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Jamaica bay greenway gets $1.6M

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Among the $105.4 billion budget passed by legislators on March 30, a $1.6 million appropriation was made for the Greenway that environmentalists say will provide waterfront access to more than 500,000 residents in southern Queens.On Monday, proponents of the plan, which includes an excursion boat eco-tour, a boat dock, four kayak and canoe launches, and a number of sandy shore trails, had crossed their fingers knowing that Gov. Pataki had combed over the budget for the last nine days. By Tuesday, Pataki was expected to either approve the budget or veto parts of it. But in a last-minute development, senior power brokers from both houses of the Legislature reworked the budget and came up with a new blueprint to sidestep possible Pataki vetoes, The New York Times reported. As of Wednesday, supporters were still unsure of the Greenway status. It is a period of deja vu for Greenway supporters. Last year when the plans for the Jamaica Bay Greenway first went before Pataki for approval, they were axed due to the large size of the budget and insufficient funds. "What we heard last year was the governor felt the overall budget was too big, so he had to veto some of the newer appropriations," said Sierra Club legislative associate Sarah Kogel-Smucker. "The veto had nothing to do with the actual merit of the project, so we're hoping he'll see it as something to prioritize this year."In an effort to help solidify the Greenway chances, organizers at the Southern Queens Parks Association appealed to state Assembly members for support to avoid being overlooked again. The group's president, William Nelson, said the Assembly members campaigned hard for the approval of Jamaica Bay's Greenway.Assembly members were unavailable for comment because they were in session."We're hopeful this time," said Nelson. "In communities of color, there is very little access to waterfront areas, so our kids are tied to their blocks. By giving them access to the waterfront, we can get them excited about science. There are just so many options that these kids are not aware of."Nelson said black communities in South Ozone Park, Jamaica and Springfield Gardens are surrounded by development with very little open space, but many of these neighborhoods would be given direct access to Greenway amenities, including Rosedale, St. Albans, South Ozone Park and Laurelton.According to a Southern Queens Parks Greenway feasibility study, "the general trend is that access to the waterfront by neighborhood decreases as the percentage of blacks in the neighborhood increases." The study also found a number of disparities in open space distribution. In southeast Queens, the proximity of Kennedy Airport trumps the city Planning Department's minimum requirement of 25 acres per 1,000 residents. The opposite is true of southwest Queens with an overabundance of open space is provided by Gateway National Park."The key here is folks are frustrated by overdevelopment," said Nelson. "When you plan a community, you want to preserve some of it for open space people can use."In recent years, Jamaica Bay has experienced an upwelling of marshland erosion (about 40 to 50 acres per year) and high nitrogen levels, qualities capable of crippling the ecosystem permanently. The dangers recently raised the eyebrows of the city Department of Environmental Protection, which met March 31 to discuss potential legislation to develop a watershed protection plan and to encourage the state Department of Environmental Conservation to impose a cap on nitrogen pollution. Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said opening up new portions of Jamaica Bay to the public for recreation would be a safe endeavor with indirect benefits to the DEP's cause."The bay desperately needs to be more appreciated," he said. "The Greenway is about building bonds between the people of New York and this magnificent national park."

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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