Tag Archives: Jamaica Bay

EXCLUSIVE: $40M Belt Parkway project to benefit Jamaica Bay


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the DEP

Hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage that now overflow into ecologically fragile Jamaica Bay every year will be diverted to treatment plants under a new project being launched by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

A new $40 million initiative split into two smaller projects is set to begin in 2015 in South Ozone Park by the Belt Parkway to reduce sewer overflows into both Bergen and Thurston Basin, two bodies of water that ultimately lead into Jamaica Bay.

City officials said they are taking pains to minimize the impact on traffic along the Belt Parkway from construction of one of the new sewage overflow pipelines that will cross under the highway.

The project is designed to ensure that about 300 million gallons a year of combined sewer overflow will be routed to the Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant, where it will be treated to Federal Clean Water Act standards, rather than being discharged untreated into the tributaries of Jamaica Bay.

As of now, there are two 36-inch sewer lines carrying sewer overflow from North Conduit Avenue under the Belt Parkway to 150th Street and 126th Avenue. When they reach that point, they connect to a 72-inch sewer line, ultimately bringing all that overflow to the Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The DEP said that due to increased development of southern Queens, the existing pipes “no longer have sufficient capacity to carry combined flow generated north of the Belt Parkway and act as a bottleneck in the area’s drainage system.”

To relieve this issue, one of the small projects, which is slated to start in early 2015 and to be completed in 2017, will be building a new 48-inch interceptor sewer under the Belt Parkway, near the Lefferts Boulevard exit. The sewer is estimated to cost around $29 million and will provide significant additional capacity within the area’s drainage system, which will ultimately reduce overflows into Bergen Basin by approximately 135 million gallons a year.

Photo courtesy of DEP

Photo courtesy of DEP

The other project, set to start in late spring and finish in the summer of 2016, is estimated to cost around $11 million. In that phase, the DEP will install three hydraulic levees at key junctions in the area’s sewer network. During dry days, the levees will remain closed as the system will not need to push out any excess water into the basins. When there is a heavy rainstorm, the levees will be forced down by the pressure of the flow and allow for the water to be drained into the basins.

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This will optimize the carrying capacity of the sewer pipes during rainstorms and reduce sewer overflow into Bergen Basin by about 65 million gallons a year and into Thurston Basin by about 102 million gallons a year.

In order to minimize disruption to traffic on the Belt Parkway during construction, the DEP will be using a microtunnelling machine to install the new sewer line, allowing contractors to do most of their work underground, passing under the highway. The machine will launch from the north side of the Belt Parkway and be retrieved on the southern end.

The DEP has started to deliver the materials to the staging area for the project, which is along the southern side of the Belt Parkway by Lefferts Boulevard.

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

There will be some closures of  lanes in both directions, mostly at night and during weekends. The DEP said that they will be working with the Department of Transportation to notify communities and motorists of any closures.

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Car pulled out of canal in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/1@NYPDSpecialops

Updated 3:30 p.m.

A car plunged into a Jamaica Bay canal early Saturday morning, sources told The Courier.

According to the FDNY, the incident happened at about 2 a.m. and after pulling the car out of the water, divers did not find a body.

It is believed that the driver either abandoned the car right before it hit the water or swam out of the car right after, authorities said.

There were police and a truck with a crane on scene to pull the car out of the bay.

The vehicle was then placed in the parking lot of Howard Beach Chiropractic, located on 160th Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard, sources said.

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The cause of the accident and the whereabouts and condition of the driver are still not known.

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Birds flock to winter hot spot Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Queens County Bird Club

Queens isn’t just the world’s borough. It’s also the birds’ borough.

Birds migrating south for the winter stop in Queens, using the borough’s numerous parks as a rest stop. Other birds, like the snow owl, dig in for the winter and stay in New York City for the season. Witnessing it all are the bird watchers of the Queens County Bird Club.

Bird watching – or birding, to use the hobby’s parlance – is a common practice in Queens, according to Arie Gilbert, president of the Queens County Bird Club. As the season nears winter, leaves falling from trees give parks a desolate, dead look, but they reveal many types of birds that won’t be found in warmer months. Gilbert’s club makes many trips to Alley Pond Park, Kissena Park, Forest Park and, of course, Gilbert said, Jamaica Bay.

“For anybody who even has a passing knowledge of birding knows about Queens and Jamaica Bay,” Gilbert said. “People from all over the world come to New York City to go to Jamaica Bay.”

In these hot spots, people will be able to see birds like the Iceland gull, the great-horned owl and the wood duck.

