2011-03-04 / Letters

Shocking To Environmentalists

The following letter was sent to Kenneth Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior.

Dear Mr. Secretary:

You may recall our meeting at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge when you visited on July 10, 2010.

At that time Congressman Anthony Weiner had introduced us to you that day by saying that we, the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, had been at the forefront of the efforts to protect and preserve Jamaica Bay. We were pleased to see you taking the time out of your busy schedule to personally experience this remarkable part of the National Parks system. Your presence as well as your comments indicated your appreciation for this magnificent natural jewel only miles from the skyscrapers of New York. Your call for a new era in American conservation which envisioned Jamaica Bay and the New York harbor as a “star relative to the great urban parks of America in the 21st century” were encouraging words to hear!

We, too, believe that after many years Jamaica Bay’s time has come and we have worked with many partners, including the NPS, Hudson Raritan Estuary, NYS DEC, Army Corps of Engineers, and others to identify and address the problems affecting Jamaica Bay. We currently have successful large scale marshland restoration efforts underway. In addition we are working with the National Parks Service and Stony Brook University to reintroduce oysters to these waters where they once thrived. And finally we have reached an agreement, due to a Clean Water Act lawsuit we brought against the City of New York, to have the city upgrade waste water treatment plants with over $100,000,000 in state of the art technology upgrades. It would appear that years of efforts are finally paying off and this National Treasure is finally getting the recognition it is due.

You could imagine then our shock and outrage at a recent plan prepared by Regional Plan Association and endorsed by the Port Authority of NY/NJ representatives, including Christopher Ward, head of the Port Authority, at a recent meeting, that calls for the expansion of JFK airport runways out into the waters of Jamaica Bay. This proposal would see hundreds of acres of critical wetlands and tidal areas filled in and paved over. This planned massive destruction of natural resources within a National Park is without recent precedent. Our organization also co-chairs the Jamaica Bay Taskforce which is an umbrella group for all of the environmental groups that are active in the bay and “greater-bay” area. We have received hundreds of E-mails and phone calls from concerned citizens. Many have asked that we reach out to you to solicit assurances that the Department of the Interior will protect this precious resource and forbid any such development. Congressman Weiner has come out strongly against this plan stating that it is a “bad plan that violates federal law” and has pledged to fight any such attempt. We wanted to bring this to your attention immediately so as to ensure that the Department of the Interior would be fully prepared to respond to this threat. It is ironic that your words spoken during your visit, recalling past environmentally damaging practices, would be somewhat prophetic as to the vision of what this plan would offer. When you stated that, “We have learned a lot about rivers and waterways and how we as a country have come a long way in how we look at rivers and waterways.” “It wasn’t so long ago … where we as citizens and governments turned our backs on the rivers. They were the places to dump things, the wastelands of our countries. Yet in the last 10, 15 years we’ve watched our society turn our faces to our rivers and embrace them for all that they can bring to us.” It was evident that yourself, as well as this administration, would consider those past practices as the mistakes of a less enlightened generation and yet we have here in 2011, in this report, exactly that mentality.

The Port Authority has put forth this proposal before, in 1970, and it was roundly denounced and rejected by residents, elected officials, and environmentalists. That they would present this proposal at this time seems so much more shocking in light of the era that we find ourselves in with so much more awareness and regard given to the importance in preserving the environmentally sensitive areas we have for future generations.

We look forward to hearing back from your office on this critical matter with a rejection of this proposal and thank you in advance for your support.


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