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Crackdown on algae clears Bowne Park pond waters

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Last week officials commemorated the completion of a Parks Department project to eliminate excessive algae in the neighborhood waterway on Bayside Avenue between 155th and 159th streets.

"That pond is very much a community treasure that became a community eyesore because of the accumulation of algae and other such growth," said Phyllis Shafran, a spokeswoman for McLaughlin (D-Flushing).

McLaughlin allotted $250,000 for the clean-up two years ago, after algae became an apparent and unwanted resident in the pond.

The body of water is central to the Bowne Park, where residents fish and children boat, Shafran said.

McLaughlin was concerned the algae was not only eating away at the pond's attractiveness but also at the ecosystem inside the waterway.

"Part of the problem is that New York City water is very nutrient rich, which creates the algae situation and it becomes an eyesore," she said. "There was concern not only with the aesthetics but also the ecological conditions."

In this case, she said, only the appearance was threatened by the presence of algae.

So the Parks Department conducted an aeration and filtration project in the pond.

Bill Tai, the director of natural resources with the Parks Department, said an aeration unit is a fancy word for fountain. These machines not only beautify the pond but circulate and oxygenate the water.

"As far as algae, it's really an indicator of the oxygen situation in the pond," Tai said. "There are many ponds in the city that have very delicate oxygen balances."

Aerators add oxygen to the water, which can actually facilitate the growth of algae. But they also maintain a balance within the pond's ecosystem, leading to a gradual decrease in the unwanted aquatic plant life.

"We've been in a couple of public meetings and some of the public has seen an improvement in the pond," Tai said. "Often people, if they don't know the neighborhood, they'll show up and see the algae and not know that it's half the algae that was there years ago."

The water is now in continuous circulation, Shafran said, and will remain that way as long as McLaughlin is in office.

The assemblyman has pledged to "work with the Parks Department and civic leaders to restore this neighborhood gem to the appearance and environmental-friendly condition the community desires and deserves," he said in a statement.

Civic leaders such as state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), Queens Parks Commissioner Richard Murphy and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's representative Debra Markell-Kleinert joined the assemblyman in the park last week to celebrate the completion of the algae project.

"The new filtration plan got rid of the bad algae. Now there's new algae, which I'm told is 'good,' but it may cause a different set of problems," said Padavan, who has secured money for the park in the past. "To my knowledge the Parks Department is working on this. They have our full support and hopefully the concerns will be addressed."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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