Along with bird watching trips, the club plans on holding a lecture on Nov. 19 that will help bird watchers identify and note the subtle difference in subspecies like those found in sparrows.

“Birding is not like football. It doesn’t have the same appeal,” Gilbert said. “But it’s a lot of fun being outdoors.”

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Queens Museum displays items collected from Jamaica Bay clean-up


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Rohan Narine

Many who practice Hinduism in Queens go to Jamaica Bay to make offerings to their gods, floating fruit and flowers and even statues of the deities into the bay.

But the items offered are sometimes left behind, not only littering the water but also causing distress among those worshipers who practice eco-friendly offering techniques.

“We don’t want our practices to make Jamaica Bay look like the Ganges in 20 years,” said Rohan Narine, a board member at Sadhana, an eco-friendly Hindu group. “We want the community to see that we are also environmentally conscious.”

Sadhana hosts a monthly clean-up effort around Jamaica Bay in which volunteers gather the offerings that have been left behind by other worshipers. To show the public that clean-up efforts are made, some of the items collected are now on display at the Queens Museum, located in Flushing Meadow Corona Park, as part of a new exhibition named “Sacred Waters,” which started on Sept. 4.

The group pitched the idea of this exhibition to the museum in hopes of both giving non-Hindus a better understanding of the religion and making it known that devotees are not people who have no respect for the environment.

“We had about 100 people come out [to our opening ceremony on Sept. 14]. The reception was very promising,” Narine said. “We are a nature-worshiping religion and want people to understand that.”

Diorama at Queens Museum (1)

Educating Hindus of the safest environmental practices that should be taken when worshiping is also a main focus of Sadhana.

“There is a delicate balance between tradition and the environment, and both must be equally respected,” said Aminta Kilawan, a board member at Sadhana.

Along with the exhibition, which displays a “diorama” of the offerings collected, Narine is working with the National Parks Service (NPS) on a pamphlet to be displayed around the bay, the purpose of which is two-fold: to teach people the basics of the Hindu religion and to list NPS rules for clean-up.

“We want to get back to the balance that [our Hindu ancestors] once had,” Narine said.

Narine hopes for the pamphlet to be around the bay by November, and the exhibit will be displayed at the museum until Sept. 24.

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Jamaica Bay movie is nearing completion


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo via  Jamaica Bay Lives Flickr

Jamaica Bay is on the verge of getting its own little taste of stardom as a new documentary about the body of water and its surrounding habitats is officially in post-production.

The documentary film titled “Jamaica Bay” was started about three years ago. It will cover the bay’s history, environmental issues and local residents’ way of life, according to Dan Hendrick, producer of the film.

“The overarching theme of the film is that right now, Jamaica Bay is a good national park but it has the potential to be great one,” Hendrick said. “We hope that this film will inspire people.”

Hendrick and his team started his work on the film in August 2011. He said he wants to highlight how the bay has made such a remarkable comeback from where it was 30 years ago. They have over 100 hours of film of the bay including shots from before, during and after it was devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

“People care about the bay more than ever,” Hendrick said. “The pollution has subsided from where it was 30 years ago but there is still a lot of work to do.”
The team hopes to get the documentary out to both local TV channels and movie theaters by spring of 2015.

Due to limits on public television, the television cut will be less than an hour long, but the producers hope for the full film to run up to 90 minutes.

To learn more about the film check out jamaicabaylives.com.

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Governor Cuomo signs legislation to preserve Jamaica Bay


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo by Dan Mundy, Jr.

Jamaica Bay, long known as a dumping site for toxic waste, now has a law to prevent some of the hazardous material from making its way into the body of water.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that prohibits state regulatory agencies like the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from issuing permits to allow dumping hazardous materials in Jamaica Bay. This law will ultimately limit the risk of water contamination in the bay.

“Communities surrounding Jamaica Bay can now breathe a little easier with the passing of this bill, both figuratively and literally,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo, who, along with Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, drafted the legislation. “In the district, we were all fortunate enough to grow up with Jamaica Bay and I hope this legislation will ensure future generations can enjoy the serenity and beauty for years to come.”

Prior to this bill, there were no guidelines that the DEC had to follow when issuing permits for dumping into the bay’s burrow pits, which are areas with increased depth as a result of dredging projects by the Army Corps of Engineers that removed sand from parts of the floor to fill in others.

Both Addabbo and Goldfeder believe this will be a huge victory for Jamaica Bay and its surrounding neighborhoods.

“Dredged materials leaching with toxins have no right to be dumped in our waters and now we finally have the laws in place to keep our families away from harm and preserve the natural ecosystem of Jamaica Bay for years to come,” concluded Addabbo and Goldfeder. “We commend Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law.”

