Archive for the tag 'natural resources protective association'

Example of a greenstreet on a median. Source: NYC Parks

The Department of Interior is sending $990,000 to the New York City Parks Department to create approximately 14 greenstreets throughout Brighton Beach, intended to help dry out the streets in a future flood, as part of the Sandy Coastal Resiliency grants awarded earlier this week.

Greenstreets is a citywide program to convert paved, vacant traffic islands and medians, as well as portions of wide sidewalks, into landscaped spaces. According to the Parks Department:

The installation of approximately 14 greenstreets in Brighton Beach will mitigate localized flooding and capture and filter stormwater runoff, thereby helping to reduce pollutants from entering local waterways. The project will also help to beautify the neighborhood, lower temperatures, increase biodiversity in the area, and improve air quality.

The funds are part of $15 million in grants being doled out in New York City through the Department of Interior as part of a competition to make coastal communities more resilient to flooding.

Other winning projects from the Department of Interior competition include salt marsh restoration at Spring Creek, and oyster bed restoration throughout Jamaica Bay.

“This announcement is great news for the communities surrounding many New York City waterways, like Brighton Beach, Broad Channel, Spring Creek Park, Tibbetts Brook and Jamaica Bay, because they will now be better protected in the event of a future storm,” said Senator Charles Schumer in a press release. “This resiliency grant funding is just what we had in mind when crafting the Sandy Relief Bill and I’m pleased that the Department of Interior has recognized these critical projects in New York City.”

If successful in helping drain storm runoff, the Brighton Beach greenstreets plan may later be expanded throughout the Coney Island peninsula and Jamaica Bay communities.

But at least one environmental activist and Brighton Beach resident wonders whether the greenstreets project will be as effective as Schumer and the Parks Department say, and thinks it might be poised for failure.

Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, said the water table is much too high on the peninsula to allow proper drainage. She wrote:

There is one teeny, tiny little problem in Coney Island that makes me wonder if these highly paid consultants ever went down there: The water table. EVERYONE in Coney and Brighton, including my cat, knows that the water table varies from 3 to 5 feet below the surface. In some locations, it is mere inches from the surface. In Seaside Park, where the majority of the surface is unpaved, the Parks Dept. put in retention basins, which promptly filled with salt water from the ground. There are some areas in this park that are virtual lakes for weeks after every rain event, because a few inches below the surface, there is water.

Sanoff adds that after a heavy rain, water collects and “ponds” on the surface of soil, creating prime habitat for mosquitos.

“Without proper maintenance, the tree pits become little more than doggie toilets,” she said.

Asked if the department had taken the water table into consideration when creating their proposal, a Parks spokesperson told Sheepshead Bites that no specific locations had yet been identified, and that the department will do more detailed surveys before doing any construction.

The spokesperson added that the number of streets to be landscaped is still up in the air, but based on previous projects the funding should cover approximately 14.

The greenstreet plan was first outlined in the New York City Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) plan, a blueprint for strengthening the city from the threat of rising sea levels and climate change in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The latest version of the plan can be read here.

 

Oceana complex (Source: Google Maps)

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz responded to anonymous allegations published today in a local newspaper, which claim he is in cahoots with Oceana condominium developers to privatize a portion of Brighton Beach, by saying it “pisses me off” and is “totally inaccurate.”

The response is to a Will Bredderman political column in Brooklyn Daily, which cites an anonymous source as saying the pol is “trying to broker a deal that would permit the swank, beachfront Oceana Condominiums to take over a section of the public shore.”

“I think it just goes to show what Will Bredderman and [Brooklyn Daily's publisher] Courier-Life print. There are inaccuracies in every part of it, and anything I sent to him, he didn’t write,” Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites.

In the column, Bredderman points to the pol’s opposition to the elevated comfort stations in front of Oceana as evidence that the pol is attempting to clear the way for a privatized beach. They also note the 2013 bill introduced by Cymbrowitz, and first reported on by Sheepshead Bites, that would transfer jurisdiction of the beach from the more restrictive state Department of Environmental Conservation to the city’s Parks Department. The paper called the bill, which was cosponsored by Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny,  “a first step toward privatization.”

“I think that’s inaccurate. My response to him was simply that, by giving the jurisdiction to the Parks department, it would allow us to use the money that was received from [Brook-Krasny's predecessor] Adele Cohen years ago to build a bike path,” said Cymbrowitz. “DEC wouldn’t allow it. But if the Parks Department had jurisdiction, they would have done it. [Bredderman] didn’t write any of that.”

