Archive for the tag 'environment'

I wonder if there's a policy about taking trees on the subway... (Source: NYRP/Flickr)

I wonder if there’s a policy about taking trees on the subway… (Source: NYRP/Flickr)

The New York Restoration Project, a non-profit dedicated to building greenspaces and the lead partner of the MillionTreesNYC initiative, is going all out this spring with a huge giveaway of 12,000 trees distributed directly to residents throughout New York City.

Here are some details from the group:

NYC home and property owners can choose from over 90 events where they can pick up trees to bring home and plant in their front or back yards. Participants can visit www.nyrp.org/treegiveaways to check out dates and locations and find out more. They can register online approximately two weeks in advance, to reserve a tree. If registration is full, a limited number of trees is available on a first-come, first-served basis at the event. We’re offering popular tree species, including various dogwood, fig, magnolia and serviceberry trees to New Yorkers. Aside providing cleaner air, planting trees has many benefits, including enhanced curb appeal, offset of climate change, cooler temperatures, and more.

Giveaways are scheduled between March and May for Marine Park, Coney Island, Gravesend, Borough Park, Bay Ridge and elsewhere – so there’s no shortage of nearby locations to pick one up in the coming months. Just check their schedule and register in advance.

The MillionTreesNYC program is a public-private initiative. Seventy percent of the trees will be planted in parks and public spaces, while 30 percent are being given to private organizations, homeowners and community groups. More than 800,000 trees have been distributed to date.

Source: Riverhead Foundation

Source: Riverhead Foundation

A baby harp seal was spotted on the shores of Brighton Beach on Saturday morning sunning himself.

The seal was seen at approximately 8:30 a.m. Police were called to the scene as a precaution, and they closed off the area using crime-scene tape for the animal’s safety, according to the Daily News.

The Riverhead Foundation, an advocacy organization that studies, rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals, was summoned to the scene. They transported the seal to a laboratory for medical evaluation where, according to Gothamist, they determined it was dehydrated due to parasites.

Harp seal and dolphin sightings in New York’s waterways have been on the rise in recent years as their population appears to boom amid cleaner waters and increased food stock.

Seals have been spotted in Jamaica Bay, the Sheepshead Bay marina and Brighton Beach, and one area cruise boat has launched occasional seal spotting trips.

Over the summer, pods of humpback whales and dolphins off the coast of the Rockaways made headlines. With the boom has also come some concern: dead and dying dolphins have washed up in Coney Island creek, the Gowanus canal and elsewhere.

Photo by Brian Hoo

In a rare victory for Southern Brooklyn wildlife, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced on Friday that it will revise its plan to eradicate the state’s 2,200 mute swans and consider non-lethal methods to keep numbers down.

The reversal came on the heels of community outrage at their initial plan, which called for rounding up and euthanizing thousands of the birds across the state in an attempt to eliminate the population entirely.

According to the agency, the DEC received more than 1,500 comments from individuals and organizations, as well as more than 16,000 form letters and 30,000 signatures on various petitions. Several lawmakers also spoke out against  the proposal.

“We appreciate the strong response that the draft plan received, and it’s clear that New Yorkers recognize the importance of a comprehensive mute swan management plan that balances the interests of a diversity of stakeholders,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release. “The revised plan will seek to balance the conflicting views about management of mute swans in New York.”

The agency will release new plans and reopen the commenting period, which originally closed on February 21. In what may be a nod to areas like Sheepshead Bay, where the mute swan is considered an iconic part of the waterfront environment, the agency conceded that deploying one plan statewide did not respect the differing statuses the birds have in their respective communities.

In the DEC press release, the agency pushed a new approach:

In revising the plan, DEC likely will acknowledge regional differences in status, potential impacts and desired population goals by setting varying goals for different regions of the state.

The new plan is expected to be released in the spring, and a 30-day comment period will follow.

“This is hopeful news and a sign that things are moving in the right direction,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who sought to protect the swans  by introducing legislation that would put a two-year moratorium on the DEC’s original proposal. “Sheepshead Bay wouldn’t be the same without the mute swans. They’re synonymous with grace and beauty. Yes, they may hiss sometimes, but this is New York, so they’re entitled.”

