City Releases First Wetlands Strategy for Comment
February 13th, 2012
Parks Writer Anne Schwartz filed this story:
In its first effort to create a comprehensive policy for protecting New York City’s last wetlands, the Bloomberg administration released a draft Wetlands Strategy in mid-January. The City Council held a hearing on the draft on January 31, and public comments are being accepted until February 18 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of the estimated 100 square miles of coastal marshes that once lined the city’s shores, just 14 remain. More than 90 percent of its freshwater wetlands have been lost. The wetlands that remain are key to the survival of waterbirds nesting in the harbor, migratory birds that funnel through the city in the spring and fall, and harbor fisheries. They also help prevent coastal flooding and soak up stormwater, an increasingly important role as climate change brings an expected rise in the number and severity of storm surges.
In 2007, the Wetlands Transfer Task Force inventoried wetlands on city property and recommended the transfer of several hundred acres to the parks department. But the fate of numerous wetlands in the five boroughs, including many in private ownership, remains undecided. To fill this gap, Local Law 31, introduced by City Councilmember James Gennaro and signed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2009, required the city to create a strategy to “conserve, protect, enhance, stabilize, restore, and expand wetlands and associated buffer areas in the city,” with a particular focus on small vulnerable wetland parcels.
“There are a lot of wetlands in the city we know about that still need protection,” said Glenn Phillips, Executive Director of New York City Audubon and a member of the task force. “This plan is a critical first step in the process.”
Although in 2007, Mayor Bloomberg approved the transfer to the parks department of the city’s largest unprotected wetland–the 70-acre Arlington Marsh on the northwest shore of Staten Island–the strategy draft says that the transfer is pending the planned expansion of the adjacent New York Container Terminal. Advocates say, however, that the terminal can expand while still preserving the most ecologically significant sections of the marsh and there is no need to hold up the transfer.By David King on February 13, 2012, 2:09 pm
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