Tag Archives: Flushing Creek

Rep. Meng joins the fight to clean up Flushing Creek


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Call out the Army.

Rep. Grace Meng has put out the call to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help come up with a plan to stop more than 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage from flowing into Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay every year — more sewage overflow than any other waterway in New York City has to handle.

“Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay are precious natural resources, and it is imperative that we protect and clean up these critical bodies of water,” Meng said. “The pollution that exists in these waterways is unacceptable.”

During heavy rainstorms, the infrastructure that processes sewage becomes flooded, resulting in untreated human waste being dumped into Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay. The two bodies of water receive the highest amount of pollutants, according to city records, out of any other waterway in the city. Meng hasn’t specified what she plans to do with the corps but there are several organizations advocating for the same goal of cleaning up the creek and bay.

The city currently has no plan to reduce the sewage flow into the creek and Flushing Bay. The creek receives 1,166 million gallons per year and the bay receives 1,499 million gallons per year. Jamaica Bay, which is often thought of as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the city, receives a comparatively small dose of 317 million gallons per year.

“Do you know how much human waste that is?” said Alex Rosa, a consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, which is advocating for the city and state to reduce the amount of filth going into the Flushing bodies of water. “I’ve never calculated how many people you need to make that much waste. But I’m sure it’s a whole lot.”

City environmental officials recently took a look at the problem. Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd toured the overworked sewage system near the waterway with Councilman Peter Koo. But the city has yet to introduce a plan to fix the problem or say when it might do so.

Calls for cleaning up the waterway come as there is increased interest in redeveloping former industrial areas along the banks of the bay and the creek.

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Flushing groups urge city to seek community input on redevelopment plans


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Flushing BOA

Flushing is no stranger to development, but local business owners and community groups are skeptical about Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement of plans to turn an industrial and polluted section of the Queens neighborhood into a residential area.

Flushing was selected, along with other areas in New York City, as possible candidates in the creation of a new residential community along Flushing Creek. The plans are still in the early stages, but if it goes through, the borders of this new community would run from Northern Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue and westward to Prince Street.

“The area is a construction and hardware destination and it makes no sense to create apartments here,” said Terry Wong, who owns a store that sells doors on College Point Boulevard.

Speaking through translator Lisa Zhang, the business owner continued, “Everyone will lose business and it will have a negative impact on the whole economy of Flushing.”

The Department of City Planning launched a study in that section of Flushing to come up with a plan for the city and state. The area is largely commercial, and any plan for residential development would require some of the local businesses in the area to be removed.

Developers have been interested in the area for many years, including The Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, which received a $1.5 million state grant to clean up the polluted waters of Flushing Creek.

John Choe, the executive director for the new Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said he liked the idea but he was concerned about what the city’s plan  would look like.

“There needs to be a lot more grassroots organizations,” Choe said. “The former mayor was credited with developing and creating a lot of things in this city, but all those changes came from up top. I would hope that the de Blasio administration avoids the mistakes of his predecessor.”

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Renewed hope for cleaning up Flushing’s waters


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Some foul business was discussed in Flushing this week between city officials.

Councilman Peter Koo and Commissioner Emily Lloyd of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) met deep underground on Tuesday to tour the Flushing Bay Retention Facility, which serves as a storage area for raw sewage and is meant to keep the sewage from entering Flushing Creek, but can only hold so much. The small body of water receives more human waste per year than any other dumping site, according to city records, leading Koo to call the creek “s–t’s creek.”

“Cleaning up this waterway has long been a top environmental priority of mine,” Koo said. “There is a popular phrase used by many when trying to explain they are in a bad situation: being up s–t’s creek without a paddle. With the amount of raw sewage that still enters it, the phrase might as well be changed to, up Flushing Creek without a paddle.”

With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that calls for residential development along the Flushing waterfront, Koo and advocacy groups like Friends of Flushing Creek are hoping the spotlight will help spur the city and state to take action and reduce the amount of sewage going into the creek.

“Now that the city has officially announced they are looking to develop the land along the waterfront, this is a great opportunity to shine a brighter light on this longstanding problem,” Koo said. “I will continue my work with DEP, the Friends of Flushing Creek, and every stakeholder in the community so that we can ultimately see the day where people can safely swim in these waters again.”

But a whole lot of waste must be cleaned before anyone can swim in there.

During rainstorms, the city’s sewage infrastructure is flooded out, causing unprocessed human waste to discharge into the bodies of water surrounding New York City. Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay receive the highest amount of this toxic payload, according to city records. Facilities like the one underground in Flushing are meant to minimize this problem, but advocates and local politicians say it’s not enough.