File:JamaicaBay2778.JPG

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Senator Charles Schumer is asking the federal Department of Interior, or DOI, to put millions into projects that would restore Jamaica Bay after Superstorm Sandy, as well strengthen it as the barrier between waves and coastal communities in future storms.

The projects would total $17.5 million and they would also help Rockaway’s coastline be more resilient, the lawmaker announced last week in a press release.

Superstorm Sandy wrought tremendous damage across the communities surrounding Jamaica Bay, but the damage may have been even worse were it not for Jamaica Bay’s natural ability to act as a shield against storms. Sometimes our best defense against Mother Nature’s wrath is actually Mother Nature itself, and these five projects will take what is already a natural storm defense and make it even more effective at protecting the homes and livelihoods of thousands of New Yorkers. These five projects are exactly what this grant program was created to fund, and I am urging the Department of Interior to give these the green light as soon as possible.

The five programs Schumer is pushing for are:

  • Sunset Cove Salt Marsh and Maritime Forest Restoration
  • Rockaway East Resiliency Preserve
  • Spring Creek Salt Marsh and Coastal Upland Restoration
  • Jamaica Bay Head Of Bay Oyster Restoration
  • Jamaica Bay Bathymetric and Sediment Model

Photo by Brian Hoo

Queens State Senator Tony Avella has introduced a bill that would establish a two-year moratorium on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eliminate 2,200 mute swans – the same scenic species that populates Sheepshead Bay’s marina. Local Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today that he will follow suit with an Assembly version, having previously spoken out on the issue.

The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate’s environmental conservation committee.

The news was announced last week in a press release by Friends of Animals, an animal protection organization. From that release:

“I was horrified to learn that our state wildlife agency would make such an extreme, unfounded proposal, and do not believe that the DEC has provided evidence to justify the elimination of these beautiful swans,” Avella said. “The public outcry has been severe—many New York residents do not want to see mute swans eliminated and animal advocacy organizations, wildlife experts, rehabilitators and others have also joined the chorus of opposition.  In addition, to imposing a two-year moratorium, my bill requires DEC to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

… Donald S. Heintzelman, ornithologist, author and authority on Northern migratory swans and mute swans states,  “My professional opinion is that these public disputes about mute swans are overblown and unnecessary. These birds do not cause catastrophic damage, although most state wildlife agencies have engrained in their official mindsets the notion that mute swans should be destroyed merely because they are non-native species that might compete with native tundra swans and more rarely trumpeter swans. In fact, tundra swans very rarely are seen in New York State (and hence are irrelevant to the agencies’ mindsets).

“As for the few trumpeter swans living at two locations in the state, they are geographically far removed from Long Island and thus are not impacted by mute swans on Long Island. Certainly, mute swans are not pushing out New York’s small population of trumpeter swans. Furthermore, arguments that mute swans are aggressive, and also consume large amounts of submerged aquatic vegetation, are greatly overblown—and represent bad science.”

Cymbrowitz’s office issued a release this afternoon confirming that he would be the Assembly sponsor. From their release:

“Wildlife experts and environmentalists are not unanimous in their belief that exterminating the mute swan population is justified, and there’s plenty of debate over whether eradicating mute swans will be even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or our environment,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. Also, while it makes for a good anecdote, there is evidence that nary a human has been attacked by a mute swan, he said. While the graceful birds may hiss in an effort to protect their young, experts said the swans are rarely if ever moved to unprovoked aggression against people.

He noted that three other states – Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut – currently use non-lethal methods to control their mute swan populations. Only Maryland exterminates the birds, “which demonstrates that the precedent is there for using a humane alternative,” he said.

The community can comment on the DEC’s plan until February 21. To do so, write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

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Down by the water on Webers Court, swans have become a common sight, unless the state changes that.
Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Paige Strackman has lived for eight years in her home on Webers Court, a bungalow-lined private street off Emmons Avenue that ends in a sandy lump on the water’s edge. It’s a haven for the area’s mute swans, who live alongside their human neighbors in what may be the most intimate cohabitation between the waterfowl and city dwellers.

Strackman has come to regard the big white birds standing about or looking for food on the waterfront as a part of her community, where there is usually a group of 10 or more . But if the state gets its way, the birds will vanish from the landscape.