 

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Jamaica Bay ospreys take off


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Shalini Gopie

SALVATORE LICATA

Jamaica Bay has some new flight patterns.

Coley and Coley Two (C2), the ospreys that call Jamaica Bay home, just added some new chicks to their nests about a month ago.

While Coley, whose nest can be seen from Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel, had three chicks for two years in a row now, C2, whose nest is on the Yellowbar Marsh, has had some trouble. Last year she did not make her nest, which can weigh over 500 pounds, soft enough for the hatchlings, causing the eggs to crack before they were ready to hatch. This year she had two baby chicks that are doing well, according to Shalini Gopie, a representative from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

 Adult ospreys just back from the hunt. (Photo: National Parks Service/ Jamaica Bay Gateway)

While C2’s chicks are still too young to fly, Coley’s offspring just started to take flight about a week ago.

“They’ve gotten their freedom,” Gopie said.

Both Coley and C2 are part of a tracking project, where the wildlife refuge collects data on where the birds fly during their migrations, according to a 2012 New York Times article. During their southern migration, Coley has been tracked as far as Colombia and C2 has been tracked to Venezuela, according to Gopie.

The refuge has been low on funding for these tracking projects which can help keep the osprey population growing in the bay.  To find out more about the project or to follow the osprey, visit jamaicabayosprey.org.

 

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Rotting fruit washes up in Charles Park


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Salvatore Licata

 SALVATORE LICATA

The shoreline of Jamaica Bay, bordering Charles Park, is home to shellfish, seagulls, seaweed, submerged shopping carts, abandoned baby strollers and now, rotting fruit.

A cluster of putrefying fruit was found in the water on Thursday on the northwest portion of Charles Park, where clean-up has been a long-standing issue.

“We need to protect and clean up the shore line,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo. “We appreciate the advocacy for the clean-up of Charles Park and do not want to see this great volunteerism go to the wayside.”

The fruit mound washed over from the Broad Channel part of the bay where Hindu worshipers sacrifice items in the water to the goddess Ganges of their religion.

It is unclear how such a large amount of fruit was able to pile up in one specific area about a half mile away from where it was sacrificed leaving the devotees puzzled.

“We honestly had no idea the items we sacrificed washed up there,” said Amar Hardeosingh, who takes part in the Hindu religious ceremony at the bay. “We try to do good for the environment and we want to keep it as beautiful as it is.”

The religious group has been taken to task before for not cleaning up after they finished their rituals, according to a 2011 article in the New York Times, but lately have been keeping up with the guidelines of the National Parks Service (NPS), which owns the land.

To practice their rituals, the religious group must get a permit from the NPS, which is a long process, according to Hardeosingh. But they have continually received the permit because of their avid clean-up once the ceremonies are over, he said.

“We sacrifice the fruit hoping that the fish will eat it but if it is piling up elsewhere it is not going toward the right cause,” said Hardeosingh, who operates a Hindu radio station and promised to announce this problem over the air waves to gather a clean-up group. “If they are rotting away in this area, it’s [the same as using] non-perishable items, which means we should clean it up.”

Unlike non-perishable items, which litter the waters of Jamaica Bay and its surrounding shorelines, this fruit usually never makes its way to the shoreline. Throwing the fruit in Jamaica Bay is technically illegal but is less detrimental to the ecosystem than the usual non-perishable garbage items and wastewater from four sewage nearby plants that end up in the bay, said Veronica Scorcia, a marine biologist.

“The whole pieces of fruit take time to break down, which makes their particulate matter insignificant compared to the sewage runoff,” Scorcia said.

The NPS is responsible for the upkeep of the park and its shoreline and Addabbo said he is getting in touch with the NPS to make sure they are notified about the fruit pile-up.

He added that NPS has made an effort to clean up the park and that residents must keep being the service’s eyes and ears to notify the NPS about any problems going on in the park.

The Charles Park Conservation Society, which has played a major role in the clean-up effort of the area, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NPS did not immediately return a call for comment.

 

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Ferry runs aground in Jamaica Bay


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Updated 5:20 p.m.

A Seastreak ferry ran aground near the eastern end of Jamaica Bay Wednesday afternoon.

The 65-foot long boat was on a private excursion with 29 people aboard, including 25 local Rockaway residents and business owners, and a few crew members, when it became stranded around 12:30 p.m., according to officials and the ferry company.

There were no injuries and the passengers were unloaded from the vessel and taken to a wharf just west of the Cross Bay Bridge, near where the incident happened, the FDNY said.

