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City and feds will co-manage parks in Jamaica Bay

Gateway National Park
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

For decades an invisible line has existed in Jamaica Bay, a line birds and fish passed without notice and one no bureaucrat dared to cross.

The federal and city governments last week made good on a pledge from 2011 to jointly manage their respective parklands in the bay — totaling 10,000 acres — with the goal of developing the area into one of the nation’s great urban parks.

“The United States and New York City have joined forces to establish a single seamless park that not only is readily accessible to New Yorkers, but also invites them as a place to bring their families, enjoy nature, get some exercise or learn about history,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

In 1931, the city Parks Department acquired about 9,150 acres in and along the bay to create Jamaica Bay Park, and in 1974 it transferred approximately 9,000 of those acres to the National Park Service when it created the Gateway National Recreation Area.

Both Mayor Michael Bloomberg — through his Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy — and President Barack Obama — with his Great Outdoors initiative — have made commitments to make outdoor spaces more available to the public.

The agreement cuts the red tape between the federal and city agencies, allowing them to integrate their management practices, develop new stewardship programs and co-develop new revenue sources, regardless of who owns which property.

“This historic partnership will improve our city’s great natural treasure, Jamaica Bay, by creating restored, resilient natural landscapes, more outdoor recreation, new and cutting-edge research collaborations and an improved, sustainable transportation framework,” Bloomberg said. “This is an important example of the great things that can happen when different levels of government work together and are supported by philanthropic organizations. This agreement fulfills important goals, including our plans to make our city more sustainable and to enhance our waterfront.”

The Rockefeller Foundation pledged to commit $1.5 million to enhance the park and create a research center that will improve the ecosystem.

The city and the National Park Service are also looking for an academic partner or science-focused organization to manage a research program focused on restoring the bay.

It also plans to establish a nonprofit “Friends” group that will work with both governments to raise funds.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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