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Queens Chronicle

Feds fund $10M for Jamaica Bay projects

Includes Broad Channel, Lindenwood marsh restoration and oyster colonies

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Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:06 am, Thu Jun 26, 2014.

Resiliency projects in and around Jamaica Bay, in parts of the Gateway National Recreation Area, received a boost from over $10 million in federal funding this week, and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was in Broad Channel to deliver the news personally.

As part of more than $100 million in post-Sandy resiliency project grants from the federal government, the Department of the Interior is allocating $4.85 million toward the $7 million restoration and renovation of Sunset Cove in Broad Channel.

The project includes five acres of wetland and seven acres of upland habitat in the southern part of Broad Channel between West 19th and West 22nd roads, just northwest of the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge. The work seeks to enhance water quality, provide shellfish habitat and increase public recreation access.

Don Riepe, president of the American Littoral Society’s northeast chapter and a Broad Channel resident, said the Sunset Cove project has been a long-awaited one and he was glad to see the federal government kicking in some funding.

Riepe said the plan is to create “a passive recreation spot” at the location, which is near baseball fields.

“It’ll be all natural with a boardwalk or something so people can talk a walk, enjoy the sunset and the view,” he said.

Sunset Cove is named because it faces west and offers a view of the sunset. From the site, the Manhattan skyline and the Verrazzano Bridge can easily be seen.

A second grant allocates $4.3 million toward restoring 11 acres of salt marsh and 16 acres of coastal upland in Spring Creek Park, mainly north of the Belt Parkway around Lindenwood. The restoration aims to reduce flood impacts and capture storm runoff in an area that has been recently plagued by flooding, most notably the April 30 flood caused by a failure at the Spring Creek sewage overflow facility. The total cost of that project is just under $11.2 million.

Another $1 million will be put toward a $1.3 million project to develop a self-sustaining oyster population in Jamaica Bay. According to the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, oysters, which once populated the bay but were depleted by pollution and sewage, can each clean up by 40 gallons of water a day and provide habitats for important fish and crab species.

“We are taking the lessons learned from [Sandy] to help local communities strengthen natural barriers between themselves and major storms such as Sandy that can cause major flooding and other damage,” Jewell said in a statement. “Together with our partners, we are stabilizing beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the hydrology of coastal areas, both protecting local residents from the next big storm while creating jobs and restoring habitat for wildlife.”

The funding is part of a wider investment into 54 projects up and down the eastern seaboard, including in New Jersey, Long Island and other parts of New York City focused on resiliency that came to the forefront in the wake of Sandy.

“We were happy to get two projects out of the 54; they’re going to do a lot for the bay,” Riepe said.

He said Sandy and the Obama administration’s focus on federal urban parkland has resulted in more funding for recreation at Gateway and even a new school focused on resiliency slated to be established in the Rockaways.

“Jamaica Bay is really on everyone’s radar right now,” Riepe said.

Jewell visited Sunset Cove on Monday — her first trip to Jamaica Bay since she visited Riis Landing in the Rockaways last summer to announce federal support for the resiliency school. Riepe said Jewell also helped plant dune grass in the marshes on Monday.

“She seemed to enjoy it,” he said. “She said she likes to get out of the office now and then.”

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