PHOTO: The West Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service
An area elected official is calling on the federal government to commit funds to fix lingering Superstorm Sandy damage at Jacob Riis Park and Jamaica Bay West Pond, both of Gateway National Recreation Area.
In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Howard Beach) urged the Obama administration to provide money for repairs to the famed Art Deco Riis Park bathhouse and the full restoration of West Pond.
According to Goldfeder, current conditions at Gateway, which is owned and operated by the National Park Service, do not meet the demands of increasing numbers of visitors, particularly during busy summer months.
“Every year, millions of families come to enjoy New York’s best urban beaches at Riis Park, and the tranquil trails at West Pond,” Goldfeder said. “Sadly, the devastation from Sandy has tarnished these once-proud sites. We must provide the resources to restore these true gems to ensure that they will be preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy.”
On Tuesday, Department of the Interior Press Secretary Jessica Kershaw confirmed to The Forum that the agency has received Goldfeder’s missive and will review it.
Significant damage from Sandy greatly impacted the aging Riis Park facilities, Goldfeder said, with tidal surges pushing through the bathhouse floor, police building and lifeguard station. The parking lot also sustained damage from its role as a temporary debris storage site for surrounding communities following the 2012 storm.
In November, Goldfeder secured the installation of temporary lighting around the bathhouse to accommodate restaurant patrons at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar.
Built in the early 1950s by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses as a wildlife refuge, West Pond serves as habitat and migratory stop for many species of wild birds, and is a popular destination for birdwatchers, Goldfeder noted. During Sandy, the loop path ringing the pond was breached by storm surges, changing the freshwater pond and its fragile ecosystem.
In October, Goldfeder declared his support for the proposed Alternative B plan to restore West Pond. The project, which is favored by NPS and the Broad Channel Civic Association, calls for a two-phase restoration program to be completed by 2017. Phase 1 will restore the Sandy-damaged pond perimeter loop trail and shoreline at a cost of $1.7 – $2.5 million. Phase 2 would repair Terrapin Point to the west of the pond and add new visitor amenities at a cost of $5.1 – $6.2 million, Goldfeder said.
However, funding for Phase 2 has yet to be committed by the federal government.
In May, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also asked DOI to step in, renovate the bathhouse and restore West Pond.
Schumer urged the agency to refurbish the bathhouse as “an adaptive, full-functioning facility with a redesigned, resilient ground level for food service, bicycle rental, and other concessions that are currently lacking at the park.”
Additionally, he called on DOI to redesign West Pond “in a way that will reestablish access to the pond for all visitors and provide greater storm resiliency in the future.”
By Michael V. Cusenza firstname.lastname@example.org