A broad group of environmentalists continue to adamantly push for the transfer of 363 acres of wetlands throughout the five boroughs to different city agencies they believe are better able to preserve them.
A seven member Wetlands Transfer Taskforce started reviewing 1,020 properties containing tidal or freshwater wetlands in 2005. Last month, they recommended that 82 properties, including 68 on 63 acres in Queens, be transferred to the control of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Twelve different city agencies currently control wetland parcels throughout the city, including the Departments of Housing Preservation and Development, Small Business Services and Citywide Administrative Services.
Queens wetland parcels are located in Alley Pond Park in Douglaston, in areas in College Point around LaGuardia Airport and around Jamaica Bay, among other places.
The group recommended that other properties throughout the city be transferred to the control of the Department of Environmental Protection, although no sites in Queens made this list. They proposed that still others be further reviewed because legal or technical concerns complicate the issue of who should oversee them. Forty- seven acres in Queens should be subject to such reviews, the taskforce concluded, including many around LaGuardia and Kennedy International Airports.
“Sadly, throughout the last century New York Harbor has lost 86 square miles of coastal wetlands that once fringed its edges,” said Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), the chairman of the council’s Environmental Protections Committee. “We cannot recover these vanished ecosystems, but we can and must work to protect and restore those that remain.”
A 2005 law, authored by Gennaro, created the taskforce. Members of the Bloomberg administration have until April to respond to the recommendations.
“The importance of protecting our wetlands cannot be emphasized enough,” said Marcia Bystryn, executive director of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
The league is one group lobbying for the transfers. Others include the American Littoral Society and Residents for the Preservation of Wetlands and Open Spaces.
Members of the taskforce include representatives from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York City Audubon and the Regional Plan Association, a non-profit group that addresses quality-of-life issues in the New York metropolitan area.
Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), whose district includes much of Jamaica Bay, joined Gennaro and representatives from the various environmental groups in calling for the approval of the transfer recommendations.
In addition to preventing flooding and reducing storm surges, Queens wetlands are home to different fish and wildlife populations.