Tuesday, May 30, 2006
May 30, 2006
By Joseph P. Fried
In its latest effort to reclaim waterfront land for recreation, New York City plans to turn a half-mile stretch of contaminated landfill and crumbled piers in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn into a park with panoramic views of the harbor and the Manhattan skyline.
The landfill was created in the 1970's, when the city planned to convert the site, which it owns, into a cargo terminal. The city halted the landfill work in 1978, though, when it learned that the private contractor had allowed questionable material to be used.
Investigators later found that elevated levels of arsenic, lead and other hazardous material were in the oil sludge, industrial waste water and other substances put in the landfill.
There has been no activity since the landfill work was stopped, and the entire half-mile stretch has been fenced off since at least the early 1980's.
The $36 million plan to correct the environmental hazards and remove the collapsing piers — and to create ball fields, picnic and fishing areas and possibly an environmental education center — was welcomed by Sunset Park residents interviewed last week.
"It's only going to help the neighborhood," Alex Plasencia, who has lived in Sunset Park for 59 of his 63 years, said near his home on Fourth Avenue and 44th Street, four blocks away. The site runs from 43rd to 51st Streets, between the waterfront and a large complex of buildings and warehouses known as Bush Terminal.
Mr. Plasencia, a retired truck driver, recalled his boyhood in the neighborhood in the 1950's. "I used to swim off the pier on 53rd Street," he said.
Candida Villanueva, 56, standing in front of her home of two decades on 43rd Street between Second and Third Avenues, said, "It will be better for it to be a park instead of all that mess."
Once completed, the park could cost her some of the quiet atmosphere she has now. The plan calls for 43rd Street to be one of two access streets to the park. "Nobody comes down here now," she said.
That is because the side streets between the water and Third Avenue have more industrial and commercial tenants than residents. There is much less pedestrian traffic on those side streets than on the streets east of Third Avenue, where most of Sunset Park's working-class population lives. The elevated Gowanus Expressway travels above Third Avenue.
Jeremy Laufer, district manager of Community Board 7, which includes Sunset Park, said the public's only access to the two miles of waterfront in Sunset Park now is a pier at 58th Street, which serves as a terminal for a ferry to Lower Manhattan.
The plan for more waterfront access here follows projects in recent years that have created a ribbon of new parkland along the Hudson River in Manhattan, and plans for parks in other largely inaccessible shoreline areas of Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn Bridge and in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
New York State DEC Information on Site:
May 22, 2006
According to the United Nations, approximately three billion people - half of the world's population - live within 125 miles of a coastline. With these numbers on the rise, it is increasingly imperative to understand the connection between humanity and the waters that cover 71 percent of the earth's surface. June 8 has been declared the International Day of the Ocean, providing a time for the media to deliberate on the state of ocean affairs, and one organization - the World Ocean Observatory - is providing a new perspective on how to approach ocean sustainability in a changing world.
"The world's oceans are an integrated global social system," states World Ocean Observatory founder and director Peter Neill. "In order to develop a sustainable relationship with the world's oceans, we need to recognize that humans around the globe are not separate from the international waters that link them. The sea connects us all."
The World Ocean Observatory, dedicated to public education on all levels about the world's oceans, reaches beyond the conventional and isolated approach of marine species and habitats to address the ocean in relation to humanity: how the health of the oceans and the laws of the sea affect climate, fresh water, energy, food production, public health, trade, transportation, international finance, recreation, culture, and governance.
"In half a century, humans have transformed the ecosystems they are dependent upon for survival," said Neill. "Declaring an International Day of the Ocean is an important first step, but understanding the ocean's impact on human survival must become a daily concern. Katrina, the tsunami, and climate change are all indicators that we need to change our perspective and relate to the ocean in a new way."
