Archive for the tag 'environment'

daffodils
We’re only just on the brink of fall, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about next spring! And if you’re anything like us, one of the best indications that winter’s over is the appearance of daffodils all over the neighborhood, from tree pits to community gardens. Want to help make that happen? It’s easy, and it’s free!

New Yorkers for Parks’ Daffodil Project, which was founded in 2001 as a living memorial to those lost on September 11, is still going strong. Last year volunteers around the city planted about 450,000 daffodil bulbs, and they’re hoping to top that number this year.

Registration for bulbs for the 2014 Daffodil Project is now open, and will end at 5pm on Wednesday, September 3. Pretty much anyone can sign up — bulbs are free to civic organizations, individuals, corporate volunteer groups, schools, and community leaders who commit to planting them in parks or public spaces like schoolyards, street tree pits, and community gardens.

There are pick-up locations around the city in September and October. So get to it, and thanks in advance for helping to make our neighborhood more beautiful!

West Nile DOH map

The city Department of Health will be spraying mosquito-killing pesticides throughout parts of our neighborhood tonight, between 8:15pm and 6am – which was supposed to happen last week but ended up being canceled because of the rain, according to a DOH spokeswoman.

The area to be sprayed is shaded yellow on the map above, although it’s only an approximation.

Here’s a .pdf from the city detailing the spraying, and here’s more information about the West Nile Virus.

And, to prepare yourself for tonight, check out the suggestions we detailed last week about what to do to protect yourself, including staying indoors and closing air conditioner vents.

doh-map

The Department of Health is warning residents of the Sheepshead Bay area that they will be spraying pesticides throughout parts of the neighborhood tomorrow night, between 8:15 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

The area to be sprayed is shaded yellow on the map above, although it’s only an approximation.

Like any time a government sprays a bunch of toxic crap in the air, they’re saying the chemical used – Anvil 10+10 – has no known risk to humans. But it’s The Man, man, so here are a couple of things you should do to make sure you stay safe and don’t grow an arm out of your butt (tips courtesy of The Man, not guaranteed to be 100 percent effective):

  • Stay indoors whenever possible during that time period – especially if you have asthma or respiratory issues.
  • Close the vents on your air-conditioner and set it to recirculate.
  • Remove toys, equipment and clothing from outdoor areas. If you leave them out there, make sure to wash them with soap before using them.
  • If you have an outdoor garden, wash your produce thoroughly before eating it.

Here’s a .pdf from the city detailing the spraying and safety tips, and here’s the city’s webpage for West Nile Virus.

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by Diana Bruk

White Island, Marine Park inlet (Source: Google Maps)

White Island (Source: Google Maps)

A group of New Yorkers hailing from all five boroughs gathered early Saturday morning at the Marine Park salt marsh for a rare canoeing adventure to White Island. The three-hour, complimentary guided tour was the second and last trip of the season, and the island (which is wrapping up construction), is only accessible by water and currently closed to those unaccompanied by an Urban Park Ranger.

Our visit was one of the first opportunities to see the island in the final phases of a $15 million restoration that began in 2011. After years of erosion and naturally shifting wetland topography, White Island – also known as Mau Mau Island – was re-shored, cleaned up, purged of invasive phragmites, and replanted with native grasses to serve as a habitat for migratory birds.

Read about our trip to the wilds of White Island, and see the pretty photos.

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The sediment-filled waste coming out of a covered sewer overflow pipe. (Source: Pete Castro)

The city’s long-awaited solution to street flooding along the Coney Island peninsula has some locals wondering if the remedy isn’t worse than the disease.

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps) Click to enlarge.

The Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of a massive clearing operation in western Coney Island, pumping years of sand, debris and residue out of long-jammed sewer lines, which neighbors say caused the streets to flood in even the slightest rain. But now the city is fielding a new set of complaints from residents who say the toxin-filled water is flowing into Coney Island Creek through a combined sewer overflow pipe at West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue, adjacent to Kaiser Park beach.

