Gateway Park Projects Elicit Community Concerns

Gateway Park Projects Elicit Community Concerns

tate Department of Environmental Conservation Biologist Joanna Field takes a question Tuesday night at the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic meeting at PS 207. Photo by Michael V. Cusenza

tate Department of Environmental Conservation Biologist Joanna Field takes a question Tuesday night at the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic meeting at PS 207.
Photo by Michael V. Cusenza

An update on the Spring Creek Hazard Mitigation project might have been on the marquee Tuesday night at the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic meeting, but public access, and park management and maintenance of Charles Park, Jamaica Bay and the rest of Gateway National Recreation Area stole the show.

Joanna Field, a biologist in the state Department of Environmental Conservation bureau of marine resources, delivered a brief presentation on the Spring Creek project. The two-phase, $50 million Federal Emergency Management Agency-sponsored flood mitigation is designed “to spend money now,” Field said, “to prevent spending money and loss of life later.”

Approximately $3 million of the grant funds are being used for Phase I of the project, which involves engineering and design work. Though this first stage was due to be completed by August, 2015, Field said that deadline will have to be pushed back. Once approved, Phase II will put the balance toward resiliency efforts.

“This project is another example of how we’re building back better to better protect New Yorkers’ homes and businesses,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in announcing the mitigation last November.

Key features of the project include low- and high-level vegetated salt marshes, dune complexes, grasslands and maritime forests at increasing elevations, which will protect against storm surges like those experienced during Superstorm Sandy, and provide an additional level of resiliency against sea level rise. The mitigation may also feature surge-dampening shell fish reefs, and will interact with on-going efforts to rebuild marsh islands to ultimately establish multiple barriers of protection for Howard Beach and other Jamaica Bay communities.

“We have a responsibility to protect Howard Beach from future storms,” said Joshua Laird, commissioner of National Parks of New York Harbor.

Several audience members peppered Laird about the other parts of Gateway, and upcoming projects to beautify areas that have been neglected and destroyed for years. Laird said he’s aware of the community concerns regarding security, maintenance and management.

“We are an agency that is about access [to parks],” Laird said. But area residents in attendance, particularly those who live near Gateway, decried the conditions of Charles Park and the beach, an area already inundated with improper access issues, with neighbors complaining of alleged extreme religious rituals, foul odors and discarded animal carcasses.

“That attitude is going to change,” said Laird, adding that he felt “very fortunate” that the Parks Department chose him to lead what is tantamount to a revolution at Charles Park. “It’s not an overnight solution, but we’re going to have the dedication of staff to make Charles Park better than it is.”

Both Field and Laird reassured the civic that their respective agencies will be return with progress reports, because as Laird indicated, “We want this to be a consultative process.”

HBL Civic President Joann Ariola told both representatives that the community is on board.

“We do want to work with you closely, every step of the way,” she said.


By Michael V. Cusenza


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>