With warmer weather, concerned citizens’ groups in northeast Queens are doing their part to improve the shoreline environment, even as the area loses a watchdog group to either budget cuts or politics, depending on whose talking.
About 150 people gathered along the western shore of Little Neck Bay on Saturday, April 19 to participate in the 15th Annual “Waterfront Day,” organized by the Bayside Anglers Group.
“We were hoping for 250, but the ones that showed up really worked,” said Paul Pabone, president of the group. “Councilmember Tony Avella showed up with a Proclamation, honoring the 15th anniversary of the clean up,” he said.
With the help of members of environmental group Friends of Oakland Lake; Boy Scouts and leaders of Troop 75 and local volunteers, including State Senator Frank Padavan, “We filled up more than 250 large garbage bags,” Pabon said.
“He always works,” Pabon said of Padavan. “He filled five or six bags on his own and then offered a $25 prize to the Boy Scout who filled the most bags,” Pabon noted admiringly.
“It was a great day,” said Daniel Eggers, president and founder of the Oakland Lake group. “I’m glad we could help the anglers expand the cleanup to cover three miles of shoreline.”
Padavan recently witnessed the de-funding of the local environmental watchdog group he created through legislation in 1973, the Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preservation Commission.
The $125,000 allocation for the nine-member group was removed from next year’s budget and the duties of seven unpaid commissioners, one full-time and one part-time employee are to be assumed by the state’s Parks Department and Environmental Protection Agency.
The group, which was reportedly branded by senate Democrat Toby Ann Stavisky of existing “to perpetuate Frank Padavan’s political patronage jobs,” had overseen the shoreline and wetlands from the mouth of Flushing Bay to the city line.
Commission members kept tabs on sensitive areas including the College Point shoreline; Little Neck and Little Bays; Alley Pond wetland; Udalls Cove and Fort Totten.
Padavan, a Republican now in the minority, took strong exception to Stavisky’s remarks that funding the group “seems like an exceedingly poor decision.”
“I doubt if Stavisky has the foggiest idea of what this commission does,” he said.
Douglaston resident Walter Mugdan, a regional director for the federal Environmental Protection Administration and the head of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, sided with Padavan on the issue.
“I’ll bet that there are other places in the budget where $125,000 is being spent less well,” Mugdan said. “A lot less well, in fact.”
Mugdan noted that the state’s Parks Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were also suffering budget cuts, and were “not equipped to do the job of local volunteers supported by local employees.”
He pointed out that the EPA divides the entire state into nine regions, and the entire city is administered from the regional office in Long Island City. “Having the area covered by a state commission gives it a status that commands more cooperation from sister agencies in the state,” Mugdan suggested.
He also noted that his group was having their 40th annual cleanup of Udalls Cove and Ravine on Saturday, May 2, at 10 a.m. and that he was expecting both the city’s Queens Park Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and Padavan to attend.
“He’s there every year,” Mugdan said.