trust for Public Land (TPL).

According to TPL, a national conservation organization established in 1972, the organization negotiated a solution for the one-acre of waterfront land with the landowner in 2008. Originally planned for 20 single-family homes, the new park will bring the community in touch with more than 500 feet of Jamaica Bay shoreline. TPL anticipates the property will host activities such as fishing, picnicking, and launching small human-powered boats.

This is the third waterfront amenity along Jamaica Bay shorelines proposed within the last two years. The first is a proposed marina at Beach 80 Street, which is still planned to be built in conjunction with The Arverne By The Sea project, and a recently scrapped plan to rebuild a section of bay wall and create a park along Beach Channel Drive across from the Belle Harbor Yacht Club near Beach 126 Street.

As with the previous plans of waterfront amenities that were never built or are still proposed, Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska remains skeptical, but admits it is good to see interest in the area. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation would be building and maintaining the Beach 88 Street property.

“The community board was never notified about the sale of the land until the day before it was announced,” Gaska said. “There is no money in the city’s budget for a park like this and Parks must work with the community board to develop a plan. But in this fiscal climate not much will be done soon.”

The property was purchased for $1.925 million using Port Authority of New York and New Jersey funding which allowed TPL to donate the property to the City. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has not announced a construction start date for the project. However, published reports have indicated that construction is planned for the spring, despite the city’s current economic climate which includes a budget deficit that could reach $4 billion by next year.

Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers President Dan Mundy believes any increase in public waterfront access is a good thing for the community and the bay.

“Well I think anytime we can take some waterfront land and create public access, it is a good thing,” Mundy said. “We would have lost buffering on the bay with housing development.”

But Mundy still thinks everyone involved could do better.

“It is not the most pristine wetland possible. There are many other smaller parcels that I am concerned with,” he continued. “There are wetland parcels that go right down into the water that are really important and should be put into public trusts and protected as well. But for some reason, there is no interest in the smaller pieces of wetland.”

It is the preservation of the smaller pieces of wetland that are just as vital to the ecology of the bay, Mundy says.

TPL says that the communities surrounding Jamaica Bay have only 1.16 acres of parks per 1,000 residents and the new park would serve more than 2,400 people living within a quartermile. TPL to date has protected more than 600 acres that connect to the New York harbor.

“New York City is committed to increasing access to our waterfront. From the East River, to the Hudson River, to the Bronx River, to Jamaica Bay, there are more opportunities than ever for New Yorkers to enjoy active and passive recreation,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in a statement. “I am grateful to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for funding this project and to The Trust for Public Land for their leadership in acquiring this property, which will provide a new venue for fishing, picnicking, and more along the southern Queens waterfront.”

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