The World Observatory is a direct response to a recommendation by the 1998 Independent Commission on the Future of the Oceans for a global clearinghouse of ocean information. The World Ocean Observatory website - www.thew2o.net - serves as an online point of exchange for ocean information and educational services, comprising four elements: The Physical Ocean, an encyclopedic survey incorporating the United Nations Atlas of the Oceans and other repositories of ocean information; The World Ocean Directory, a theme-indexed listing of over 10,000 ocean-related organizations worldwide; The World Ocean Forum, a news and media service, monthly electronic newsletter on ocean subjects, publications, meetings, and on-line exhibits; and The World Ocean Classroom, an education center and outreach program. The Cultural Ocean, a demonstration of the incontrovertible impact of maritime enterprise and history on world culture, will be added shortly.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
May 22, 2006
NOAA today announced to America and its neighbors throughout the north Atlantic region that a very active hurricane season is looming, and encouraged individuals to make preparations to better protect their lives and livelihoods. May 21-27 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week.
During a news conference at the NOAA National Hurricane Center, Deputy Secretary of Commerce David A. Sampson noted, "Preparation is the key message that President Bush wants to convey during National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The impact from these storms extends well beyond coastal areas so it is vital that residents in hurricane prone areas get ready in advance of the hurricane season."
"For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become 'major' hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher," added retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
On average, the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season contained a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these hurricanes were considered "major," of which a record four hit the United States. "Although NOAA is not forecasting a repeat of last year's season, the potential for hurricanes striking the U.S. is high," added Lautenbacher.
Warmer ocean water combined with lower wind shear, weaker easterly trade winds, and a more favorable wind pattern in the mid-levels of the atmosphere are the factors that collectively will favor the development of storms in greater numbers and to greater intensity. Warm water is the energy source for storms while favorable wind patterns limit the wind shear that can tear apart a storm's building cloud structure.
This confluence of conditions in the ocean and atmosphere is strongly related to a climate pattern known as the multi-decadal signal, which has been in place since 1995. Since then, nine of the last 11 hurricane seasons have been above normal, with only two below-normal seasons during the El Nino years of 1997 and 2002.
NOAA National Hurricane Center
By Timothy Williams
Published: May 12, 2006
Maritta Dunn remembers, as a child in the 1950's, walking with her family to the Harlem Piers to watch ferries travel across the Hudson to Palisades Amusement Park. Although her family was not allowed into the amusement park because they were black, they liked to go to the piers to watch people board the boats.
The Harlem Piers, once a bustling transportation center and recreation attraction at the western end of 125th Street, were demolished nearly 50 years ago. But after years of plans to revitalize the area, construction is under way on a new set of piers on the Harlem waterfront scheduled to be completed next spring.
For Ms. Dunn, restoring the piers has been a lifelong campaign.
''I've been waiting 45 years for this to happen and I wasn't going to die without seeing this through,'' said Ms. Dunn, the former chairwoman of the local community board and one of the project's chief advocates.
The $18.7 million publicly financed project calls for two piers to be built on the Hudson River between St. Clair Place and West 135th Street. One will be used as a dock for excursion boats and water taxis, while the second will be reserved for recreation, like sunbathing, and for fishing.
In time, regular ferry service, a kayak launching area and a small restaurant may be added, officials said.
Monday, May 22, 2006
NEW YORK OCEAN & COASTAL PROTECTION BILL SAILS THROUGH STATE ASSEMBLY
Lawmakers Clear Measure Protecting Saltwater Fisheries and Habitat
ALBANY (May 10, 2006) -- Landmark legislation to protect and revitalize New York's ocean and coastal waters won swift approval today from the full State Assembly. The New York Ocean and Bays Protection Act (A-10584), which had quickly passed through both the Environmental Conservation and Ways & Means Committees, now moves to the State Senate.
"Lawmakers in Albany realize that vital ocean and coastal habitats are in trouble, and need protection," said Sarah Chasis, Ocean Initiative Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This legislation brings a new era of ocean protection with coordinated and directed marine management, and will help reestablish healthy and vibrant ocean life."
The legislation aims to improve the health of New York's coastal areas by creating a New York Ocean and Bays Protection Council, which will coordinate state marine resources decisions, encourage ecosystem-based management approaches, and ensure that accurate information about the state of coastal fisheries is widely available. It will also establish a comprehensive ocean management plan by the fall of 2008.
"An interagency Council and comprehensive New York ocean and bays plan will bring about the kind of coordinated approaches we need to save our marine life," said Robert S. DeLuca, President of Group for the South Fork. "The benefits created by this legislation will be seen at all levels of government -- from increased clarity in federal government requests to improved information for coastal communities."
