Thursday, April 14, 2011

Filling In Jamaica Bay For JFK Expansion Not Going To Fly - Environmentalists/Community

....nothing in this section shall authorize the expansion of airport runways into Jamaica Bay - 1972 H.R 1121 Section 3 (D)

The Jamaica Bay Task Force Group hosted its first meeting last week in response to the Regional Plan Association's (RPA) highly controversial report. More than 150 people turned out on Thursday, April 7, at the American Legion Hall in Broad Channel. Representatives from environmental and civic groups from around the bay as well as numerous fishing clubs and kayak groups came out and strongly opposed the plan. (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

Although the RPA report outlined several options to ease area airport congestion, the idea of filling in 400 acres of Jamaica Bay in Gateway National Park to create additional runways at JFK clearly received the most criticism. An act of Congress would be required to make this unprecedented change to a National Park. The report, Upgrading to World Class – The future of the New York Regions Airports, was funded by the Port Authority and developed by a consortium of major federal, state, city and county government stakeholders. No local environmental input was sought.

Such an expansion of JFK would have unacceptable adverse impacts on Jamaica Bay environmentalists and community activists assert, irreversibly harming what is not simply New York City’s ecological crown jewel but a wetlands and estuarine area of national importance.

Daniel Mundy, Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, Don Riepe, American Littoral Society, Brad Sewell, Senior Attorney of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Captain Vinnie Calabro all gave powerful powerpoint presentations. The speakers, as well as audience members spoke passionately about the importance of preserving the area's vital ecosystem. The evening - which started off with Dan Mundy Sr - was chaired by his son Daniel and Mr. Riepe.

Another issue in the report that received major scorn was RPA's contention that Grassy Bay was a "Dead Zone." To refute this assertion, for twenty minutes boat captain and fishing columnist Vinnie Calabro showed image after image of enormous fish he said were caught in that area of the bay. Mr. Calabro, who said he's been fishing those waters for 40 years, was just one of dozens of attendees who represented the fishing community.

On March 17, leaders from 21 environmental, recreational, and civic groups signed and sent a letter to Port Authority Executive Director Christopher Ward voicing their opposition to the proposed plan.

Daniel Mundy, Jr. vice president Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers gave an impassioned and informative powerpoint presentation refuting many of RPA's findings. Among many other issues, Mr. Mundy took the report to task for RPA's many inaccurate air travel projections from prior reports beginning in 1947. “The nature of the proposal is outrageous," he said. — Geoffrey Croft

Brooklyn/Queens

A recent proposal to fill in about 400 acres of the Jamaica Bay wetlands for more runway space at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport is not flying well with environmental groups, local residents, and members of the local fishing and boating community, according to The Epoch Times.

The
plan was one of six proposals made in the 2011 Regional Plan Association (RPA) report to manage increased demand in air travel and to remedy the current constrained airport capacity in the region.

Since the release of the RPA report, “Upgrading to World Class: The Future of the New York Region’s Airports” in January, controversy has been brewing and opposition to the proposal has been gaining momentum.

On March 17, leaders from 21 environmental, recreational, and civic groups signed and sent a
letter to Port Authority Executive Director Christopher Ward voicing their opposition to the proposed plan.

The letter stated that the groups do not oppose efforts to increase the region’s aviation capacity, but urged the Port Authority to “consider other available alternatives for meeting the region’s airport capacity needs.”

It stated that permanently filling in a portion of the Jamaica Bay to accommodate JFK runway expansion would have an adverse impact on the bay. NYC Park Advocates, a parks advocacy group, describes the bay not only as the city’s ecological crown jewel but a wetland and estuary of national significance.

The letter highlighted the escalation of intrusive commercial jet noise, wildlife conflicts with aviation safety, and water pollution from the airport. It cited the likelihood for an increase in the runoff from the millions of gallons of toxic de-icing fluids used each winter that are currently being discharged directly into the bay.

On Thursday, April 7, the Jamaica Bay Task Force Group (JBTF) hosted its first town hall meeting in response to the RPA proposal.

