Partnering Up to Help Jamaica Bay

Feds, City To Co-Manage Park Space

New York City’s Parks Department and the National Park Service will cooperatively manage 10,000 acres of federal- and city-owned parks in and around Jamaica Bay under an agreement signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Tuesday, July 17, at City Hall in Manhattan.

As noted, the pact spells out ways the two agencies will promote visitation, education programs, scientific research and recreational opportunities. By allowing both agencies to work on each other’s property, comingle resources and undertake joint planning, this partnership will aim to better connect urban communities to the natural beauty and history of Gateway National Recreation Area.

“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,” said Bloomberg. “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 included our plans to make our city more sustainable and to enhance our waterfront.”

“There is no better place than New York City to fulfill the vision of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a network of world-class urban parks across the country in partnership with state and local governments, local communities and city residents themselves,” Salazar added. “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.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service in formalizing this historic cooperative management agreement for Jamaica Bay,” said New York City Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “Forty years after the Gateway National Recreation Area was created by creating separate city and federal parklands, a new conservancy is being created to realize the full potential of these 10,000 combined acres of publicly owned land. We look forward to entering the next phase of planning for the site-one of our city’s most ecologically rich open spaces-as we work together to find new ways to improve both the environment and the visitor experience.”

The cooperative management agreement, which builds on a commitment made between Bloomberg and Salazar in October 2011 to work together to establish the Jamaica Bay area as a great urban park, outlines immediate actions as well as proposals for longer-term actions to support a new vision of shared stewardship that will revitalize these park lands and waters.

The goals of the agreement include:

– creating a seamless and interconnected network of improved recreation spaces, including more camping and boating opportunities, integrated land and water trail systems, and community activity areas;

– coordinating habitat restoration, research and resource management in the bay;

– ensuring public transportation and access to and within Jamaica Bay strongly supports existing and new experiential activities, including public transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and ferry access;

– providing unified signage, maps and marketing wherever possible;

– integrating business practices for maintenance and management;

– developing new revenue generation sources and philanthropic support to enable the redevelopment and support the ongoing operations of the parks without regard to underlying ownership; and

– jointly developing a series of programs in which urban youth can learn the values of stewardship through service activities.

As part of this partnership, the city and the National Park Service released a request for expressions of interest that calls for a university or other academic partner or science-focused organization to manage an intensive research program focused on the restoration of the bay, including potentially creating a new science and resilience center to coordinate and bolster research efforts. Efforts to identify such a manager, as well as implement numerous other aspects of the agreement, will begin immediately.

The agreement also calls for the establishment of a new non-profit “Friends” group that will work with the National Park Service and New York City to raise funds for the planning and development of their combined Jamaica Bay-area parklands and waters. The organization will likely be modeled on NPS’ most successful “Friends” group at Golden Gate National Recreation Area and would include a board that would be recommended jointly by the mayor and interior secretary.

The Rockefeller Foundation announced that they are committing $1.5 million for the planning of Jamaica Bay parklands and a state of the art, first of its kind resilience center that that will lead future research and best-practice replication to enhance urban ecosystem and adjacent communities.

Additional support has been provided by National Grid and other donors.

In addition, the National Park Service released for public comment a document that describes several alternatives for managing Gateway under the park’s general management plan, which is currently being drafted in consultation with the city. The newsletter, which includes specific ideas and suggestions for Jamaica Bay that reflect the planned joint management approach outlined in the agreement announced today, is available here.

This agreement is part of PlaNYC, Bloomberg’s initiative to build a sustainable city that will meet the needs of a growing population, support a competitive economy, combat climate change and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. Since then, the city has reached milestones such as the planting of more than 600,000 trees, the opening of 210 schoolyards to playgrounds, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement is also part of the Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy, a citywide strategy launched by Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, which lays out a sustainable blueprint for the city’s more than 500 miles of shoreline. WAVES has two core components: Vision 2020: The New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, released a year ago, which established long-term goals for the next decade and beyond, and the New York City Waterfront Action Agenda, which set forth priority initiatives to be implemented by the end of 2013, many of which are being realized.

The agreement is also part of the Obama administration’s efforts to build and expand America’s great urban parks so that they remain healthy, connected, and accessible to every American through President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, launched in 2010.

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