That bill was squashed following a Sheepshead Bites’ report, although it briefly reemerged earlier this year before being pulled again. Last year, Cymbrowitz said he killed the bill because he was disappointed with Parks’ handling of the comfort stations, although this outlet noted at the time that the bill was introduced after Cymbrowitz came out against the Oceana restrooms. Cymbrowitz said the bill’s reappearance this year was because his staff automatically reintroduced it as a matter of routine, and that he killed it after it came to his attention.

Moreover, Cymbrowitz said he doesn’t see how transferring jurisdiction from a state to a city agency helps privatize a beach, and unequivocally stated that he never had conversations with Oceana’s developers, Muss Development, or any other party about privatizing the beach.

“Absolutely not. Never. And how could… I don’t even think it’s possible to privatize a public beach. So whoever Bredderman is getting his information from is totally inaccurate. And that’s I think what pisses me off more than anything else, all the inaccuracies. Why doesn’t he name who said it, or who the conversation was with if I had a conversation? That’s not going to happen,” he said.

Muss Development has for years boasted of a “private beach” as one of the amenities at Oceana on its website. On being contacted by Brooklyn Daily, the company called it a “typo” and said they had no discussions with the assemblyman regarding the privatization of a stretch of Brighton Beach for their benefit.

That, locals say, is bunk.

“If you’re asking me what the facts are, the facts are that Oceana wanted a private beach from the beginning and marketed it that way,” said local activist and longtime Brighton Beach resident Ida Sanoff. “It is common knowledge that they claimed to be building a private beach there when they first opened. They told a number of my neighbors who looked at apartments there about a private beach. And, early on, they had security guards [on the sand in front of the development] and whoever wandered by was told it was a private beach.”

Sanoff, who is also the executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, and who was the first to sound the alarm about the 2013 legislation turning over jurisdiction, said she continues to have concerns about that bill.

“Of course I’m concerned,” she said. “The Parks Department does have the ability to issue franchises,” meaning allowing private concessions to operate on the beach. “So if someone, somewhere, decided this is what they wanted to do [on these beaches], once Parks has control of the beach it could be done routinely. And once it’s done here, you’ve set the precedent to do it on any beach in New York City.”

Sanoff, though, said she had no idea if that’s what Cymbrowitz’s intent is, and said she did not know of any meetings between the pol and Oceana’s developers about privatizing the beach.

“Cymbrowitz, I haven’t spoken to the man in years,” she said. “I know as much about what’s going on in his head as I do President Obama’s.”

Bredderman declined to comment on this article without approval from his editors. We will update this post if we receive a statement.

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today that he will withdraw legislation he introduced in the Assembly earlier this month that would transfer oversight of a swath of sand at Brighton Beach and Coney Island from the state to New York City.

Cymbrowitz did not credit the decision to opposition from environmentalists who worried the Parks Department, less constrained by the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s more stringent oversight, would botch the job, as first reported on Sheepshead Bites. Instead, the Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach legislator said he did it because he himself had mounting concerns over Parks Department decision-making in light of the controversial new boardwalk comfort stations.

“I believe that giving the city any additional authority of the area near the boardwalk is a mistake. The state Department of Environmental Conservation should continue to have oversight and this legislation will not move forward this session,” Cymbrowitz said in a strongly worded letter to the mayor, according to a press release.

The bill, which can be read here, would have transferred oversight of 250 feet of sand immediately south of the 2.5-mile Riegelmann Boardwalk. It was sponsored in the Assembly by Cymbrowitz and co-sponsored by Alec Brook-Krasny. Diane Savino introduced it in the Senate.

When asked about the legislation earlier this week, Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites that plans to create an already funded bicycle path adjacent to the boardwalk had been stalled for nearly eight years. Cymbrowitz said that the DEC had denied the Parks Department’s application, as well as other attempts to build community resources on the beach, and that he had hoped to free Parks from DEC’s yoke.

That upset activists who said that the DEC had more stringent standards for a reason: they serve as a watchdog over would-be projects that can contribute to beach erosion and other environmental risks.

The Parks Department told Sheepshead Bites that they did not request the bill, nor had any input into it.

Cymbrowitz has now changed his tune, saying that the plan is nixed because he has lost faith in the Parks Department’s ability to meet residents’ needs, citing the new boardwalk comfort stations as the turning point. Residents from the Oceana Condominium complex have protested the new bathrooms and comfort stations adjacent to their facility, claiming that they obstruct views and attract vagrants. Cymbrowitz sided with the residents, even sending a letter to the Parks Department.