The event, attended by nearly 150 individuals, provided city officials, scientists, and numerous community and advocacy group leaders with the
opportunity to express their reasons for refuting the runway expansion into the bay.

“One of the major shortcomings of the report was that actual users, including environmentalists and civic organizations were not consulted,” said Geoffrey Croft, president, NYC Park Advocates.


“This would require an act of Congress and I am not going to let that happen,” Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn) said at Thursday’s meeting referring to filling in parts of Jamaica Bay. He stated that he had spoken with both the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Port Authority Executive Director Christopher Ward and expressed his opposition to that plan.


At Thursday’s meeting, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn) stated that he had spoken with both the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Port Authority Executive Director Christopher Ward.

Details of the conversation were unavailable, as Weiner’s media spokesperson did not respond as of press time.

However, Weiner was quoted as saying, “This would require an act of Congress and I am not going to let that happen.”

Likewise, Councilman Erik Ulrich opposes the plan. “There is no way we are going to let this happen in this community or in any other community. We cannot let this move forward,” said Ulrich.

The groups’ claim that the report overstated projections for future air travel demand, fails to address the airport land access issues, fails to seek the use of other airports such as MacArthur and Stewart, fails to recognize the impact on the surrounding environment, and fails to acknowledge previous studies, including the RPA 1973 report that rejected a proposal to fill in portions of Jamaica Bay.

Many were particularly upset that the report described a portion of the bay that borders JFK as a “‘dead’ section called Grassy Bay.”

Filling in the bay for runway expansion is not an option, said John Tanacredi, chairman of the Department of Earth &
Marine Sciences at Dowling College, Kramer Science Center.

Jamaica Bay has one of the most bio-diverse marine ecosystems, said Tanacredi, who was a research ecologist with the National Parks Service at Gateway national recreational area for 24 years.

Tanacredi expressed three concerns with the RPA’s proposal to fill in the bay for the runway expansion.

The first touched on what Tancredi described as RPA’s “poor planning” and their failure to investigate existing robust research that was conducted on Jamaica Bay.

The second concerned the filling of the large single borrow pit in Grassy Bay, as this will lead to other proposals to fill in the other borrow pits in the bay. Borrow pits are holes in the bottom of the bay when sand was removed many years ago to build JFK airport, said Tanacredi.

The third concern involved recreational and subsistence fishing. “The bay is not only a major economic stimulus for the community but the fishing community at the bay fish for their families,” said Tanacredi.

He also cited the issue of bird hazards and the dangers of the laughing gulls being sucked into the engine of airplanes.

“The nature of the proposal is outrageous,” said Daniel Mundy Jr., president of Broad Channel Civic
Association.

Currently, the water in the bay is at its cleanest in recent years due to a number of restoration projects, such as the $16 million salt water marsh restoration and another ongoing project to reintroduce oysters into the bay, said Mundy.

The failure to include the RPA 1973 report and the other significant studies indicated a bias on the part of the RPA, stated Mundy.

Port Authority Representative Edward Knoesel, manager for environmental services, at the Aviation Department of JFK Airport, and Natural Resources Protective Assocaition's Ida Sanoff, and one of the Jamaica Bay Task Force's dogged advocates. (Photo: ©Vivian R. Carter)

“The Port Authority has no plans to fill Jamaica Bay,” Mr. Knoesel repeatedly said. “This is a study. We have not made the decision yet. We view this report as a start in the conversation."

Read More:

Proposed JFK Expansion Stirs Controversy with Environmentalists
The Epoch Times - April 13, 2011 - By Margaret Lau

The Queens Courier - April 12, 2011 - By Shiryn Ghermezian

New York Daily News - April 7, 2011 - By Lisa L. Colangelo

Rockviv - April 12, 2011 - By Vivian Carter


NY1 - March 23, 2011 - By Mari Fagel


Environmentalists Speak Out Against JFK Runway
Expansion
Into Gateway National Park

Who: Representatives from dozens of environmental, recreational, civic groups, agency and elected officials as well as members of the fishing and boating community.

