Reclaiming The Bay
(Reality from the Past, Dreams for the Future)
Jamaica Bay, New York, was once a pristine body of water, resplendent with nesting and migrating ducks and other waterfowl. Ocean fish like bluefish, weakfish, codfish, striped bass and even great schools of mackerel abounded. It was a paradise for hunters and fishermen. As a kid back in the 30’s, I remember catching snappers and mackerel as they spashed by the thousands off the Arverne docks and piers. But that Letters Jamaica Bay doesn’t exist anymore and neither does old Rockaway.
Originally, the Rockaways weren’t a peninsula. The Rockaways were a series of scrub-growth and windswept sand-dune islands stretching westward from what we know today as Far Rockaway. The Atlantic Ocean swept through the channels between these sandy islands and flushed Jamaica Bay thus bringing in its bounty. As New York’s population grew, these islands first were connected by bridges and later by land fill. With the cleansing salt water of the Atlantic cut off by eliminating the channels, the Rockaway peninsula emerged and the demise of Jamaica Bay began.
Over the ensuing years, with population and tourist growth, the Rockaways entered on its golden age. But Jamaica Bay continued its decline, raw sewage the main culprit. The widespread use of DDT also contributed to the almost complete elimination of the fiddler-crab and the thinning effect on seabird eggs. It is true that the use of DDT was eliminated and corrective sewage measures were made, but through the passage of time, it is obvious that the flushing of Jamaica Bay only through the channel under the Marine Parkway Bridge will never restore Jamaica Bay from its present day semifetid condition.
Reclaiming Jamaica Bay is not a pipe-dream, but a reality waiting to happen. When and how long it will take is the only unknown.
A possible solution “ would be to open a channel or channels along the Rockaway peninsula that would re-connect the Atlantic with Jamaica Bay. A possible site might be in the neighborhood of Beach 41 Street where the peninsula is narrow.
If we were able to build the Cross Bay Bridge, the Marine Parkway Bridge, the Long Island Railroad and the elevated subway that all helped to service the Rockaways as well as JFK Airport, then channeling the Atlantic into Jamaica Bay is not that great a challenge.
With a restored, rejuvenated Jamaica Bay, a paradise for hunters, fishermen and boaters, I visualize that the Rockaways, New York’s most southern point of land, its Florida, will become a true mecca for all Americans.