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Queens Chronicle

Jamaica Bay to come to big screen

Changing body of water will be subject of full-length documentary

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Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:28 am, Mon Feb 27, 2012.

The condition of Jamaica Bay has been on the minds of many Queens residents in recent years, and one man is getting behind the camera to talk about it.

Dan Hendrick, spokesman for the New York League of Conservation Voters, and director David Sigal are shooting a documentary about Jamaica Bay and the issues it is facing. Hendrick hopes that the film will highlight both the bay and the environmental issues that have been plaguing the bay for years.

“I’ve always thought that Jamaica Bay is a hugely fascinating part of New York that has never gotten its due,” Hendrick said. “ I hope this film can help accomplish that.”

Hendrick, a former editor in chief of the Queens Chronicle who had written a book on the history of the bay in 2006, said that he hopes to highlight many of the environmental challenges that the bay has faced. Most recently, residents responded negatively to a proposal to expand John F. Kennedy Airport further into the bay. Currently, the airport can no longer legally do that, but Hendrick said that it raises some interesting questions about what will happen with the bay.

“There’s a new concerted effort to help with the bay’s environmental health, but there are also more development projects that involve the bay. The real question going forward will be whether to restore the bay to what it once was or to merge development with the bay,” Hendrick said.

Since the 1940s at least, Jamaica Bay has run into its fair share of environmental trouble. The construction of Floyd Bennett Field and JFK Airport resulting in several thousand acres of marshlands in the bay being filled. More marshlands are being lost because of rising water levels, and sewage plants dumping waste into the bay have made the water dangerous.

The rising water level has been a concern for the residents of Broad Channel for some time. The neighborhood, which sits in the center of Jamaica Bay, has suffered from flooding and rising water levels for many years.

The city has taken steps in recent years to improve the environmental quality of the bay. In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg signed the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan, which outlined a strategy to restore wetlands, increase the water quality and make the bay safe for the wildlife that lives there.

The Army Corps of Engineers has also been involved in the restoration project by constructing new marsh islands and restoring islands that had been lost to rising water levels. To date, the Army Corps has spent $7.3 million on restoring three islands so far.

Sigal, who had previously worked as a producer on the 2010 film “Fair Game,” said that he became fascinated with the area after reading Hendrick’s book. “I became fascinated with this beautiful part of the city that I hadn’t known much about before,” Sigal said.

During production, Sigal said that what interested him most were the residents of Broad Channel who have become very active in the fight to save the bay.

“Some of these people are the last people you’d expect to become environmental activists,” Sigal said. “These are regular people who care about this beautiful part of their neighborhood and they’re trying to make a difference.”

Hendrick and Sigal plan to spend a year shooting footage of the bay during each season. Sigal anticipated finishing shooting by Sept. 2012, but he had no release date for the film, but he hopes to take it to festivals and said that a screening on public television would be great.

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