What: Town Hall Meeting Speaking Out Against Port Authority Proposal

Where: American Legion Hall - 209 Crossbay Blvd. Broad Channel (718) 474 -5029

When: 6:30 p.m.

The Jamaica Bay Task Force Group is hosting its first meeting to respond to the highly controversial report by the Regional Plan Association (RPA) which calls for the destruction of up to four hundred acres of wetlands in Gateway National Park located in Jamaica Bay to accommodate runway expansion at JFK Airport. An act of Congress would be required to make this unprecedented change to a National Park.

Such an expansion of JFK would have unacceptable adverse impacts on Jamaica Bay, irreversibly harming what is not simply New York City’s ecological crown jewel but a wetlands and estuarine area of national importance. Hundreds of acres of the Bay would need to be permanently filled in something currently prohibited by federal law.

Jamaica Bay encompasses more than 25, 000 acres of water, marsh, meadowland, beaches, dunes and forests in Brooklyn and Queens, all accessible by subway. It contains a federal wildlife refuge the size of 10 Central Parks. It provides nursery and foraging, habitat for the region’s fisheries and other marine life. Bay waters adjacent to JFK are renowned for some of the region’s best fishing for bluefish and striped bass — and is a critical bird habitat area that is visited annually by what is estimated to be nearly 20 percent of North America's bird species. It is also home to various endangered and threatened species – from sea turtles to peregrine falcons. Intrusive commercial jet noise would potentially increase Wildlife conflicts with aviation safety. Water pollution from the airport - which currently discharges run-off from the millions of gallons of toxic de-icing fluids used each winter directly into the Bay - would likely increase.

Dozens of environmental, recreational, and civic groups are vehemently opposed to this plan. On March 17, a letter was sent to Port Authority Executive Director Christopher O. Ward to voice their strong opposition (see attached). The groups are asking that the Port Authority consider other available alternatives for meeting the region’s airport capacity needs. The letter was signed by 21 groups.

The report,"Upgrading to World Class – The future of the New York Regions Airports" http://www.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Upgrading-to-World-Class.pdf (pages 150-154) was funded by the Port Authority and developed by a consortium of major federal, state, city and county government stakeholders. No local environmental input was sought.


Background:

The report proposes expanding JFK Airport further into the waters of Jamaica Bay as a means of accommodating anticipated growth in the number of passengers at the regions three airports. This radical plan calls for the filling in and paving over of four hundred acres of wetlands within the boundaries of Gateway National Park. The plan has been met with shock and outrage from leaders in the environmental and civic communities all of whom were not consulted during the two years of the report's creation. The destruction of protected lands within a National Park on such a scale are unprecedented and many feel the effects will ripple throughout the bay. Such critical ecological factors as: Tidal flow, salt marsh habitat, critical mud flat habitat, marine fisheries, and water quality will be impacted on a massive scale. In addition the report seems to have a number of inaccuracies and omissions that are in direct contrast to the facts regarding these impacted areas.

Thursday night's meeting will have four presenters who will respond to the report, speak to the impact these proposals will have and present documentation of the marine and bird life that is so abundant in this area. The meeting will have representatives of the various environmental groups working around the bay, agency representatives, and elected officials or their representatives as well as members of the fishing and boating community.

Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers - Statement

The Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers (JBEW’s) stand firmly opposed to the addition of new runways and/or the extension of new or existing runways into Jamaica Bay. This proposal would do irreperable harm to the fragile ecosytem of Jamaica Bay. As the only designated wildlife refuge in the National Parks System Jamaica Bay is host to over one third of all bird species in North America making it one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the Northeastern United States. In addition over 60 reptiles and dozens of species of fish can be found in this Bay.

The proposal by the Port Authority to fill in and destroy up to 400 acres of wetlands and shoreline area is ill advised and without recent precedent. The report, which is the basis for these plans, appears to be seriously flawed as it refers to the impacted areas as “dead” zones when in fact they are some of the most productive areas on the Northeast coast. Home to spring and summer runs of striped bass and blue fish which number in the tens of thousands this area is rich in natural resources. At a time when tremendous improvements, including marshland and oyster restoration, osprey revival , and water quality upgrades, have been achieved this proposal would serve to deliver an impact that may be fatal to the bay . In addition to the huge loss of habitat and impact to bird and fish populations the expansion would curtail tidal flow and inhibit necessary flushing action leaving a large hypoxic lifeless area in the entire northern section of the bay.