“Yes, you’ve got to clean out the drain. But my logic, my god-given common sense, is that you don’t foul it up, you don’t create another foul condition when you solve that problem,” said Pete Castro, a resident of West 35th Street.

Castro has been on the beach almost daily for the past week and a half, filming and taking photos of the Department of Environmental Protection’s private contractor, National Water Main Cleaning Co., as they pump water into the sewer and it flows out of a nearby outfall pipe, onto the beach. The 30-year resident said the water is thick and black with sludge, oil and other contaminants, mucking up a habitat in the midst of a revival.

“I’ve been seeing wildlife come back to the beach, egrets, the occasional swan, ducks go over there. And they’re dumping that oil there and apparently DEP is okay with it,” he said.

The DEP confirmed that they’re clearing out the sewer lines, and that some debris was simply destined to enter the environment.

“We are working to clear out the sand-impacted storm sewers. This is in response to flooding complaints in the area. We have been cleaning out the sewers for weeks and we understand there have been complaints about pumping stuff into the sewer, but in reality this is what we have to do to clean the sewers,” a spokesperson told this outlet.

Despite years of flooding complaints on the Coney Island peninsula, the latest round of work began after a site visit by Superstorm Sandy recovery honchos Bill Goldstein and Amy Peterson. Led by Councilman Mark Treyger, the team visited P.S. 188, where the students and faculty shared the following video showing the extent of flooding outside of the school in even modest rain.

“This is not Sandy, it’s just an average rainstorm,” Treyger told this outlet about the video. “It is a eye-opening video that shows severe flooding that is so bad that a car floated from the street and crashed into the front of the school, that’s how bad the flooding is. We showed the video to Amy Peterson and Bill Goldstein and they were very alarmed by it.”

“It is a damning video that just absolutely validates and confirms portions of Southern Brooklyn had been neglected by the [Bloomberg] administration.”
- Treyger

The Sandy team put pressure on the Department of Environmental Protection to address the flooding immediately. After inspection, the DEP determined that the sewers were clogged near the outfall pipes that go into Coney Island Creek, and dispatched contractors to clear it out.

Treyger admitted that solving one problem for residents caused concern for others. Castro and neighbors made complaints to his office, and he forwarded the video and photos to the DEP for a response.

As a result, Treyger said, the DEP conducted a review, meeting with the contractor and also bringing in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has jurisdiction over area waterways.

“My sense was that they’re going to review and basically provide greater oversight of the work being done,” said Treyger. “For many years the infrastructure has been an issue here and as we move forward to fix it, we’re not looking to create more environmental disasters. This type of work has to be done in accordance with all environmental regulations and we’re going to make sure that that happens.”

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The vactor truck at work on West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue. (Source: Pete Castro)

But Castro fears the agencies are being less than thorough in their review. Shortly after Treyger met with the DEP, officials from both the DEP and the DEC spoke directly to Castro about his concerns, assuring him they would investigate the spillage and make sure it was in compliance. But instead of investigation, Castro said he received a call from the DEC rep several hours later saying that they had reviewed the operation and concluded it was safe.

“According to his dubious investigation, some guy [from the DEC] just miraculously put his finger in the air and said it’s okay to put that foul oil onto the beach,” said Castro, adding that there was about six hours between the phone calls – four of which was during hours when the trucks were not pumping. “You can get chemical results like that, with a snap of the finger?”

The DEP spokesperson said she did not know of any specific involvement of the DEC in this matter, but said, “I’m sure we’ve been in touch with DEC at some point.” Asked over the course of multiple phone calls if there was knowledge of the contaminants flowing from the pipe, she said, “I have to double check, but don’t forget it’s the sewer system and it has to get out of the sewers. It can be anything.”

She did not have an answer about contamination when we followed up, instead pointing out that the city uses vactor trucks – essentially giant vacuum cleaners that suck out debris, suggesting that there should be no spillage into the waterway. When we noted that there was spillage, as evidenced by video, she reiterated, “We’re doing work out there.” She did not respond to further questions.