His concerns have escalated alongside the mounting missteps of the comfort stations’ installations, according to his press release:

His appeal fell on deaf ears and, despite several well-publicized protests by Oceana residents, the original plan prevailed. During installation, the piles hit solid granite and seawater and the borings couldn’t go through, delaying the process. The Parks Department then devised an alternative construction plan that involved pouring concrete in the sand. Environmentalists and FEMA have already deemed this method unsafe, according to Assemblyman Cymbrowitz.

The legislation, however, was introduced on May 3 – at least a month or more after Cymbrowitz sent his critical letter to the Parks Department opposing the comfort stations.

Sheepshead Bites could not reach Cymbrowitz for comment on this article. We will update this post if we hear back from him.

UPDATE (4:28 p.m.): Brighton Beach resident Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, which vocally opposed the legislation, is celebrating the withdrawal as a victory for the community.

“It just goes to show there’s no limit to what you can do when you shine a light on the darkness. And just the fact – politics is all about looking good – and just on the basis that this was being done so quietly raised a lot of red flags,” said Sanoff. “This would have had far reaching impacts on all the people who live and work along the shoreline. This would have put hundreds of thousands of people who would have been put at risk. This is a victory.”

She added: “Sometimes these things are resurrected in a slightly different form. I can assure you that we’re going to be very, very vigilant. We’ll keep a close eye on any piece of legislation that’s proposed that has anything to do with the shoreline … There are no secrets along the shore. If it doesn’t come out in the wash, it’ll come out in the rinse.”

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Legislation sponsored by local officials seeks to transfer jurisdiction over the sands of Brighton Beach and Coney Island from the state to the city, allowing them to move forward with a long delayed bicycle path. But local activists are calling foul play, saying that it undercuts stringent regulations that are in place for a reason.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz has introduced legislation to the State Assembly that would transfer 250 feet of property south of the 2.5-mile-long Riegelmann Boardwalk along Brighton Beach and Coney Island to the New York City Parks Department. Even though the Parks Department maintains the land, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has final say about work to be done there – and according to Cymbrowitz, the agency has repeatedly blocked a planned bike path that would run the length of the property.

“[Funding was allocated for a bike path] almost 8 years ago. It was done by [Assemblyman] Alec Brook-Krasny’s predecessor Adele Cohen. Alec and I have continued to ensure that it’s in the budget, and every time we attempt to work with Parks Department, DEC says no,” Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites. “As part of the money that Alec and I gave for the redoing of the boardwalk several years ago, the plan was also to put additional play areas on the sand to make it more enjoyable for families and individuals. Again, DEC said no. So that’s where the legislation came from, because DEC is the agency of no.”

Cymbrowitz’s proposed legislation would wrest control from the state agency, and give the Parks Department total control of the area south of the boardwalk. It’s co-sponsored by Brook-Krasny and sponsored in the State Senate by Diane Savino.

Brighton Beach resident Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, said the pols have their story all wrong, and says this is just an end-run around important regulations that keep neighbors safe.

For starters, the DEC has never rejected the request for a bike path. In fact, that request was never made, she said.

“Within the last six months I followed up with DEC. And according to DEC, the Parks Department never completed the application. And if I know this, why don’t they? There’s something very, very wrong here and no one can give me a straight answer as to what’s going on,” Sanoff said.

A DEC spokesperson told Sheepshead Bites they could not comment on pending legislation. Asked in an e-mail follow-up about the application for a bike path, the agency has not yet responded. Similarly, the Parks Department has not responded to a request for comment.

Brook-Krasny, however, said that he only recently learned that Parks may not have completed the application, and is considering withdrawing his support for the legislation, although he will still push for the bike path, he told Sheepshead Bites.

“One day we’ll have a bike path. But again, there’s a question about why that application was denied. We’ll have to look into it,” said Brook-Krasny.

The Coney Island legislator said that Sandy was also giving him second thoughts about transferring jurisdiction. When Sheepshead Bites noted that he signed onto this legislation more than six months after Sandy, Brook-Krasny reiterated his need to look over the proposal.

“With everything that’s happening after Sandy, I’m just rethinking what was done even after Sandy,” Brook-Krasny said after we pointed out the time gap. “Look, I’ve got to look into it and really think about it, and think together with Steve Cymbrowitz. The idea to have a bike path is a great idea, and I understand the application by the Parks Department was never completed. I just need to spend some more time on it. ”

According to Sanoff, the DEC’s more stringent regulations require any work on the beaches to include proper studies into erosion. She said that fixed structures – particularly hard ones made of concrete – increase the potential for erosion, and with it, the damage caused by flooding.

“There is a reason why there are coastal engineering studies and a coastal hazard area,” Sanoff said, suggesting that Parks would not be required to do those studies. “The way water hits concrete, the wave energy is concentrated. When it hits something soft like wood or sand, it’s weakened. If you look where the bathrooms were hit, you can actually see where the water has eroded the land under the building. Anytime you put any kind of structure on the beach, you have to be careful that it doesn’t cause erosion. That’s why you don’t have structures on the beach.”