"The JBEW's recognize that the airports today have too little capacity for growing demands and have congestion and delays but the expansion of JFK Airport at the expense of the environment is totally unacceptable," said Dan Mundy Sr. founder of the JBEW'S.

These startling proposals were unveiled at a recent conference titled “Upgrading to World Class – The future of the New York Regions Airports." The meeting was hosted by the Regional Plan Association and attended by hundreds of representatives from the airport industry on January 27, 2011 . The report, see link http://www.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Upgrading-to-World-Class.pdf (pages 150-154) was developed by a consortium of major federal, state, city and county government stakeholders. No local environmental input was sought and at a Q & A period, during the conference, Dan Mundy Jr. pointed out had that involvement been included the document produced may not have been so flawed.

The JBEW’s suggest that the federal government should fully fund the FAA’s NexGen 1 & 2 programs that will transform air traffic control from the present ground-based technologies to satellite-based technology. This action will produce capacity increases for each airport and enable the adjustment of flight schedules dynamically and provide for saver airline travel. Also the expanded use of outlying airports with improved transportation and managing demand at the present airports will solve many of the problems.

NYC Park Advocates Inc. is a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group dedicated to restoring public funding, improving public parks, increasing public recreation programs, expanding open space and accessibility, and achieving the equitable distribution of these vital services in New York City for all. We are the only non-profit park advocacy group dedicated to all City, State and Federal parkland in New York City. For more information please visit us at nycparkadvocates.org

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8 comments:

  1. This is an excellent re-cap, AWITP. And this blog is vital and necessary. Thank you.

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  2. Some of my earliest and most precious memories of nature exploration in the city took place at Jamaica Bay. As a child, I remember the wonder of seeing my first woodcock here, camouflaged among the leaves. And I recall the amazing shore birds and the joy of the open spaces, the salty smell of the air, and the fun of watching the fishing boats in the distance. As an adult, I continue to cherish my visits to this wonderful and special place.

    The notion of filling in ANY portion of this ecologically rich, deeply precious natural area is offensive beyond belief. Please keep up the good work of educating people about the ecological and cultural importance of wetlands in general and of this area in particular. And please keep us posted on how we can help to support these efforts.

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  3. Andrew M, Greller, PhD; Prof. Emer., Biology, Queens College, CUNYApril 19, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    What JFK AP really needs is an extension of the NYC Subway to a main terminal. Cleveland AP has this and you are in the city in a matter of minutes.
    Filling in the saltmarsh will further degrade Jamaica Bay, which is showing a decrease in marshland due to rising sea levels. It may well create or exacerbate a "dead zone", which will prevent proper tidal flushing of the Bay. Such a dead zone was created at LaGuardia AP when the last extension was built there two decades ago or so.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this important information

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  5. This idea is an environmental nightmare - - for both flora and fauna.

    If you are reading this, you know it in your heart, Chris Ward, that this would be a horror.

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  6. Thank you for posting these updates about this very important issue regarding the filling in of Jamaica Bay. I wish I heard about it earlier and would be been present at the meeting.

    I truly love Jamaica Bay and the Wildlife Refuge (one of the most beautiful natural spaces in NYC) and think that we do need to preserve what green spaces we have left in Queens.

    I think that JFK needs way more revamping in the surrounding areas to be more visitor friendly.

    Thanks again for sharing and standing up for our parks.

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  7. The RPA is nothing but a friend to developers and transportation folks and has increasingly become more supportive of dumb ideas like this.

    When will we ever learn? We should be SAVING more wild places, not paving over them. Who thinks up these ridiculous plans?

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  8. Thank you so very much. Been interested in the issue for a while and I certainly don't like the way things are going.

    ___
    call Jamaica

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