Secretary Comes To Broad Channel
“We’re taking the lessons learned from this natural disaster,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced, “to help local communities strengthen natural barriers between themselves and major storms such as Sandy…”
On Monday, June 16, Jewell announced the results of the competitive grants initiative, which would provide $102.7 million in funds to support 54 projects along the Atlantic coast that stemmed from those lessons.
Jewell also came to Broad Channel to see firsthand how one of those grants, for $4.85 million, will help turn what was once a 14-cre decaying boat yard into a lush natural park, environmental habitat and storm barrier on the southwest edge of the island.
After a brief morning visit to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge off Cross Bay Boulevard, the Secretary and party made a quick turn down West 19th Road on the island toward the area now known as Sunset Cove.
There, along with the National Parks Commissioner for New York Harbor, Joshua Laird, she met with Dan Mundy Sr. of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, Don Riepe of the American Littoral Society and Broad Channel Civic Association President Dan Mundy Jr. They and many others had already been involved in the transformation of the area, known as Sunset Cove, for the past several years.
Young members of the City’s Restoration Corps, a group formed in partnership with the National Parks Service, and 8th grade students, with their teacher, Deborah Williams, from Broad Channel’s PS/MS 47 school, joined Jewell to plant sea grass and seed new oysters at the cove.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resilience Grant Program, which will provide additional funding for the Sunset Cove project, sought proposals from various groups in the hurricane affected areas. These would include Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia, all areas that were officially declared a natural disaster as a result of the storm.
According to the Department, “Grants from $100,000 to $5 million (would) be awarded to projects that assess, restore, enhance or create wetlands, beaches and other natural systems to better protect communities as well as fish and wildlife species and habitats from the impacts of future storms and naturally occurring events.”
Much of Rockaway was devastated and nearly the entire island of Broad Channel was underwater for several hours during the hurricane.
To be eligible, groups also had to show they were able to independently leverage other funds to support their projects. The Sunset Cove supporters were able to bring an additional $3 million to the table.
“When the marina went out about six or seven years ago, we as a community really began to look and say ‘Now, what’s going to be going into this space?”
“Very early on we saw this as an opportunity for Sunset Cove.”
Dan Mundy Jr. agreed. “There were at least 150 to 200 boats. They were a mess.
They actually put the boats that were not claimed through a shredder.”
“We thought the new plan was the best use of this space,” he said.
As Mundy Sr. explained, “Everything on the water’s edge, all the old concrete and iron is going to be excavated. We are going to have a natural rock revetment, which becomes a natural habitat for fish, mussels, and shellfish.”
Beyond that a new salt marsh will be constructed on the site where one was previously filled in years ago. Also the ground will be sloped upward to create a 10 foot high “berm” which will protect the area, adjacent to the Crossbay Bridge toll plaza from any wave or water action in the event of a storm.
The berm will have a walking trail and possibly a gazebo where people can sit and enjoy the spectacular view.
“As New York becomes more closed in,” Mundy Jr. noted, “you can see the value of places like this.”
Part of Jewell’s visit included lowering cages full of oysters into the bay with the help of students.
Oysters were once so plentiful that New York Times reports from the 1800’s noted their bounty as a food source. England once imported them to start their own stock there.
Additionally, oysters can filter from 30 to 40 gallons of water per day.
The current replenishment efforts are aimed at not only improving the health of the bay, but also providing educational opportunities for students from Rockaway, Broad Channel and beyond.
“I think it would be great for the kids to be able to work with, see and study these oysters as they grow,” Mundy Jr. explained.
They are actively looking for students, classes and schools who would be interested in ‘adopting’ the specific cages and oysters.
Speaking about Jewell’s visit, Mundy said, “She was very impressed with the youth component. She was really interested in that.
“She said to me, ‘We can fund these great parks across the country. The great concern we have is if we will have future environmentalists.’”
As Jewell said at Monday’s event, “If we don’t get the kids out here, if they are not involved, we won’t have a future.”
The goal of the work at the Sunset Cove project, now continuing with the help of the new federal grant, is making sure that future is secure.