The city currently has no plan to reduce the sewage flow into the creek and Flushing Bay during heavy rainfall. The creek receives 1,166 million gallons per year and the bay receives 1,499 million gallons per year. Jamaica Bay, which is often thought of as one of the most polluted bodies of water, receives a comparatively small dose of 317 million gallons per year.

“Do you know how much human waste that is?” said Alex Rosa, a consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, which is advocating for the city and state to reduce the amount of filth going into the Flushing bodies of water. “I’ve never calculated how many people you need to make that much waste. But I’m sure it’s a whole lot.”

The nonprofit group is currently working with the DEP through a state grant to create a long-term plan that would reduce the amount of pollutants in the waters. The different approaches and solutions to the waste problem are complicated and can often be murkier than Flushing Creek’s waters after a wet day, especially since people fish and kayak in the waters there.

For example, the city is considering sanitizing the waste with chlorine. But Rosa is cautious to embrace this plan because chlorine, she said, has been linked to several types of health problems, including cancer.

No set date has been made for when a plan would be put together and when it could be implemented. So for now, Rosa strongly urges people not to fish in the waters or get anywhere near them, for that matter. But she remains hopeful that soon people can do these things and much more.

“The synergies and efforts of everyone are finally aligning and we now have more attention,” she said. “The stars are aligned because the mayor is focused on creating a new community along the waterfront.”

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Op-Ed: Enough delays – let’s clean up Willets Point


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY MARCIA BYSTRYN

At a recent meeting of the Queens Housing Coalition, a major developer outlined a commitment to privately finance the cleanup of a massive 23-acre brownfield at Willets Point. Amazingly, there were some who questioned the existence of contamination and the need for remediation.

The hard truth is that Willets Point has been a toxic dumping ground for nearly 100 years. In addition to a lack of sewers, there is widespread petroleum contamination, with additional potential contamination from paints, cleaning solvents, and automotive fluids.

Some of the problems persist today, as existing businesses operate with almost no regulation. Imagine people spray-painting cars without taking air quality precautions or changing oil with no regard for safe disposal procedures!

Further exacerbating these environmental hazards is a high water table that spreads pollution throughout the Willets Point site. This means that as contaminants continue to fester in the soil and groundwater, nearby Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay become dirtier and more dangerous by the day.

Brownfields are a serious impediment to redeveloping a property, making them the target of a number of federal and state programs. But their potential to endanger public health and contaminate groundwater, surface water and soils is a far greater concern. Without action, Willets Point will in all likelihood remain an unusable, contaminated public health hazard.

The time has come to transform Willets Point from a toxic wasteland into an environmentally conscious, 21st century community.

In an area that is clamoring for open space and recreational opportunities, the cleanup and redevelopment of Willets Point means that the waterfront on Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay will finally become safe and accessible to the community.

This is also a great opportunity to redesign Willets Point in a smarter and more holistic manner. Willets Point is close to the No. 7 train, so people can leave their cars at home more often. And it’s near major highways, meaning that people can get in and out of the neighborhood quickly without further straining traffic in downtown Flushing. The development will also create approximately 12,000 construction jobs and 7,100 permanent jobs, as well as lead to a $3 billion private investment.

This is clearly a redevelopment project where the economic and environmental benefits work hand-in-hand to improve the health, well-being and vibrancy of the neighborhood, and for the entire borough of Queens.

Marcia Bystryn is president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, a statewide environmental organization.

 

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US Rep. Meng helps family bring body home


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Congressmember Grace Meng is working on getting emergency visas for the brother and the son of Junwoon Li, whose body was discovered floating in Flushing Creek on Tuesday, February 26, so they can bring her home.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has already approved a visitor’s visa for Li’s brother, according to Meng’s office.

“This terrible loss of life is a horrible tragedy,” said Meng. “We send our thoughts and prayers to the victim’s family and friends, and we’ll do all we can to assist them.”

Li, 46, was a Korean national of Chinese descent, and her brother and son both live in China, according to Meng’s office. Li came to the United States on February 5 for what was expected to be a three-month stay. She was last seen on Friday, February 22, however, leaving a Flushing karaoke bar. Police currently do not believe the death was a homicide, nor was any foul play involved.

Assemblymember Ron Kim was contacted by friends of Li and, because it is a federal issue, reached out to Meng for help.

“This is a terrible and sad tragedy,” he said. “I will assist Congressmember Meng and her staff with any local or state matters that can help alleviate some of the burden facing the victim’s family.”

There is no set time frame on when Li’s brother, and possibly her son, will arrive in New York to bring her body back to China.

 

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