Tag Archives: Regional Plan Association

New water trails may come to Jamaica Bay

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Paddlers may soon have a new scenic Jamaica Bay path to follow when exploring the body of water in south Queens and Brooklyn.

The Regional Plan Association (RPA) is proposing a new public access waterfront trail for the bay which they think will “encourage well-being through active outdoor recreation and by connecting people with history, nature and community.” If built, it would connect a network of different access points and destinations throughout south Queens and Brooklyn.

“There are a lot of things going on in Jamaica Bay right now,” said Robert Freudenberg, director of energy and environmental programs for the RPA. “This paddling program is a tremendous opportunity to start the next phase of using the bay.”

Over 292,000 people live within a mile of Jamaica Bay, and the Gateway receives an average of 3.8 million visitors annually for its variety of recreational uses. The RPA says that there has been a growing interest in paddling on the bay, though only 6,700 people used it for the sport in 2014.

The “Paddling the Bay” trail, as it is called, and would encompass Jamaica Bay as far east as Idlewild Park, near JFK airport, to as far west as Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn. It would consist of five smaller trails: Dead Horse Trail, Airfield Trail, North Channel Trail, Rockaway Bayside Trail and the Wildlife Trail. These trails would connect paddlers to things such as restaurants, parks and bike trails among other recreational activities.

The organization has outlined about five different access point in Queens that already exist but are looking to add some to complete the trail route they proposed. Existing ones consist of Rockaway Point Yacht Club, Riis Landing, Bayswater, Idlewild and Rockaway Jet Ski, part of Thai Rock.

Some of the potential areas they are looking at to build access points, if the project were to go through, are at Beach 88th Street, Rockaway Community Park, Belle Harbor and Spring Creek at the southern tip of Howard Beach.

Each of these access points, both existing and potential, would take some type of investment to build out by either upgrading the facility or building totally new infrastructure.

There has been no monitory figure dedicated to what it would take to create the trails at this point. The RPA has given each access point a range of one to four dollar signs to give an estimate of how much money it would cost to upgrade or build out the area. With one symbol the RPA says building the infrastructure would cost thousands of dollars or could be work that may be done through volunteer programs. But where there are three or four dollar signs, costs could go up to the millions.

The RPA said that some of the recent investments that were brought to the Jamaica Bay waterfront, including its water quality and park areas, have given visitors a renewed interest in exploring the land—which is why they believe investing in a water trail is vital to its continued growth.

Though they have designed what they believe it should look like, the trail is not in the construction phase. They are still asking the National Parks Service (NPS) and the NYC Parks Department, two of the owners of most of the land around the gateway, for continued consideration of new dock sites, finding stakeholders and funding opportunities.

The project would have to be taken over and completed by the NPS. There are still multiple ideas for the trails being played with, but the RPA says they want to start getting information to the public regarding the trails to see what they think of the idea.

“The big thing here is that we would like to see what the community and potential users of the trail want to see,” said Freudenberg. “This was a vision we want to get to a reality and we [will] have continued conversations with the community and landowners [regarding the project].”


Jamaica of the future imagined by residents

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Imagine Jamaica with more affordable housing, better transportation and more, higher-paying localized jobs.

That was the vision put forward for the neighborhood when more than 100 residents and community advocates attended the city-run Jamaica Planning Initiative meeting this past weekend.

“We’ve been talking to ourselves for too long in this community,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “We care about the future and are so excited for this plan going forward.”

With so much change having hit the neighborhood already, the city came up with the idea of meeting with local residents to find out what they want in the future. The Jamaica Planning Initiative was a community workshop that broke up residents in attendance into four small groups: 1) transportation, public space and urban design, 2) housing and commercial development, 3) Jamaica identity, branding and marketing and 4) Jamaica jobs. Residents chose the issue that they felt was most pertinent.

They focused on the study area east of the Van Wyck Expressway to Farmers Boulevard and north of Linden Boulevard to Union Turnpike.

Topics discussed were plans for more affordable housing units, finding safer ways for pedestrians to cross streets, creating a localized job market for residents in the community, upgrading small business opportunities and bringing better transportation to the neighborhood.

One issue that was brought up by residents was the concern for more affordable housing.

“We need affordable places for people to live that don’t make much money,” one resident said in a focus group. “That is where the money should be invested.”

At this point, the city agencies working on the project, which include the DOT, Regional Plan Association, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the NYC Small Business Service among local elects, were looking for community feedback so they can move along to the next phase, which is the Jamaica Action Plan. It is the final step before actual implementation.

“The Jamaica Action Plan will incorporate your crucial feedback on topics of focus and opportunity,” said Cali Williams, vice president of the NYC EDC. “Based on today’s charrette sessions, the city will release a set of realistic projects and programs to improve and enliven the experience of Jamaica.”

The workshop turned out to be a major success for all parties.

Regarding the next step, which is the implantation process, the projects will be identified as short-, medium- and long-term proposals. Some of the short-term projects will begin “right away,” according to the EDC, and they and local elects are looking for the continued support of the neighborhood.

“Queens is the diamond of all boroughs,” Congressman Gregory Meeks said. “But we can’t have the greatness we are unless everybody participates in the building of our community.”


OpEd: Public opposed to JFK runway expansion

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


As your assemblymember, it is my responsibility to ensure that the community’s concerns are heard. On no issue is that clearer than the Regional Plan Association’s suggested plan to the Port Authority to expand the runway at JFK International Airport into Jamaica Bay. Since the plan was first introduced in February 2011, I have listened to hundreds of residents tell me how this would destroy Jamaica Bay and hurt our community, and despite the steadfast public opposition, the idea remains on the table after over a year of deliberation.

The proposal originally devised by the Regional Plan Association calls for parts of the federally-protected Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to be filled-in to create a new runway at JFK Airport. The 400-acre parcel of wetlands and shoreline serves as one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the northeast and is home to over 60 species of reptiles and fish.

An environmental study stated that any further man-made incursion would “diminish a national environment asset for future generations.” For that reason, federal law specifically prohibited any airport expansion in the protected zone in the 1972 wildlife refuge, park and recreation area designation by the National Parks System.

Protecting this wildlife refuge is only one aspect that has worried the community. Both the residents of my community and Jamaica Bay would be greatly impacted by the runway expansion as proposed by the RPA. The project would literally be built in the backyards of communities that rely heavily on the serene atmosphere that the neighborhood currently offers. Property values would undoubtedly be diminished and the potential negative impact to the local area and economy greatly outweighs any benefit a new runway would generate.

In 2009, US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger gave us a true story of American heroism when he made an emergency landing into the Hudson River after a rare bird strike caused an engine on his jet to fail. Unfortunately, I have seen reports from aviation consultants that show disrupting the Jamaica Bay wildlife area could raise the risk of further bird strikes at JFK Airport. I urge more research into how expansion would change the bird sanctuary, so that we can be sure it does not put lives in danger.

Air traffic has greatly increased in recent years. I understand the need for airport expansion, but I stand with the residents of Queens – this proposal simply has too many negative implications. There are a number of different, viable solutions at one of the four other airports in the metropolitan area managed by the Port Authority that could accomplish the same goal with less impact on our families and the environment.

I recently sent a letter to Port Authority executives detailing my apprehensions with the proposed runway expansion at JFK and they have publicly stated they will take my concerns into consideration. Jamaica Bay is a tremendous natural resource that deserves protection. This is a good first step and I hope the Port Authority is finally convinced to drop this plan.

If you would like more information on the proposal to expand the runway, or to discuss this or any other important community issue, don’t hesitate to contact my office at 718-945-9550 or email me at goldfederp@assembly.state.ny.us.