Treyger said he requested the DEP hold a meeting in the community in the upcoming weeks to discuss their operations and respond to potential concerns. He said it will be announced soon.

Until then, Castro said he’ll continue to document the filth and hopes to find someone’s help analyzing water samples. In addition to the wildlife and habitat, he’s also concerned about the numerous indigent locals who turn to Coney Island creek to fish for their meals.

“I can’t see it getting much worse. I’m just waiting for the dead fish to pile up,” he said.

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Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

New York State Department of Conservation “wildlife specialists” opened fire on a pair of mute swans in upstate New York last Tuesday, orphaning their four baby swans and defying a two-year moratorium on lethal population management techniques that had just passed the Senate and Assembly.

The incident took place in Black River Bay, when residents spotted an unmarked boat approaching a group of swans. Moments later, gunshots rang through the air and two of the swans were dead. Residents, thinking the gunmen poachers, chased them down to discover that they worked for the environmental agency.

“DEC was carrying out a long-standing protocol to manage this invasive species that threatens other species in this sensitive habitat,” the DEC said in a prepared statement to the local television station.

The news riled up two New York City legislators who led the fight to protect the swans.

“This is an outrage,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in a press release. “We’re doing everything we can do [to] safeguard the swan population in my own Sheepshead Bay community and elsewhere, but clearly DEC did not get the memo.”

“I am absolutely outraged at these horrific turn of events, which occurred almost simultaneously as the State Senate passed a two-year moratorium on your agency’s careless and controversial plan to eradicate all wild mute swans in the state by 2025,” State Senator Tony Avella of Queens. “What is even more troubling is that the shootings happened in broad daylight, in front of passerbys enjoying their day near the Bay.”

Cymbrowitz and Avella introduced the legislation creating the moratorium in the Assembly and Senate, respectively. Although it passed both houses, Cuomo has not yet signed it into law.

The moratorium came after the DEC revealed a draft plan in January to eliminate entirely the mute swan population across New York State. The plan was sharply criticized by animal advocates and those who see the swans – which have populated some areas in the state including Sheepshead Bay for more than a century – as a welcome part of the community. The agency announced in March that it would hold off using any lethal population management techniques until a new plan was made that was more sensitive to the community’s wishes.

The agency appears to have reversed course yet again, spurring criticism from the pols.

“Even without the moratorium being signed into law, the implication was that DEC would stand by its good-faith promise and keep the swans off death row until further notice,” said Cymbrowitz. “Instead, we’re getting a clear indication that DEC can’t be trusted and still plans to engage in the sanctioned killing of mute swans.”

Both pols have sent letters expressing their outrage to Joseph Martens, the commissioner of the DEC.

Members of the 25 strong cat colony on Plumb Beach (Photo by Lisanne Anderson/Flickr)

You didn’t actually think we’d get through this story without a headline pun did you?

The National Park Service (NPS) has agreed to give more time to cat enthusiasts to remove a sizable colony of feral cats from the Plumb Beach federal parkland, and is even considering offering manpower and assistance in their relocation.

Doug Adamo, the chief of Natural Resource Management for Gateway National Recreation Area told Sheepshead Bites that he’s been inundated with calls and e-mails about the 25-cat colony they planned to remove this Friday, with nearly as many people supporting the plan as opposing it.

But they also heard directly from the folks who’ve been caring for the cats, building what he called “cat condos that were constructed out of wood and cardboard,” and who fed, vaccinated and neutered them. As a result of their discussions, Adamo said Parks has agreed to hold off on dismantling the colony for another week, until June 20, to allow the group to explore long-term relocation options.

“Nothing’s going to happen on Friday. We did get in touch with the people that were taking care of the cats. We decided we would give them an extra week to try and place the cats, or there are a couple of options that they gave me that they were looking at,” said Adamo.