The ferry was moving at about 2 knots (1 mile) per hour when it ran aground in the eastern area of the bay after the captain noticed shallow water and slowed down the boat, Seastreak said.

The vessel did not appear to suffer any damage, and remains stuck in the water until it can float freely during the next incoming tide.

“I am told the boat encountered an uncharted shoal.  We are sorry this happened and that our guests were inconvenienced.  Thankfully, no one was injured,” Seastreak Spokesman Tom Wynne said.

Seastreak said the accident’s cause is still being investigated.

 

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Newtown Creek sludge project nearing completion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jeff Stone

JEFF STONE

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is celebrating the end of a month-long project in Newtown Creek that, if successful, will eventually make the water running through Ridgewood, Maspeth and Greenpoint much more inviting.

DEP crews have been traveling through the contaminated creek since the end of March, cleaning up silt, industrial waste and untreated sewage overflow that has been left largely undisturbed since the 1970s. The project, which is expected to be fully complete by no later than the end of April, aims to make Newtown Creek passable for a new fleet of DEP sludge vessels that will transport wastewater from elsewhere in the city to a new facility deeper inland.

Sludge vessels can be seen six days a week traveling through the East and Hudson Rivers, transporting sludge (semi-solid material leftover from industrial wastewater or sewage treatment) to decontamination facilities. Those facilities then extract any harmful materials and dump the clean water back into rivers around the metro area.

Yet, despite its status as one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the city, Newtown Creek is not currently equipped with its own dewatering plant. Sludge from the area is transported through a pipeline under the East River to a wastewater treatment plant in Greenpoint. City officials hope to soon use that valuable Brooklyn real estate for affordable housing and a new park, but the first step in removing the treatment facility is cleaning Newtown Creek.

Step one, for the most part, is finished. Environmental officials said that barges will be taking their final trips through the area using sonar technology to ensure that a new fleet of sludge vessels will be able to travel through without incident.

“Most likely there will be a few spots where they have to touch up and lay a fresh layer of sand down,” a DEP representative said Friday. “The barge and dredge machinery will be on Newtown Creek for at least another week or so, but the majority of the work will be completed by this weekend.”

Before the project began last month, DEP officials and nearby residents were concerned that the stirred-up silt bed would omit a smell of rotten eggs into the spring air. The very notion was enough to prompt a flurry of social media activity from Queens and Brooklyn residents alike. None of the dire predictions came to pass, though, thanks to the crews’ round-the-clock reliance on air and water quality monitors.

“The fact that there’ve been two complaints and all of our monitoring indicates that we’re well within our acceptable limits, everything has gone smoothly,” the spokesman said.

Work at Newtown Creek is a symptom of a citywide effort to equip designated priority areas like Gowanus Canal, Jamaica Bay, Flushing Bay and the Bronx River with green infrastructure. The city will spend $2.4 billion over the next 20 years on treating wastewater and rain overflow before it enters New York’s waterways.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Friday: Cloudy with occasional rain showers. High 53. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70%. Friday night: Rain early followed by a mixture of wintry precipitation overnight. Low 37. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Bach & Brew: Dongsok Shin & Leah Nelson

Pianist Dongsok Shin performs on the King Manor Museum’s fortepiano and is joined by violinist Leah Nelson. The program will include works by Johann Christian Bach and Muzio Clementi. Sample craft beer similar to what would have been enjoyed during Rufus King’s lifetime. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

City sues Bell Helicopter for $12.4 million after 2010 splash-land in Jamaica Bay

New York is demanding Bell Helicopter Textron fork over $12.4 million to replace an NYPD aircraft that was destroyed after it splash-landed in Jamaica Bay due to a mechanical defect, according to a new lawsuit. Read more: New York Daily News

Lawsuits filed in connection with Metro-North derailment

The first lawsuits have been filed in the deadly Metro-North derailment as some victims say the tragedy should have been prevented. Read more: CBS New York

Bus shooter’s insanity defense fails; jury convicts

A sociopathic gunman’s insanity defense failed on Thursday when a Queens jury convicted him of shooting three men dead — two on the Q111 bus. Read more: New York Post 

Small-business hiring increases slightly in November

Hiring for small businesses was just so-so in November. Read more: New York Daily News 

Mandela’s influence felt in New York City

When a newly freed Nelson Mandela visited the United States in 1990, his first stop was New York City. From elected officials to everyday New Yorkers, the political giant is remembered fondly for the strength of his character and the power of his example. Read more: AP

$50 million to protect Howard Beach from storms


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Howard Beach homes will now be protected, starting at the coast.

