Air compressor set to cure smell on Cross Bay

The completion of this air compressor in Howard Beach will stop the fish smell on Cross Bay Boulevard in the summer, the city says. Photo courtesy city Department of Environmental Protection
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The occasional summer stink of fish that permeates Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach will soon disappear now that the city has completed construction on an air compressor that it says will stop the odor.

The odors emanating from Shellbank Basin, a tributary of Jamaica Bay, are caused by stagnant water that leads to an environment where fish die.

The city Department of Environmental Protection completed the construction of the Shellbank Basin Destratification Facility, which will pump air bubbles into the basin, giving the water the oxygen it needs to support life.

“This is another bit of good news for New Yorkers who love Jamaica Bay,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “Living near the water is great, but not when it is so stagnant that it creates unwelcome odors. This facility addresses that issue as air will now be distributed throughout the water body, preventing the conditions that led to odors in the past and improving the overall ecology of the basin so that fish will want to remain.”

Work started on the $3.5 million facility in September 2010.

The smell was particularly strong in 2008, when fish washed up near Cross Bay Boulevard and elected officials held a news conference to get the city to eliminate the odor.

The basin is bounded by 157th Avenue, Cross Bay Boulevard and 85th Street in Howard Beach.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) welcomed the completion of the air compressor.

“I believe the DEP facility built near the Shellbank Basin is a step in the right direction environmen­tally,” he said. “I am optimistic that the efforts of the DEP will improve the condition of the water in the basin, the quality of life for my constituents and the fish there and eliminate the odors that have plagued the area for years. I am grateful for work done by DEP.”

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) also commended the city for coming up with a solution for the smell.

“DEP has developed a creative, low-tech solution that addresses the occasional unpleasant odors in the waters of Shellbank Creek,” the councilman said. “I applaud their efforts and thank the commissioner for making sure my constituents get the relief they deserve.”

Betty Braton, who lives near the basin and is chairwoman of Community Board 10, applauded the agency.

“Our residents, particularly those in Howard Beach in close proximity to Shellbank Basin, are pleased that the permanent destratification system is complete,” she said. “DEP’s work to provide a workable solution is much appreciated by all of us. We look forward to our summers to come without the odors of dead fish that prevented us from fully enjoying our unique waterfront location when inversions occurred.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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