By David Brand
Queens Daily Eagle
On Monday, local lawmakers and the New York City Department of Environmental Department unveiled a $400 million plan to improve the health of Jamaica Bay.
The proposal includes wetland restoration programs, the construction of mussel shelves, projects to dredge hazardous materials and green infrastructure initiatives. In May, the NYCDEP also invested $23 million to renovate the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant with the goal of reducing nitrogen flow into the Bay. The increased presence of nitrogen in water fuels algae blooms that threaten native species.
Queens lawmakers praised the proposed investment and said it was crucial for protecting the Bay.
“This significant investment will certainly enhance this jewel of Queens,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams (D – Queens), who attended the event.
Council Member Costa Constantinides (D – Queens) also hailed the proposed investment.
“Jamaica Bay is a national treasure, which is why I’m happy to see NYCDEP invest $400 million into restoring its ecology,” Constantinides wrote on Twitter. “This is a good step to restoring such a vital part of our borough’s environment.”
Jamaica Bay is home to a diverse population of birds including piping plovers, osprey and herring gull and its waters teem with striped mullet, winter flounder and several species of mollusk. But the waterway has experienced significant environmental degradation for more than two decades. A 2001 report by the New York Times revealed that thousands of acres of marshy islands, which provide vital nesting and feeding space for birds and other wildlife, were “rapidly, mysteriously vanishing.”
”We started noticing that the marshes were deteriorating and receding five or six years ago,” Dan Mundy, president of a local environmental group for Jamaica Bay, told the Times. ”The second year, we came back and thought it would be better, but it was worse. The third year, it was even worse.”
Jamaica Bay has been the focus of various piece-meal innovative environmental initiatives. One notable project involved mixing porcelain shards from 6,500 crushed toilet bowls with oyster and clam shells to build an artificial reef for breeding oysters. The shell beds were part of the effort to restore one billion oysters to New York Harbor, the New York Times reported in 2016.