Jamaica Bay gets $20M stimulus from feds to create ecology park

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Jamaica Bay will be the recipient of millions of dollars of federal stimulus money, an infusion expected to create a breathtaking “ecology park” along the massive body of water, officials announced last week.

The city will receive $20 million to restore 38 acres of wetlands and natural grasslands adjacent to the Paerdegat Basin Combined Sewer Overflow Facility on the shores of Jamaica Bay.

It will implement an environmentally friendly stormwater management plan by reintroducing local vegetation, restoring the shoreline and constructing a large catch basin to prevent rainwater runoff and street litter from reaching the bay, Gov. David Paterson’s office said in a joint announcement with Mayor Michael Bloomberg announcing the funding.

When the project is completed, five acres of parkland will become the ecology park, which will offer “open-access to salt marshes and grassland areas with permeable pavement walkways and viewing platforms,” the statement said.

The park will also include exhibits to serve as an educational tool for schools and tourists to learn about the coastal habitats that occur within the city region. Project construction is expected to be completed in January 2012, at which time the property will be maintained by the city Parks Department.

“Any time you can restore ... any semblance of habitat is really good news,” said Doug Adamo, chief of the Division of Natural Resources for the Gateway National Recreation Area, whose boundaries include the bay.

“This kind of habitat restoration, especially grassland, is rare in the region, which lost a lot of grassland habitat in the beginning of the Industrial Era,” he noted.

Dorothy Turano, district manager of Community Board 18, said she is excited about the project — particularly since the board’s new offices at Bergen Avenue and Avenue K in Brooklyn will be near the park, which will be at Bergen Avenue and the bay.

“We are pretty excited about it,” said Turano. “It should be a beautiful area.”

The board is expecting to move into its new offices next March. The park could be completed by June 2010, Turano said.

The bay, which borders Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County, includes 26,645 acres of open water, meadowland, marshes, dunes and forests. But the body of water is the depository of the city’s treated wastewater — approximately 300 million gallons a day.

That water has a high concentration of nitrogen and the bay’s marshes can only remove a fraction of it, resulting in less than optimal water quality. Wastewater and overflow from four sewage treatment plants contribute to harmful algae blooms that diminish the bay’s dissolved oxygen, a condition that can kill wildlife.

The city will also receive $50 million to replace two obsolete gas turbine emergency generators with three new diesel-powered emergency generators at the 26th Ward water pollution control plant along the bay. The city will renovate the facility’s emergency generator and replace outdated electrical equipment.

The new generators are expected to provide the plant with a dependable back-up power source and permit the plant to continue operations off the grid during periods of peak energy, according to the governor’s office. Project construction will begin in December 2009 and be completed in July 2012.

In all, the city will receive $220 million in stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for water infrastructure improvements via the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

“These projects will provide a bounty to New York City by saving money through increased energy efficiency, protecting our waterways through improved wastewater treatment, reducing flooding after heavy rains and restoring precious wetlands,” Paterson said in a statement.

Gary Buiso is a reporter for Courier-Life Publications, a sister company of TimesLedger Newspapers.

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