On a chilly morning last week at the Old Coast Guard Station in the Rockaways, a group of men in National Parks Service uniforms talked about the day’s upcoming boat ride.
too windy,” one man remarked. “We should reschedule.”
the comments did little to deter Councilman James Gennaro, who along with a
group comprised of federal officials, an environmentalist and reporters,
embarked on a sail to examine the eroding salt marshes of Jamaica Bay –
land that is wasting away at a rate of 50 acres a year according to some
estimates – land that could be totally gone within the next 20 years.
Bay consists of 13,000 acres off southern Queens and Brooklyn.
The bay is bordered by Gateway National Recreation Area, a natural preserve containing a wildlife refuge for birds and rare species along with thousands of other fish and organisms that live and migrate there.
a few years ago, a group of local fishermen called the Jamaica Bay Eco
Watchers discovered that the marsh islands in the bay were disappearing.
When the findings were later confirmed by a study by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) it appeared that time could be running out for the marshland.
to Christopher Ward, Commissioner of the New York City Department Of
Environmental Protection (DEP), possible causes for the salt marsh erosion
include the bay’s history of dredging, recreational boating in the bay,
geese feeding patterns, rising sea levels, tidal flows, and the emptying of
nutrient-rich waste water into Jamaica Bay.
going to save the bay,” said Gennaro, the City Council’s Environmental
Committee chairperson, who helped organize a Nov. 6 boat tour of Jamaica Bay
along with Gateway National Recreation Area officials.
As the boat passed under the Gil Hodges Bridge and stopped at a nearby salt marsh, Gennaro listened to Dan Mundy of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers who explained about the wetland deterioration.
goal is to preserve, protect, enhance, and restore the ecosystem of Jamaica
Bay,” said Mundy, who explained that complete marsh loss could impact
property owners along the Rockaway Peninsula, as well as impacting subway
and driving routes in the area.
Mundy, a long time area resident and environmentalist, noted the marshland deterioration in the mid 90’s and began contacting political officials to investigate causes.
the breezy morning, Mundy showed Gennaro patches of sand and grass in the
middle of the water that he said are withering away at the rate of 50 acres
a year — 5000 square feet a day.
Mundy said that an area called Plum Beach near the Belt Parkway, “sits fifty feet from the bay. If that area washes away, the road will too.”
marshes, which Mundy said are up to 1,500 years old, dull the effects of
ocean waves, which have the potential to damage shoreline properties if they
continue to deteriorate.
Deteriorating salt marshes mean a habitat withering away for birds
that settle in the bay.
Also impacted are recreational fishermen in Jamaica Bay, as experts
say that disappearing wetlands, which provide nutrients to the bay, may
deter fish from laying eggs.
The Jamaica Bay salt marshes are home to cord grass, which are flooded twice daily by tides, and need a steady amount of water to stay healthy, a Gateway representative said.
boat ride came as a precursor to a City Council Environmental Protection
Committee oversight hearing on November 8 at City Hall that is being done to
save the quickly vanishing salt marshes of Jamaica Bay.
from the Army Corps of Engineers, the City Parks Department, the City
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Gateway National
Recreation Area - operated by the National Parks Service, which oversees 95
percent of the Bay were present.
National Recreation Area is a 26,000-acre site consists of Jamaica Bay,
shared by Queens and Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Sandy Hook in New Jersey.
The formal announcement to develop plans for GNR was made in December
1969 by then Mayor John V. Lindsay and Parks Recreation and Cultural Affairs
Administrator August Heckscher.
Lindsay called the move “an important step in fulfilling one of the
city’s major long-range recreation and open space aims.”
Bay encompasses Floyd Bennett Field, once one of the country’s most
important naval air stations and the city’s first municipal airport.
Riis Park, a seaside recreation area; and Canarsie Pier for fishing
Queens are Fort Tilden in the Rockaways, now a center for the arts; the
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge; and Frank Charles Memorial Park in Howard
nine-acre Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge along Beach Channel Drive in the
Rockaways is a hidden treasure of wildlife and garden trails.
programs are geared toward the protection and propagation of the more than
325 species of birds that have passed through during migration, as well as
other wildlife that inhabit ponds and marshes year-round.
the trails and gardens are designed and maintained for the purpose of
breeding, feeding, and caring for the hundreds of birds that stop here to
nest and rest until they move on.” said Don Riepe, of Gateway National
Recreation Area. “The
area is also home to diverse species of reptiles, amphibians, and
said that bird species, including snowy egrets, Canadian geese, and
warblers, as well as breeding fish, and rare flora and fauna make their home
in the wetlands and marshes at Jamaica Bay.
National Recreation Area was the nation’s first urban national park and
has secured grant money from the City DEC, State DEP, and is currently
working to acquire funds from the Army Corps of Engineers to compile a
report on potential solutions, as well as solving the problem immediately.
from Brooklyn College, Columbia University, and the United States Geological
Survey are collaborating on the bay solution project, which will include a
proposal for maintaining that sediment washes up to build the marshes.
Next spring, Gateway plans to spray marshland with a mixture of sand
and soil, hoping that sediment mixed with sea grass will raise the marsh
City Parks Department pledged to continue its efforts to preserve the bay,
and its surrounding natural areas.
have acquired more than 300 acres on the edges of the bay and have
maintained these parks,” said Alexander Brash, Chief of the City Parks
Department’s Urban Parks Rangers, a community activist group promoting
the Parks Department’s efforts was Four Sparrow Salt Marsh, which
underwent coastal upland restoration, and was converted into nearly 3 acres
of tidal wetland.
also opened its Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park, which drew 45,000
people last year, as an educational facility for students.