Nature group has been good for northeast Queens parks

In your April 9 article “Padavan’s eco−watchdog a patronage tool: Stavisky,” state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) uses the state Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preservation Commission to give “political patronage jobs.”

Stavisky should look up the word “patronage,” which means giving support, encouragement, etc. To that extent, Padavan has given the commission the support it needed in its work.

The following are a few examples of some of the past and recent work of the commission to preserve public lands and preserve the safe use and natural, scenic and historic assets of northeast Queens — in all, 10 miles of waterfront and 1,900 acres of adjacent public lands. The commission:

1. helped save Udalls Cove, the second−largest city wetland, from being filled to become a Nassau County golf course on the shoreline of Douglaston.

2. saved the publicly owned Douglaston Ravine from being polluted from adjacent development by helping to acquire adjacent properties to save the ravine as an environmental asset for all New Yorkers.

3. procured independent experts to evaluate the brownfield of an 86−unit College Point development site and advocated a multimillion−dollar cleanup to protect the future residents from the underlying existing hazardous waste.

4. procured an architect to develop the master plan for the old Fort Totten ramparts and battery as a historical site when the city was not able to fund it. The first phase of construction is now complete.

5. monitored, lobbied and promoted remedies for the cleanup of most of the existing and proposed development sites in College Point, Whitestone and Beechhurst and helped protect the shoreline parks in northeast Queens.

Prior to the elimination of the commission, its seven volunteer members included a professor who is the head of environmental studies at a Queens university, a consulting engineer specializing in environmental engineering, a director of the Alley Pond Environmental Center, the past president and director of the Bayside Historical Society, an environmental lawyer and past deputy counsel to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a civil engineer and the chairman of a major private Queens corporation.

We are all volunteers and mostly Democrats, have been appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors and provide countless volunteer hours to the work of the commission with a staff of one full−time secretary and one part−time director.

Stavisky, a major recipient of the commission’s work for her district, could have spoken up to save the commission, whose budget was less than one−one millionth of the $131 billion state budget. For her to say that the “unprecedented budget deficits, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to perpetuate Frank Padavan’s political jobs seems like an exceedingly poor decision” is not only an insult to us and untrue, but the most disingenuous, political statement we have heard in a long time.

We are sure if Stavisky had bothered to thoroughly read the state budget, she would have found scores of commissions throughout the state that are funded but non−functioning and many earmarks that could have been cut out of the budget.

We are also amazed at the statement by state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D−Flushing), whose district covers College Point, that she has never heard of the commission, which has been around for 33 years and has had continual and substantial press covering its work.

The assemblywoman has a large district and apparently her staff has not briefed her adequately about the commission or the residential developments in her district on properties that are full of petroleum products, mercury and other toxins the commission has helped fund to uncover and cure.

Sadly, the demise of the commission has left a major void in the protection of the natural environment of northeast Queens, which is shared not only by its thousands of residents, Stavisky and Mayersohn, but the whole city. Some of our elected state officials could have made a difference by speaking up for the commission, but for political reasons decided to keep silent.

This letter is signed by members of the commission.

Elias Betzios


Aline Euler


Bernard Haber Douglaston

Robert Lo Pinto Whitestone

Constance Mandina Beechhurst

William Nieter


Geraldine Spinella


More from Around New York