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Boro prez blasts Flushing Bay study

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Queens Borough President Claire Shulman has ordered officials to hold a monthly meeting to track progress on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers environmental study of Flushing Bay after a meeting replete with complaints the engineers were dragging their feet.

Peter Womack, project planner of the Corps of Engineers, and Peter Blum, chief flood control and navigation section planning director, got an earful from Shulman and Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst), who lives near the bay.

“This finger is going to silt up the whole bay before you guys get this study done — let alone starting to do something about it,” Shulman told a session of the Queens Borough Board Monday night.

Shulman was referring to a dike stretching from near LaGuardia Airport out toward College Point. The dike, known popularly as a finger, was built with a view toward helping the tidal flow in and out of the bay. But in recent years it has grown with the accumulation of silt and critics say it has already interfered with the normal tidal movement of water.

The study by the Army Corps of Engineers is costing $2.7 million and involves exhaustive tests, aerial photography and other procedures, which Blum explained could not easily be expedited because of regulations and necessity for obtaining permits.

“We understand the frustration,” said Blum, referring to the justification of appropriations for the study, which is about half completed. “But we have to present something to Congress.

“Everybody is competing for federal dollars,” he said.

Shulman, Marshall and members of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley’s (D-Jackson Heights) staff, questioned the need for “still another study” of Flushing Bay, saying they knew of several previous studies.

“We believe we are delivering what we said we would,” Blum said. “We said from the start that it was going to take four years.”

But Shulman was clearly impatient with the progress of the study.

“This finger is growing every day,” she said. “There has to be a way to expedite this process.”

“This is horrendous,” said Marshall, who is running for borough president to replace Shulman, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

“I have seen yacht basin closings and oil barges that can only move during the highest tides,” she said. “It’s a violation of our environment rights.”

The borough president ended the meeting with a pledge from various parties concerned to hold monthly meetings at Crowley’s Jackson Heights office to keep tabs on the Flushing Bay study project.

Jim Mueller and Robert Gaffoglio of the New York Department of Environmental Protection, also appeared before the board and discussed the status of the Combined Sewer Overflow retention tank and future water quality initiatives not far from the National Tennis Center in Flushing.

Mueller said four ballfields displaced during construction of the facility are under restoration.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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