The state recently released plans to kill and remove all of New York State’s mute swans. According to a report released by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), mute swans like the one in Strackman’s community are a problem. We recently summarized the department’s justifications:

  • Swans destroy aquatic vegetation
  • Swans can be aggressive towards people
  • Swans are territorial, and displace native wildlife species
  • Waste produced by swans can upset the chemical balance of waterways like Sheepshead Bay

Strackman doesn’t know anything about the plans, nor does she agree with the characterization of swans being aggressive or territorial.

“For us, they’re part of a landscape.” she said. “It seems like they’re a natural part of the environment.” But the DEC categorizes the swans as an “invasive species.”

Peter Feeds The Swan

Peter, a local landlord, attempts to herd a stray swan back to Webers Court by feeding it bread. Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

While Strackman was talking about the swans, a landlord for an Emmons Avenue apartment attempted to herd a stray swan back to Webers Court and its sliver of beach head. The landlord, Peter, didn’t want to reveal his last name. As he led the swan away from the car-filled streets with bread, he explained that every so often swans get lost and end up on the avenue away from their group.

Aware of these dangers, Strackman said, “I worry more for their safety. It’s an urban environment and you have the cars that could hit them and then there’s the problem with polluted water.”

The DEC traces the swan’s history back to the late-1800s, when they first began to appear in North America. Since then the population boomed to more than 2,220 across the state. But 25 years ago, swans were not as common of a sight as they are today in Webers Court and Sheepshead Bay, according to Strackman’s neighbor, Cliff Bruckenstein.

“I don’t see them destroying anything,” said Bruckenstein, who has lived on Webers Court for 25 years. Bruckenstein went on to challenge the DEC’s claim that the mute swan can be bellicose. “They’re really not an aggressive species. They only get protective around their nests.”

Among the many things the department plans on doing if the plans aren’t altered is to kill and capture them, as we previously reported. If approved, the agency would conduct mute swan control on any accessible public or private lands in the state – including Webers Court and the Sheepshead Bay marina. Any swans removed will be euthanized. Nests will be destroyed, and eggs will be oiled or punctured.

“They want to kill a species that has been bred into [New York State],” Bruckenstein said in response to the plans. “I think it’s very much the wrong thing to do when there are many other things to do.”

“They’re no longer an invasive species,” he said. “They’re good neighbors.”

The Department for Environmental Conservation is taking comments on the draft plan. Deadline for comments is February 21. You can write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

Photo by Brian Hoo

We recently published an article announcing New York State’s newest plan to eliminate mute swan, the iconic species the dot the Sheepshead Bay waterfront, from the state. Many of the news reports – including our own – were somewhat vague about the plan, so we read through it and compiled a list of things you should know about the “Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State” released by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The document can be read in full here.

It may seem like New York State only recently began picking on these swans that have become a part of Sheepshead Bay and other areas. But the state has had its sights on these big white birds since 1993 when the conservation department adopted a mute swan “management policy.” The newest plan only intensifies the state’s efforts to remove mute swans from the whole state by 2025.

Let’s start with why the DEC wants to eliminate mute swans. The overarching concern is that the swans, which are an invasive species brought here from Europe, live a damaging lifestyle that causes harm to the habitat of native species. Here are some of the details mentioned in the report:

  • Swans destroy aquatic vegetation
  • By eliminating vegetation, swans reduce cover and habitat for native marine life, altering their population balance
  • Swans can be aggressive towards people
  • Swans are territorial, and displace native wildlife species
  • Waste produced by swans can upset the chemical balance of waterways like Sheepshead Bay

Below is a list highlighting “the management strategies” the environmental department plans to implement. We’ve left out some that are unlikely to be implemented locally, like allowing hunters to take swan as game:

  • Capture and kill them.  This, of course, is the plan that has received the most attention. This plan is simple enough: authorize the DEC to conduct mute swan control on any accessible public or private lands in the state. This plan will be emphasized downstate, in the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, and especially near airports – making Sheepshead Bay a prime target. Any swans removed will be euthanized. Nests will be destroyed, and eggs will be oiled or punctured.
  • Feeding is bad. User “sadeyes” commented on the last article and wrote that “the problem is not the swans, but the humans who constantly overfeed them,” a sentiment that is similar to the government’s. In the DEC’s plan, they write that part of the mute swan problem is that people provide them “with supplemental feeding,” and the DEC hopes to combat this with a public information campaign, and new laws that prohibit the feeding of swans.
  • Prevent flight and sex.At 20 to 25 pounds and a wing span of nearly seven feet, adult mute swans are the biggest bird in the state, according to the DEC. They often migrate and the DEC wants to prevent that by removing a bone in their wings to prevent flight, a process known as pinioning. With over 2,200 swans in the state that they would have to pinion, pinioning seems a little too resource intensive to be used for the majority of the population. They also seek to pursue sterilization, and egg oiling.
  • No more selling a swan. The DEC wants to make it illegal for people to sell and buy swans. This goes back to ultimately eliminating wild swans by preventing people from releasing bought mute swans back in the wild.
  • Allow for the adoption of free-ranging mute swans. While pursuing a ban on the importation of mute swans, the DEC is also proposing that those who wish to own them obtain a license and capture them from the free-ranging population. Adopted swans would then have to be pinioned or sterilization, and permanent markings.

These strategies are supported by the field research of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from 2004-2007. The underlying reasoning is that mute swans live a damaging lifestyle.

Our community seems to have a lot to say about these swans. There are a number of petitions going around, but the best way to be heard on this issue is to directly comment on the plan using the Department of Environmental Conservation’s methods.

Deadline for comments is February 21. You can write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

Photo by Brian Hoo

The water gently lulls as the seagulls echo each other and the swans create the soft ripples that circle outwards towards idyllic sidewalks filled with baby strollers and joggers wearing winter gloves.

The picturesque Sheepshead Bay waterfront might lend itself to such poetry now, but if the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation gets its way, we might have to omit those iconic swans.

The DEC issued a report in December 2013 called the “Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State,” in which the particular species of swan – mute swan, hailing from Europe – are considered “invasive species.” Although they have been in North America since the late-1800s, and failed to garner much complaint from pretty much anybody, the agency has instituted a timeline for their removal.

In the more than a century that they’ve been here, the mute swan population has flourished in Sheepshead Bay, and even become a much commented upon icon of its waterfront. Statewide, there are about 2,200 mute swans, according to the report.

The DEC claims that the mute swans have caused problems “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

But some New Yorkers, like these involved with a Change.org petition feel this is “wrong—it is cruel, and not how New Yorkers want our taxpayer dollars spent.”

The Change.org petition notes that the DEC’s “outline for management seeks complete and total decimation of the species by the year 2025.”

This announcement follows the euthanized geese at Jamaica Bay and the decision, since reversed, to shoot Snowy owls out of the sky around New York airports.

You can sign the petition here.

– Vanessa Ogle

File:JamaicaBay2778.JPG

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Rockaway Beach Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder announced last week that a project to restore and maintain Jamaica Bay’s wildlife reserve, a sprawling 18,000-acre wetland estuary, has won a $400,000 from the Regional Economic Development Council for habitat restoration.

The project, Jamaica Bay Habitat Restoration and Waterfront Revitalization, will not only be used to protect wildlife but also to protect the coast from future hurricanes. Goldfeder explained this plan to The Forum,

“Jamaica Bay has been a longtime community gem, but its breathtaking views and grassy marsh also serve a significant purpose — storm protection,” Goldfeder said in a prepared statement. “Jamaica Bay contains natural barriers that have proven to be more effective than any man-made sea wall or levee. This funding toward Jamaica Bay will not only help attract visitors and increase economic development, but it will enable our community to become more resilient against potential future storms.”

The grant will be administered by the city Parks Department along with the city Department of Environmental Protection.

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Snowy owls are usually a rare and prized sight for birdwatchers, but this year Jamaica Bay bird lovers are the beneficiary of an unprecedented migration southward.

The knuckleheads over at the Port Authority sparked an uproar recently when they added the beautiful (and increasingly rare, as populations dwindle) snowy owl to their kill list, announcing open season on the Harry Potter-famed fowl for its shotgun wielding wildlife specialists. They shot down three of the birds at JFK Airport in a weekend before the outrage tilted the scales, and they changed policy to capturing and relocating the birds.

That means Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which abuts the airport, is once again a wildlife refuge – so long as you’re not one of the seven other birds on the Port Authority’s kill list.

And that’s good news to Dan Mundy of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers. Mundy was out and about in Jamaica Bay today, and happened upon this snowy owl. Cool, eh?

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