Today’s news:

Jamaica Bay Greenway gets $1.6 million state booster shot

Gov. George Pataki let stand a $1.6 million chunk of the state's transportation, economic development and environmental conservation budget last week that had been earmarked for a Jamaica Bay Greenway, a series of shoreline trails, boat slips and an eco-tour. The Greenway will give waterfront access to southeast Queens residents in Rosedale, St. Albans, South Ozone Park and Laurelton. through a series of walking trails.Organizers at the Southern Queens Park Association breathed a sigh of relief last week when they learned that Pataki had not vetoed their slice of the state budget, which took effect last week after some behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Last year the Jamaica Bay Greenway received a stamp of approval from the Legislature during its budget negotiations, but the provision was vetoed by Pataki, raising doubts about its acceptance this year."We were definitely waiting patiently," said Southern Queens Park Association President, William Nelson.Greenway advocates at the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said they experienced a similar nail-biting day April 12."We were cautiously optimistic that it would go through, and we're absolutely thrilled that it did," said Sierra Club Legislative Associate, Sarah Kogel-Smucker. Nelson said the Greenway is his top priority now, and although there is no specific timeframe planned for construction, the association will host an open forum later in the month to hear from the public as a first-step."We want this project to be as big as it can be for the community," he said. "If that means we have to do more, then we will."Specifically, the appropriation will cover the trails, boat slips and an eco-tour. But Nelson said the program itself is flexible and the operators open to suggestions, hence the open forum."Once you get this type of commitment, it's like a springboard," he said. "We want to discuss what people would like to see."Nelson said he will seek additional funding and support from state Assembly members and conservational groups for potential suggestions.No matter what kind of tweaks may occur to the project as it progresses supporters say the impetus to provide waterfront access to residents of south Queens takes priority."This is really about providing access to the community and allowing the community to enjoy this ecological treasure," said Kogel-Smucker. "I think every community has the right to enjoy its natural resources, and we're especially excited that this will allow access to southern Queens."Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 138.

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