"We applaud Assemblyman DiNapoli's leadership in sponsoring this important environmental legislation, and thank the Assembly for passing this bill," said Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director of the New York League of Conservation Voters. More than 40 percent of New York's coastal estuary and bay waters are impaired or threatened, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and nearly 30 percent of the state's most important commercial and recreational saltwater fisheries are depleted or being harvested at unsustainable rates. The total weight of seafood landed in New York State today is just a quarter of what it was 50 years ago.
"Enacting the New York Ocean and Bays Protection Act will make the state a trailblazer in ocean protection," said Kyle Rabin, Executive Director of Friends of the Bay. "Oceans worldwide are languishing from neglect and quickly approaching a point of no return. A-10584 could help turn the tide."
Provisions of the bill implement key recommendations made recently by a pair of national ocean commissions -- the congressionally-established U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the independent Pew Ocean Commission of scientists and other leaders from fisheries, business, and government. Both commissions urged immediate action by government to save our oceans, and encouraged a move toward ecosystem-based management.
"We need to move away from a piecemeal approach to managing coastal and marine resources toward one that ensures sustainable fishing, improves water quality, protects critical habitats, and preserves food webs," said Environmental Defense marine scientist Jake Kritzer. "Integrated ecosystem-based management will require integrated action by state agencies, and this bill will provide that needed coordination." "Our ocean, bays, estuaries and coastal resources represent critical habitats for hundreds of different bird species," said David J. Miller, Executive Director of Audubon New York. "Encouraging ecosystem-based management approaches will ensure that important bird species as well as fish are protected."
Last year, the New York Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee held a hearing on New York's marine resources and Governor Pataki hosted the New York State Ocean and Great Lakes Symposium to explore how the state could address its gaps in marine protection, and become a strong leader in ocean policy. Governor Pataki was also a participant in the national Pew Ocean Commission.
"This bill is consistent with two of the major recommendations made in my testimony at the Legislative hearing, namely that New York should create its own ocean commission to evaluate the status of our marine environment and to create strategic plans for restoration and protection of its resources, and place great emphasis on ecosystem-based management of its bays and estuaries," said David O. Conover, Dean and Director of the Marine Sciences Research Center at Stony Brook University.
"New York has demonstrated strong leadership by passing the New York Ocean and Bays Protection Act," said Andrea Geiger, The Ocean Conservancy's Legislative Program Manager. "This bill will bring better coordination between agencies and stewardship of our coastal environment. It is a model of the type of responsible action we must have at the national level for our oceans."
"New York's coast features a unique combination of dense population, famously beautiful beaches and bays, and important fisheries," said Carl Safina, an award-winning nature writer and President of Blue Ocean Institute. " The New York Ocean and Bays Protection Act is a crucial step toward safeguarding and maintaining our stunning natural coastal areas, for the millions of people who love and depend on our coasts."
Monday, May 15, 2006
New York State's DOS Division of Coastal Resources is responsible for the management and conservation of New York State's natural coastlines and urban waterfronts. The Division of Coastal Resources works in partnership with community groups, non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies, and local governments to make communities better places to live, work and visit.
The Division is involved in many activities related to the coastal environment. This includes supporting the conservation of coasts by providing technical assistance and the restoration of urban waterfronts through financing and planning guidance. Additional activities include:
- Implementing the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act in New York State
- Implementing the State's Waterfront Revitalization of Coastal Areas and Inland Waterways Act - how the Division goes about this is outlined in the State's implementing regulations
- Developing Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs and Harbor Management Plans with over 200 municipalities
- Planning and technical assistance for redevelopment of brownfields, abandoned buildings and deteriorated urban waterfronts
Conserving natural coastlines and revitalizing urban waterfronts are the two top priorities of the Division of Coastal Resources. They have developed several programs to assist with the planning and funding of these efforts. For natural coastlines the focus is on preserving habitat and improving water quality through outreach, education and regulatory means. For developed waterfronts the focus shifts to land use planning, the redevelopment of brownfields and increasing public access.
The Division of Coastal Resources is also a great resource of information on funding opportunities and scientific data. Their website highlights grant opportunities for non-profit organizations and government agencies that include the Environmental Protection Fund, Quality Communities Program and Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. In addition, the Division is a great resource for scientific research and mapping information.
