Addabbo wants dead fish inquiry

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City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) called on city and state environmental agencies Monday to find out why thousands of dead fish have been washing up on the shores of Shellbank Basin.

"For residents that have lived here for many years, this has been a problem," the councilman said during a news conference outside the Starbucks on Cross Bay Boulevard, near the basin and canal where thousands of dead bunkerfish have been washing up.

"I don't think my residents care what's causing it, they want it stopped," he said. "Living by this canal should not be a detriment."

Mercedes Padilla, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Environmental Protection, said the phenomenon is a "natural process" that occurs when bluefish near the basin chase the bunkerfish to areas in the water that contain less oxygen.

"This is not uncommon at this time of year, when the weather is warm," she said. "It's a natural process."

She said about 10 cubic yards of bunkerfish were removed from the area over the weekend.

"We're continuing to investigate and we're cleaning" the area, Padilla said.

Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton, who lives near the basin, said removing the fish has been an issue.

"My house is on the waterway. Fish die, it's natural. The problem is the cleanup. We need to have a procedure for when these things happen," she said.

The thousands of fish cast a putrid odor along Cross Bay Boulevard.

"When you smell and see all the dead fish, you realize the horror," said state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach), who joined Addabbo at the news conference.

Howard Beach resident Cosmo Giamundo said the fish "stink like hell."

State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), whose district covers Howard Beach, said he surveyed the area Friday and spoke to DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd.

"When I went down there, it was the most shocking thing in the world," he said. "Literally thousands of dead fish sitting on the lake. You could smell the stench all the way to Cross Bay. I told the commissioner it was a health hazard."

Addabbo sent letters Monday to Lloyd and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis asking how they plan to address the problem.

While Padilla could not identify the last time so many fish washed up in Howard Beach, she said a similar occurrence happened last year in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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