She added that the bike path itself is a bad idea, since it’s one long stretch of hard material that will cause water to eat away at the beach – and crash into homes and businesses in the next flood.

“The main concern is putting three miles of concrete down without any engineering studies, without any oversight, and also building quote-unquote recreational facilities, which will most likely be buildings,” Sanoff said, referring to plans by legislators to add recreational facilities as part of the boardwalk renovations – which, according to Cymbrowitz, the DEC has also opposed. “This is going to be a disaster. It’s going to make Sandy look like an overflowing bathtub.”

The text of the Assembly bill can be read here.

Senator Savino’s office did not return a call requesting a comment.

Correction (10:30 a.m.): The original version of this article referred to Sanoff as the chair of the Natural Resources Protective Association. She is actually the executive director. We have amended the post to reflect this, and regret any confusion it may have caused.

The proposed placement of natural gas pipelines from Williams and National Grid. Source: Williams

According to the legislative calendar for the House of Representatives, H.R. 2606, better known as the New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act or the Jamaica Bay pipeline, is set to be voted on today. After the area where the pipeline will be installed was badly damaged due to Sandy, advocates against the pipeline warn that a major storm could happen again, and with the pipeline there the consequences could be far worse than ever before.

The proposed construction of this pipeline has been marred by dozens of protests and thousands of anti-pipeline petition signatures. Now that they’ve seen Sandy’s aftermath, advocates against the pipeline have added another reason not to ahead with construction to their list.

The Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP) writes:

It’s complete insanity to build a high-pressure gas pipeline and metering station in an area that has just been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and will REGULARLY experience such events, or worse, in the decades to come. We don’t need this gas — we need to stop climate change and switch to renewables.

This bill permits construction of a gas pipeline in a national park – right next to a wildlife refuge that is home to a dozen endangered and threatened species; right under a public beach that is used by thousands of New Yorkers every year; and right by the largest community garden on the East Coast.

In the wake of the Hurricane Sandy stopping this bill is imperative. The bill authorizes construction of a high-pressure gas pipeline and metering station in an area that has just experienced major flooding and fire – and will do so again as the oceans rise because of climate change. Thousands of lives could be jeopardized in the event of another hurricane or storm surge.

They urge others to join them in their opposition of the pipeline by calling local congressmembers Tuesday morning and telling them to vote “no” on H.R. 2606.

You can find your congressperson’s Washington number by going here.

The Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP) delivered petitions with 5,000 signatures to Senator Charles Schumer’s Manhattan office Tuesday as members of the environmental group push for a presidential veto of the project.

Although the House and the Senate passed the bill authorizing a gas pipeline to run through the Gateway National Recreation Area, CARP members don’t plan to give up.

“It is too late to the stop the bill from being passed. It’s not too late to show opposition to the project,” said Jonathan Fluck, CARP’s spokesperson.

The proposed Jamaica Bay pipeline would connect an existing natural gas pipeline three miles offshore with Southern Brooklyn. The pipeline would tunnel under Jacob Riis Park, cross Jamaica Bay and surface at Floyd Bennett Field. Williams Company, which is constructing the pipeline, plans to establish a metering station within a vacant hanger at the historic airfield.

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The proposed placement of new natural gas pipelines from Williams and National Grid. Source: Williams

Opponents of the proposed Jamaica Bay gas pipeline have crafted another petition to showcase their disdain for the plans, following the U.S. Senate’s approval of the pipeline proposal.

Barbara Pearson, a Floyd Bennett Field Gardens Association member, helped write the petition, which she hopes will convince President Barack Obama to veto H.R. 2606, the legislation that will authorize industrial use of Floyd Bennett Field and appropriate part of the park to Williams Companies and National Grid.

Pearson writes:

Please sign my petition asking President Obama to veto HR 2606 – you will be asked to create an account on whitehouse.gov in order to sign this petition but it is extremely easy and they will email you a link that takes you right back to the petition once your account has been created. We need 150 signatures for the petition to be viewable on whitehouse.gov. If we get 25,000 signatures, the Obama administration says it will respond to the petition, so please forward this link far and wide.

Pearson joins a long list of advocates who oppose the pipeline, such as the Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP). According to CARP, if the pipeline is allowed to course through part of the Rockaways and potentially create environmental hazards, it would create a precedent by which future pipeline projects would be able to operate in other federally-funded parklands for similar projects.