For more information on the New York State DOS Division of Coastal Resources: http://nyswaterfronts.com/index.asp
Thursday, May 11, 2006
May 11, 2006
By Aalan Feuer
If, for whatever reason, you had risen early yesterday and loitered at the bottom of Manhattan, you might have seen, among the garbage scows and the Staten Island ferries, a nautical publicity stunt coming in from sea.
The stunt involved two ships or, actually, a ship and a boat: the Freedom of the Seas, a billion-dollar, 160,000-ton behemoth, which is owned by Royal Caribbean and holds the title of the Biggest Cruise Ship in the World; and the John J. Harvey, a snub-nosed, 268-ton fireboat, which is owned by a cast of local mariners and has been chugging through the waterways around New York for more than 70 years.
The idea here was to lend a sheen of history and working-class appeal to the arrival of Leviathan, which was on its maiden voyage. The scrappy Harvey led the gleaming Freedom through the narrows, into the harbor and around the Statue of Liberty, not unlike a hound dog bounding out before a hunting expedition for the king.
"It's a great nod to New York to bring in the biggest ship in the world with all the coolest stuff on board and to fire up literally the Harvey, which very few people know about," said Rene Mack, the publicist who planned the event. "I see it as a salute to New York's maritime history, which is hard to find these days."
It is axiomatic that New York's maritime history is not only hard to find these days, but also has pretty much sunk which is one reason the Harvey's owners took the escort gig. Their boat is old, prone to floods, drinks diesel like an 18-wheeler and survives on a diet of matching grants and deductible donations. Publicity, as much as its hull, keeps the boat afloat.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
By Jennifer Smith
May 10, 2006
Some of Long Island's dams have been here so long they've become part of the landscape.
Built to power mills or create ice ponds in the days before refrigeration, the dams also hampered age-old migratory patterns of fish such as alewives and eels that once headed upstream from the sea to mature or spawn.
Yesterday, environmental advocates and local officials announced an ambitious 10-year plan to return those fish to 30 miles of river habitat along Suffolk's South Shore. They propose building fish ladders to help fish over barriers and, where possible, removing some of the 30 dams the group has deemed obsolete."
To make this dream happen, we need to open up the rivers," said actress Isabella Rossellini, a Bellport resident and member of Environmental Defense, the national non-profit group backing the proposal.
Long Island's South Shore Estuary Reserve
Thursday, May 04, 2006
May 4, 2006
By Michael Wilson
The 15 buildings at the Greenpoint Terminal Market in Brooklyn that were gutted in a spectacular 10-alarm fire on Tuesday were at the center of a complex real estate deal gone wrong between established and, at times, controversial developers. They were tangling over property that was itself the target of neighborhood preservationists hoping to secure the district's legacy as a landmark.
Firefighters continued dousing the smoldering blocks along West Street and Noble Street on the Greenpoint waterfront yesterday. Officials suspect arson, and investigators were waiting for a chance to search for evidence.
The buildings are now in ruins and may be a crime scene, and even before the fire, they did not look like much to a passer-by, just relics from a bygone time when they produced bales of rope for the shipyards along the East River.
But the property's value skyrocketed last year, when a prospective buyer placed a $42 million down payment, a tenth of the entire $420 million deal, and by itself almost twice what the owner had paid for the property five years earlier. Now a lawsuit seeks the return of the $42 million and describes how the deal fell apart.
Preservationists, who had failed in recent efforts to secure landmark status for other Brooklyn buildings, started a campaign to keep the Greenpoint Terminal Market from being knocked down, seeking the support of the local city councilman, David Yassky.
Whether the site's value, its status as a landmark and the continuing legal battle have anything do with the inferno on Tuesday is unknown. Fire marshals have been unable to enter the site.
Other aspects of the investigation are already under way, however, including background checks and interviews with people connected to the warehouse complex. Nearby surveillance cameras are being examined, and investigators are checking neighbors' reports that squatters frequently used the buildings.
The buildings were owned by Joshua Guttman, 58, of Lawrence, in Nassau County, a longtime developer of industrial sites in Brooklyn, who bought the buildings in 2001 for about $25 million with an eye toward flattening them. He applied for demolition permits with the city's Department of Buildings in March 2001, but for the most part the buildings stood dormant.
