Tag Archives: National Park Service

Rep. Meng wants Flushing gems added to National Park Service


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Federal park officials are supporting a bill by Congressmember Grace Meng that would make historic Flushing sites part of the National Park Service, the legislator said.

The measure would require the Secretary of the Interior, who oversees federal parkland, to look into whether sites connected to the Flushing Remonstrance could be included in the national park system.

The Remonstrance, a historic 1657 petition, was signed by Peter Stuyvesant and 30 citizens to protest a policy that banned Quakers from practicing their religion in the colony of New Netherland.

Other sites mentioned in the bill are Flushing’s John Bowne House, where the Quakers held meetings, and the Old Quaker Meetinghouse, which was built in 1694 by Bowne and other Quakers.

“The story of the Flushing Remonstrance is not for New Yorkers alone,” Meng said. “It was an early struggle to establish the fundamental right to practice one’s religion.”

National Park Service Associate Director Victor Knox said the Department of the Interior supports the bill during a recent hearing held in Washington, according to Meng.

 

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Queens hiker rescued after snowstorm strands him on Hawaiian volcano


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

A Queens man is lucky to be alive after a snowstorm stranded the hiker near the summit of a Hawaiian volcano.

Alex Sverdlov, 36, a Middle Village resident and Brooklyn College professor, began climbing Mauna Loa, on the Big Island, Sunday, the National Park Service (NPS) said.

He reached the 13,677-foot summit on Tuesday after dropping off his heavy gear at a lower elevation, but, as he was descending, a snowstorm struck, creating white-out conditions.

That night, Sverdlov tried to find the gear he left behind, but was unsuccessful, the NPS said. With only the clothes he had on for protection and a bottle of frozen water, he decided to stay put until sunrise.

Photo courtesy of David Okita

He managed to locate his pack Wednesday morning, but with the deep snow, he didn’t go far, and was forced to spend another night on Mauna Loa.  Sverdlov, who had successfully, summited the volcano last winter, was “worried that he’d die” there, said the NPS.

“I’ve done many crazy hikes, but this one pretty much tops the bill,” said Sverdlov.

But the local park rangers hadn’t forgotten about him.

Sverdlov was the only registered hiker on the volcano after park management closed the mountain to visitors early Tuesday because of the weather. Park rangers first tried to call his cell phone, but couldn’t reach him. They then located his car on Mauna Loa Road, and when they saw it was still there Wednesday, rangers launched a helicopter search, locating him by 9 a.m. Thursday.

“Even the most experienced and prepared hikers can get into trouble in the park,” said John Broward, who serves as the park’s search-and-rescue coordinator. “What saved Alex is that he had a backcountry permit so we knew he was up there, he is extremely fit and he stayed calm. We’re all fortunate this had a happy ending.”

Despite the near-death experience, Sverdlov is not giving up his hiking adventures.

The same afternoon he was rescued, he applied for another backcountry permit, for the park’s remote coastal area, the NPS said.

“This time I’m going to the sunny part of the park,” Sverdlov said.

 

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Statue of Liberty, closed since Sandy, to reopen by July 4


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NPS

One of America’s most iconic symbols of freedom, the Statue of Liberty will be open in time to celebrate the country’s birthday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced today.

The monument has been closed since Sandy.

“[The storm] inflicted major damage on facilities that support the Statue of Liberty – destroying the docks, crippling the energy infrastructure on Ellis Island and wiping out the security screening system – but we are fully committed to reopening this crown jewel as soon as it’s safe for visitors and not a second later,” said Salazar . “Based on the tremendous progress we have made, Lady Liberty will be open to the public in time for the July 4th celebration.”

The Statue of Liberty is an important part of the city’s economy during the holiday and the rest of the year. According to Salazar, a report released last month by the National Park Service found that 3.7 million people visited Statue of Liberty national park in 2011, bringing in $174 million in economic activity and supporting 2,218 jobs.

“Lady Liberty was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, but just like New York, she will be back – and stronger than ever, said Schumer. “Being open for the summer tourism season isn’t just important symbolically, it’s a boon to the city’s economy and businesses, as the statue attracts millions of tourists from all over the world to our shores.”