An excerpt from the petition states:

 In addition, we feel the risk this legislation poses to ALL national parks being given over to inappropriate uses cannot be overstated when one considers that NPS is increasingly motivated to solve its maintenance backlog by entering into private “partnerships” as a source of financing. In fact, the “rehabilitation” of the hangars at Floyd Bennett Field at no cost to NPS is openly cited as a reason this inappropriate use will be implemented if H.R. 2606 becomes law.

Let your view be known – to pipeline or not to pipeline?

CARP members collecting petitions at Riis Park.

We reported on Monday about the United States Senate giving the green light to H.R. 2606, clearing one of the last major hurdles to the installation of a natural gas pipeline underneath Jamaica Bay, complete with a metering station within the historic hangars at Floyd Bennett Field.

The plan’s opponents, the Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline, issued the following statement blasting the Senate’s decision and stating plans to take their case all the way up to President Barack Obama.

They write:

The Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP) is outraged that both houses of Congress have now quietly approved legislation to permit a natural-gas pipeline and a metering-and-regulation facility to be built in Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn and Queens. H.R. 2606, which alters a 1972 law that has long protected the federal park from any uses other than recreation or conservation, was passed by the U.S. Senate on Sept. 21st without adequate public review. The alienation of a piece of Gateway, historic hangars in Floyd Bennett Field for industrial use, has never been properly addressed by legislators or the National Park Service and the public has been consistently left out of the democratic and decision-making process.

In less than two months, CARP has collected 5000 signatures against this legislation, the greatest bulk from beach goers, families and park users, who were both unaware of and unsupportive of this use the park. 9 million people use Gateway National Recreation Area, one of America’s most used and oldest urban national parks in the densest urban environment in the country.

CARP will continue to fight this misuse of Floyd Bennett Field, which features historic aircraft hangars, heavily used recreation facilities, hiking trails, camping and one of New York State’s oldest and largest community gardens and the Jamaica Bay Unit, home to popular beach and waterfront areas and the only wildlife refuge accessable by subway and bus. We will appeal to President Obama, whose Great Outdoors initiative promotes connecting Americans with the outdoors and partnering with local stakeholders to best gauge the needs of the community. We will ask Obama to veto this bill because it does not represent a government that is transparant, collaborative and participatory.

The Jamaica Bay Natural Gas Pipeline is nearly a done deal. Legislation permitting the construction of the pipeline has passed the U.S. Senate, removing one of the last major roadblocks to its construction.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg released this statement following the news that the H.R.2606 plan will move forward:

The legislation passed this morning in the U.S. Senate is not just about the construction and operation of a natural gas pipeline and the jobs it will create – it is critical to building a stable, clean-energy future for New York City and improving the health of all New Yorkers. I want to thank Senator Schumer who sponsored this important legislation as well as Senators Bingaman and Murkowski who helped make passage possible. I would also like to acknowledge the important role of the National Park Service in this process and look forward to the members of the House re-passing this bill when they return in November.

In previous articles, we’ve noted how clandestine the whole operation has been, and it seems the same can be said of the news that it is happening.

Throughout the course of the entire situation, activists and residents have come forward to ensure that their opposition to the pipeline – which would run under the Atlantic Ocean, cutting through the Rockaways and into southeast Brooklyn - was heard.

The $265 million project was endorsed by the Bloomberg Administration as a means of creating jobs and clean energy.

The bill will go back to the House when the legislative session resumes in November for approval of any changes. The final hurdle will be cleared once the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which reviews and authorizes natural gas pipelines, greenlights the project.

Activists have been collecting petition signatures against the pipeline at Riis Park in the Rockaways.

We’ve been covering the development and ramifications of the proposed Jamaica Bay Natural Gas Pipeline since this past April, and it seems that the New York Times has finally picked up on the story as well.

The Times’ Stuart Miller summarizes the history of the pipeline’s almost clandestine construction and development process. The deal for the pipeline, which would run under the Atlantic Ocean, then cutting through the Rockaways into southeast Brooklyn, has met stiff opposition from both environmentalists and residents residing near its zones of impact.

The major concerns against the pipeline’s construction, covered here and in the times, highlight the fear of explosions, fires, and health risks in densely populated areas, and the potential damage to the fragile ecosystems of Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn’s largest national parkland. The proposal to use Floyd Bennett Field’s historic hangars has raised concerns that it will open all national parks for industrial uses. Transco Williams, the firm put in charge of this development, has had a spotty safety record in recent years having suffered explosions in pipelines across the country.

The $265 million dollar project was pushed through and endorsed by the Bloomberg administration, in an effort to promote cleaner energy alternatives to oil, bring in $8 million dollars annually in property taxes, and create jobs.

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