That changed last year when the neighborhood zoning was revised from commercial to residential, sending brokers and prospective buyers hurrying to Mr. Guttman's door.
"Offers were being made daily on this piece," Joseph Kosofsky, a lawyer for Mr. Guttman, said yesterday. "Everybody wants to be your partner." One prospective buyer stood out: Baruch Singer, 52, a veteran developer. His offer did not have the sort of restrictive clauses and riders that Mr. Guttman found in the others, Mr. Kosofsky said.
"It was all cash," Mr. Kosofsky said. "It looked like a slam-dunk, in terms of a simple deal. They were going to buy it without any conditions or anything else."
Mr. Singer was involved in a dispute in 2000 with tenant groups and the federal Housing and Urban Development Department. The department blocked Mr. Singer from bidding on a Harlem property the department owned after it was alerted to a long record of complaints against him. Over the years, city housing officials have cited Mr. Singer's buildings for thousands of code violations.
Multi-media of Fire
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Asbury Park Press 05/3/06
By Todd B. Bates and Kirk Moore
A "test project" with up to 80 wind turbines should be built off New Jersey's coast to learn more about the potential impact and benefits of offshore wind power, a state panel recommended.
But the potential impact may be significant and New Jersey must stress conservation before pursuing energy facilities in the ocean, according to a minority report included in the package.
"I will closely review the panel's findings and recommendations and consider them while working to shape New Jersey's energy and coastal policies," Gov. Corzine said in a state Department of Environmental Protection statement e-mailed Tuesday.
Tony Bogan of Bogan's Deep Sea Fishing Center in Brielle said "it's hard to react without knowing specifically where (the test project) would go."
"I'm encouraged by the fact that they're taking a step-by-step approach," Bogan said of the report.
The final report to Corzine of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Development of Wind Turbine Facilities in Coastal Waters is the culmination of months of work.
Then-Gov. Richard J. Codey created the nine-member panel in December 2004 and established a 15-month moratorium on the development of offshore wind turbines. The panel was to consider the environmental and economic costs and benefits of turbines and make recommendations on their appropriateness.
The report recommends studies before, during and after the construction of an offshore wind turbine test project. The project would generate as much as 350 megawatts of electricity and have as many as 80 wind turbines.
NJ Wind Panel Report
Monday, May 01, 2006
In the News: Sewage Beach - Summer’s almost here, and things are getting excrementally worse with our water.
By Eric Wolff
May 1, 2006 issue of New York Magazine
Is New York flushing away its summer fun? Our century-old sewer system is already so overburdened that it overflows 70 days a year dumping 27 billion gallons of waste into the city's waterways, just as high-rises are going up on their banks. (Even the ever-fetid Gowanus Canal is being lined with housing.) Last summer, two city beaches were closed because of high bacterial levels; experts say all this building is going to make the problem worse. And while it's still pretty safe to kayak on the Hudson this summer, within ten years, I could easily see beaches closing for much of the summer season, says biophysicist Paul Mankiewicz of the Gaia Institute.
All it takes is a tenth of an inch of rain falling in an hour a tenth! for the sewer system to start emptying into the rivers. It's partly a problem of neglect: In 1992, the city's treatment plants were in such disrepair that the state's Department of Environmental Conservation sued under the Clean Water Act; the city has never allayed the DEC's concerns, and the State Supreme Court upheld a $13.9 million fine against the city last April.
Meanwhile, the city's population has edged over 8 million, and the Department of Planning is expecting at least 37,000 new apartments citywide in the next ten years. We're operating under the assumption the sewers can handle it, says a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Environmental Protection. If we didn't think so, developers wouldn't get a permit to connect to the system. And that's all we have to say.
Gowanus CSO Forum
Apr 27 Gowanus Canal CSO Public Forum
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Brooklyn Community Board 6 and local elected officials are co-sponsoring a Public Forum on Combined Sewage Outfalls (CSO's) flowing into the Gowanus Canal. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the City's Department of Environmental Protection will be on hand to report on their efforts to improve the environmental condition of the Gowanus Canal and answer questions from the public. Also participating will be representatives for Friends and Residents of the Greater Gowanus (FROGG), Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation (GCCDC), and Urban Divers.