Spring Creek and Jamaica Bay will undergo a multi-million dollar resiliency project that Governor Andrew Cuomo said will better protect homes and businesses from destructive storms.

“Like several other communities located by the water, Howard Beach suffered incredible damage from storm surges during Sandy,” Cuomo said. “To strengthen Howard Beach against future flooding and storms, we are moving forward on a major project that improves the natural infrastructure along Spring Creek and the Jamaica Bay coast, with the approval of federal funding.”

About 3,000 homes were damaged during Sandy in the low-lying community.

Roughly $50 million will go towards engineering, designing and executing this project, which will cover 150 acres. Excavation, re-contouring and re-vegetation will be implemented by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to create a self-sustaining system of wave-dampening barriers intended to reduce storm damage.

“Addressing the flooding problem in Howard Beach is long overdue,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “A project like this cannot happen fast enough.”

Low and high level vegetated salt marshes, as well as dunes and elevated grasslands will be used to protect the community against future storm surges, similar to the floodwaters experienced during Sandy, and a rise in sea level.

About 765,000 cubic yards of material will be dug up across the site and reshaped into an elevated area, and 40,000 cubic yards of sand will be imported and spread across the site.

“I am most interested in the timeframe of this major project, since flood mitigation is a serious concern for my constituents, and the scope of this project is to ensure all parts of Howard Beach, inclusive of New and Old Howard, as well as Hamilton Beach,” Addabbo said.

Mitigation will be done along the eastern shore of Spring Creek on the north shore of Jamaica Bay. The site is bound by the Belt Parkway to the north and a series of roadways to the southeast, including 78th Street, 161st Avenue, 83rd Street, 165th Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard. It comprises the western and southern perimeter of Howard Beach.

 

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Sewage project could impact South Ozone Park traffic


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the DEP

Jamaica Bay is getting a clean-up, but it will require years of work.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed to spread a citywide project to South Ozone Park next August to prevent untreated sewage from ultimately making its way into the bay.

Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) result from the combination of this domestic sewage and industrial wastewaters with storm water. The project, once completed, will monitor this, and consists of adding higher level sewer separation, wet weather stabilization, drainage basins and more in the event of a future storm.

Currently, plans are in preliminary stages. There will be period for public comment, and the DEP is working with the DOT on road closure potentials.

According to proposal plans, once construction begins, 126th Street between South Conduit Avenue and 150th Avenue will be closed for one year, as will the 150th Avenue westbound lane.

Additionally, the Belt Parkway’s on-ramp near 150th Avenue will be closed for 22 months, and one eastbound lane will be closed for one year during nighttime DOT work hours.

North Conduit Avenue near 150th Avenue will also experience various lane closures for up to two years. A traffic analysis concluded that the left lane can be closed for two months, and the second lane closed at night for two, one-month periods.

The green space between the Belt Parkway and North Conduit Avenue will be closed for two years.

There are also additional flagging areas for trucks, and temporary, short-term closures for truck unloading.

“You do not make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” said Betty Braton, Community Board 10 Chair. “There are roadway concerns, there will be traffic issues. It’s a lengthy project and they’re trying to do it within a compressed time frame.”

Construction is projected to end by February 2017, and will reduce the volume of CSOs to Jamaica Bay basins by 24 percent.

Despite a busy construction scene, Braton said the benefit in the long-term will be a clean Jamaica Bay after any future storm.

 

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New research center to study Jamaica Bay ecosystem


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

NYC Mayor's Office's Flickr/Photo by Edward Reed

A top-tier research center promoting resilience in urban ecosystems is coming to Jamaica Bay.

On Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced CUNY will house the new Science and Resilience Institute. The leaders also laid out progress on the cooperative management of Jamaica Bay parkland and waters.

“The new consortium is an all-star team of research institution and nonprofits who will do important work to protect and preserve urban ecosystems from development and from the effects of climate change,” Bloomberg said. “Jamaica Bay is one of the greatest natural treasures any city has within its borders.”

The Science and Resilience Institute will integrate research efforts from across the natural and social sciences, host visiting scientists and provide lab facilities for students and researchers.

The site will be formally established by fall of this year, with a temporary space on Brooklyn College’s campus.

“Working together, we will develop and coordinate approaches to coastal resiliency for Jamaica Bay that can serve as a model for communities around the world,” Jewell said. “In CUNY and their academic partners, we have a consortium of world-class institutions to advance our understanding of climate change and its impact on our natural systems.”

Bloomberg and Jewell also announced progress on several other park initiatives. Those include the formation of a Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, chaired by longtime National Park Service philanthropist Tom Secunda.

 

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