Work to remove the damaged Liberty Island Shuttle Dock. (Photo by Kevin Daley, NPS Photographer)

 

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Doe Fund cleans up Broad Channel


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Broad Channel is seeing blue.

Nine workers from the Doe Fund, dubbed “the men in blue,” will help clean up a two-mile stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel, as the island still continues to recover nearly four months after Sandy hit.

The cleanup effort, which officially began on Friday, February 15, will run from the foot of the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge to the American Legion Post 1404.

The Doe Fund gives homeless men and women a second chance by providing jobs and starting a new life. Staten Island, Coney Island and the Rockaways have been other areas the Doe Fund has cleaned up in wake of the storm. The men will pick up the roadside trash and haul it on to Department of Sanitation trucks.

“The garbage and the litter and the debris are still here,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich. “People are going to be so impressed. They’re [the workers] going to do a top-notch job.”

Ulrich said he reached out to Doe Fund chair George McDonald two weeks ago to help clean up Broad Channel’s main thoroughfare, which is still littered with debris. Flanked by Doe Fund members and representatives from the National Park Service and the Department of Sanitation, Ulrich said the “Men in Blue” would be on Cross Bay Boulevard, picking up trash until the job is done. The goal, he added, is to have Cross Bay back to its pre-storm look, if not better.

Cross Bay Boulevard is the first view of the Rockaways visitors get and the road needed to keep that vista positive, Ulrich said.

The relationship between the Doe Fund and south Queens goes back to long before the storm, according to Community Board 14 chair Dolores Orr. The organization helps clean up Beach 116th street, an economic hub in Rockaway, every spring, Orr said.

“It’s equally important for the residents trying to recover themselves,” Orr said.

McDonald, who’s also running as a Republican for mayor, said the men and women of the organization were hard workers and dedicated to getting their life back on track.

“It’s on behalf of all the citizens of New York that we come here and help clean up,” McDonald said. “We are thrilled to be able to give back. I know this partnership is going to do great things for this community and I thank Councilmember Ulrich for thinking of us.”

 

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Agreement breathes new life into Jamaica Bay


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Jamaica Bay, which has long been a medley of city, state and federal land, will now have thousands of acres of parkland jointly managed by the National Park Service and the New York City Parks Department.

The two agencies reached an agreement to maintain 10,000 acres of Jamaica Bay to “promote visitation, education programs, scientific research and recreational opportunities.”

“This is an important example of the great things that can happen when different levels of government work together and are supported by philanthropic organizations,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “This agreement fulfills important goals included our plans to make our city more sustainable and to enhance our waterfront.”

Goals for the collectively administered project include improved recreation spaces, including more camping and boating opportunities; integrated land and water trail systems; ensuring public transportation and access to and within Jamaica Bay; and new experiential activities, including public transit, pedestrian, bicycle and ferry access.

As part of the project, the city and National Park Service released a request for expressions of interest for a university, academic partner or science-focused organization to manage an intensive research program focused on the restoration of the bay, including potentially creating a new science and resilience center to coordinate and bolster research efforts.

Pols push for improvements to Charles Park


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Mike DiBartolomeo

Piles of trash in tall grass are just yards away from baseball fields where the pitcher’s mounds have nearly leveled with home plate. Behind home plate, there are cracks in the sidewalks that are overgrown with grass and weeds. Not much further from this scene is a picnic table, worn from years of use.

These are just some of the images of Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in Howard Beach, which officials and residents say has been neglected for years by the National Park Service (NPS).

Assemblymember Philip Goldfeder and Senator Charles Schumer recently sent a letter to NPS with concerns about upkeep of the park that residents claim has been inconsistent and underfunded for years.

“Frank M. Charles Memorial Park, a treasured resource for the residents of Howard Beach, has long been a popular location for youth sports games and family outings. But the park has seen better days,” Schumer said. “The level of deterioration at the park is unacceptable, and that’s why I’m urging the National Park Service to step up to the plate and clean it up so local residents get the park they deserve.”

Goldfeder said he and Schumer decided to urge for better maintenance now as summer heats up and pollution in the park has increased.