Adamo said NPS could potentially offer staff to help trap the animals and remove the debris, as well as a vehicle to transport them a short distance. He said the cat caretakers are looking at facilities in Maryland or upstate New York, among others.

“They’re saying they will help and they don’t want them to go to the shelters and they want them to go to places where they have more assurances that it will go to a permanent home, which would be a good win-win solution to the situation,” said Adamo.

feral-cat

The sign posted last week.

Contrary to the claims of cat lovers, Adamo said NPS never had plans to kill the cats. In most cases, colonies are dismantled as soon as they’re discovered and the cats are trapped and brought to local shelters for adoption, and just about every cat they’ve captured in the past has been assessed as adoptable by the shelters.

Normally there is no notice to the community, but he said that when NPS employees discovered the colony sometime in the last month, they were struck by its size and apparent maintenance, as well as the condition of the cats.

“In this case we noticed it was a large colony and they were healthy and cared for. We thought maybe we’d give them a chance to work with us on this and it appears that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

Despite flack from feline fans, Adamo maintained that removing the colony was essential to the parkland’s habitat.

“It’s our responsibility in the Parks Service to protect wildlife,” he said. “It’s a very difficult situation, especially here in New York, next to densely populated areas where non-native cats – and they’re all non-native – are always going to be coming into the park either by people bringing them there or by just wandering in.”

Even though they’re fed by humans, the cats still pray on area wildlife. The problem is even more urgent on Plumb Beach, a protected nesting ground for migratory birds including some endangered and at-risk species

“As land managers and natural resource managers for the park, [we must] do due diligence in protection of the wildlife,” said Adamo.

It doesn’t appear the decision has fully satisfied the cat enthusiasts. One of the colony’s caretakers, Nancy Rogers, has launched a petition online saying that the additional week now being granted is insufficient.

“The caretakers are willing to find homes for these cats but need more than the one week now allotted to accomplish this difficult task,” Rogers writes in the petition’s description. The petition launched yesterday afternoon and already has 193 supporters, and simply says “Stop the removal of the Plum Beach Cats.”

feral-cat

The above sign went up at Plumb Beach late last week, warning parkgoers that the National Park Service will be moving to “dismantle” cat colonies on the federal parkland this Friday, June 13.

(UPDATE [6/11/2014]: NPS  is working with the caretakers and has granted extra time to relocate the animals.)

Plumb Beach is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, a stretch of federal parkland that’s home to countless migratory bird species and other protected wildlife like horseshoe crabs. With jurisdiction over the parkland split between federal, state and city authorities, no one is ever sure who’s responsible for maintaining infrastructure or cleaning up the garbage - but at least they figured out who is going to get rid of the cats, right?

But that’s got cat lovers rankled. Apparently, locals have been caring for a sizeable colony of about 25 cats, feeding, vaccinating and neutering them. They’re crying foul that these cats are being targeted, and that their caretakers have been given such short notice.

Lena S. wrote to us yesterday:

This is a posted flyer around the area that says the this Friday (in just 3 days) They will come in and euthanize all the stray cats that are living by belt parkway (Plum Beach area)! There are people here that were taking care of these cats for years and they are taken all neutered, well fed, vaccinated against rabies. This notice is unbelievably cruel and with only a few days notice! There are currently 25 cats there and they want to mass euthanize them.

Please help and promote this, we’re trying to save the kitties, they deserve to live there just like any other animal.

Marina G. wrote:

All these cats are spayed, neutered and fed. This colony has been around for many years. If there is any ecosystem at that beach, its between the rats and the cats, as locals call the beach “rat beach.”

Animal protection groups are trying to find a way to at least get more time to relocate this colony. The notice was posted 5 days ago.

On the heels of the cat abuse stories as well as our national outrage over Russia’s disposal of their cats and dogs during the Olympics, this may be a relevant read

The text of the sign does not say anything about putting the cats to sleep or otherwise “disposing” of them, although it’s certainly a possibility. In case you can’t make it out, it reads:

Feral cat colonies are prohibited on Federal property.

