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Queens Chronicle

Calling out Cuomo on bay-restore veto

Activists rip governor as ‘part-time conservationist’ for killing eco bill

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Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2020 10:30 am

When Gov. Cuomo vetoed a bill late last month to protect Jamaica Bay from dredge dumping, it caught the bill’s backers by surprise.

“It was the 11th hour, the Friday before the Christmas holiday,” said Dan Mundy, president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, “It’s when you do things like that.”

This week, environmental groups denounced the veto, called Cuomo a “part-time conservationist” and charged his move would turn back the clock on restoring the bay.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park), would have made a ban on dumping in the bay permanent — a proposal that, at the time, seemed uncontroversial.

The bill was meant to prevent a recurrence of past practice when the state used the bay to get rid of contaminated waste periodically dredged from the Hudson River to keep the waterway open to shipping.

The Addabbo bill would also require the state to meet federal standards — which are stricter than New York’s — for the material it wanted to use to fill holes at the bottom of the bay.

In his veto message, Cuomo said that he was acting on the recommendation of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which objected to the cost it would add to dumping and to making the federal standard permanent.

“Under this bill, DEC will be required to utilize more restrictive and costly federal ocean dumping criteria to test the materials,” it said.

At issue are conflicting opinions on how to restore Jamaica.

A DEC official said say they want use materials dredged from the Hudson to fill in so-called burrow holes — pits created years ago when sand and stone were dug from the bay for use in construction,

“Some borrow bits in Jamaica Bay have been shown to have highly degraded ecological conditions, especially in warmer months,” said the official, who asked to speak on background.

“During that time there’s often insufficient oxygen for marine life at the deeper depths. Where those conditions exist, DEC and other regional stakeholders support the development of a restoration strategy.”

Private groups like the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy are concerned about the kind of contaminants that might be in the stuff used to fill the holes.

“After all, once you put it in,” said Mundy, “you can never get it out.”

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