“I think it was time we sort of formalize our request that we’re serious about it and we’re not going to stop until we see some improvement,” Goldfeder said.

The assemblymember said NPS typically focuses its spending on West Coast parks and will sometimes forget about eastern areas.

He added that “Howard Beach is a beautiful community and we deserve a beautiful park.”

In the past, Goldfeder said he’s led cleanup efforts throughout the greenspace, but it needs consistent maintenance and not quick fixes.

Dorothy McCluskey, who heads the Friends of Charles Park group, has worked for nearly two decades to ensure the park is clean.

The Parks Service, she said, had not been allocating funds to, or regularly caring for, what she calls “the jewel of Jamaica Bay.” She cited poorly repaired tennis courts and baseball fields as some of the problems reported to the NPS.

John Warren, an NPS spokesperson for the area, said the agency was working the city to improve all parks near Jamaica Bay. Warren said plans with the city were “still in the early stages, but it’s going to help us pool our resources together…to provide better services to people at all of our parks in the Jamaica Bay area.”

Garbage, he said, is a problem endemic to all greenspaces, and NPS is continuing to clean the park.

“Trash is an issue at any park,” he said, “and it’s something we’re working on further improving.”

Hollywood in Queens? Kaufman Astoria Studios fighting to expand


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Kaufman Astoria Studios

A second take on a review process is preventing Kaufman Astoria Studios from calling “action” on their planned expansion – a project which has already been green-lit once before.

Senator Charles Schumer is urging the National Park Service (NPS) to authorize Kaufman’s proposal, which would create New York City’s first outdoor movie studio lot.

Kaufman plans to enclose 36th Street between 34th and 35th avenues within the lot and construct an entry gate at 36th Street and 35th Avenue in Astoria, creating a studio campus similar to those in Hollywood.

The outdoor lot will allow production companies to film exterior and special effects shots directly adjacent to interior sound stages, attracting movie and television clients that would have previously chosen another location to fulfill their needs.

Schumer is hoping the NPS, which deeded the land to the city in the 1970s for the purpose of building the outdoor studio, will act quickly to allow the space to be available for filming by the summer of 2013.

Kaufman has already received approval through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) – a local process which includes authorization from the NPS, Landmarks Preservation Commission and State Historic Preservation Office. However, due to the institution of changes requested by the city’s Public Design Commission, which wanted to give the area a more “gritty, industrial feel” by altering the gate, the NPS informed Kaufman that they had to review the project again. Schumer says the second assessment could push the $2 million project four months behind schedule.

“It’s time to say ‘action’ on this project, so that New York City can become the new star of the film and television industry,” said Schumer. “By building the city’s first ever outdoor studio lot, we can attract film and TV clients that would otherwise have to choose Los Angeles. We can provide a huge boost to New York’s booming film and television industries by getting this project completed so that major production companies can begin using the studio by summer of next year. This outdoor lot could become an iconic New York City destination like the great studios of Hollywood, but the NPS needs to stop the needless bureaucratic delays and allow this project to move forward.”

Despite Schumer’s concern, Jane Ahern, a spokesperson for NPS, says the service expects the project to continue on schedule.

“We are happy to report that all of the parties involved are working together,” Ahern said. “The NPS and all entities are supporting the project moving forward. It should be moving forward on time with no delays.”

New York City’s film and television industries have seen a boom in business over the last decade. Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced that the industries generated $7.1 billion in 2011 and have employed 130,000 residents since 2004. According to published reports, 188 films and a record 23 prime time television shows were shot in the five boroughs in 2011.

The outdoor lot is the second expansion in as many years for Kaufman, which spent $23 million on an indoor studio in 2010.
“The creation of the city’s first studio back lot is another chapter in realizing our vision for the studio as a complete campus,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman

Astoria Studios. “The back lot will add to the growth of the Kaufman Astoria Studios campus, the industry in New York and the economic development of the neighborhood.

We are excited to see this project move forward.”

Kaufman, which opened in 1920, is currently a location for major motion pictures, independent films, television shows and commercials, and its stages have been host to countless acting legends, including Bill Cosby, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep and Al Pacino.