To ensure the health and safety of visitors and to protect habitat for native species including shorebirds, small mammals and reptiles this colony will be dismantled on Friday, June 13th.

We encourage those that have created this colony to remove it and the cats prior to that date.

Thank you for your cooperation in maintaining the health of our ecosystems.

Sheepshead Bites has reached out to the National Park Service to confirm that they posted the notice, and what methods will be used to “dismantle” the colony, including whether or not the animals will be exterminated. We’ll update this post when we receive a response.

The Snowy Owl was recently removed from the kill list. But bird killing still goes on. (Photo submitted by Stuart Fries, but taken by anonymous friend)

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey killed 26,000 birds over the last four years who had the misfortune of being in and around the John F.Kennedy Airport area.

According to DNAinfo, 1,600 of these birds were protected species – meaning they were endangered or at-risk species – that the authority did not have permission to kill. Citing internal records, between 2009 and 2013 1,628 birds from 18 different species that were killed were protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

While the agency is in charge of the airport and had permission to shoot “problem” species that threatened airplanes going in and out of the airport, the report has found that many of the killings were beyond the scope of the permission the agency had.

DNAinfo writes:

The Port Authority, which contracts the job of managing airport bird hazards to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is able to shoot these species because its permits make allowance for “emergency situations,” according to the permit.

That means any migratory birds can be exterminated if they are deemed to pose a “direct threat to human safety” — with the exceptions of eagles and endangered or threatened species, under the law.

Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the actions it takes to reduce wildlife hazards at airports are “in compliance with federal and state rules” and that it relied more on non-lethal measures.

The agency has also gunned down the brown-headed cowbird, boat-tailed grackle, common raven, American crow, fish crow and waterfowl and wading birds that relish the coastal wetlands neighboring Kennedy, such as the wood duck, bufflehead, American wigeon, semipalmated plover, sanderling, least sandpiper, black-crowned night heron, great egret and cattle egret, according to Port Authority records.

The New York Post, also reporting on the issue, quoted animal-rights groups that called the agency “trigger happy” and:

“We find it upsetting they discontinued [nonlethal controls] . . . and decided it was more cost-effective to just shoot them,” said Glenn Phillips of New York City Audubon Society.

The Post reported that they also killed animals even if they didn’t have wings. “Tarmac hunters also killed four red foxes, 11 coyotes, 44 muskrats, 62 woodchucks and 11 white-tailed deer. Eighty-two eastern cottontail rabbits were killed at Newark and JFK airports, along with 44 black-tailed jack rabbits at JFK.”

The agency’s readiness to kill birds has been the subject of much controversy before and they recently removed the snowy owl from their kill list. And even when the agency isn’t killing birds, the airport still causes environmentalists to cringe.

The airport is in the middle of the Atlantic flyway, one of North America’s busiest routes for migrating birds. It’s surrounded by national parkland and a wildlife reserve.

Source: Riverhead Foundation

Source: Riverhead Foundation

It was not too long ago that a baby harp seal was spotted on the sands of Coney Island last month. The seal had parasites and was underweight, but last Saturday it was released back into the Atlantic Ocean after receiving treatment from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

The foundation, a non-profit, was called in soon after the seal was discovered, and since then the organization has been working to restore the baby’s constitution after it was found to be dehydrated due to parasites. And, finally, this Saturday it was healthy enough to be released into the Shinnecock Bay off Long Island.

On top of receiving antibiotics and fluids through a tube to restore her weight, the seal also received the name Nellie. #FreeNellie.

Newsday reported,

Nearly 200 people watched as Nellie made her way 100 feet across sand and seaweed before splashing into the bay.

“She belongs back in the wild,” said Rob DiGiovanni, executive director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which nursed the seal back to health.

While Nellie is still a pup at only one year old, she will eventually grow to be 255 pounds and officials believe she originally came from Canada before gracing us with her cute presence.

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