Community asked to trace Jamaica Bay story for film

Community asked to trace Jamaica Bay story for film
Photos courtesy Dan Hendrick
By Steve Mosco

After decades of industrial waste polluting its waters and damage from scores of storms wreaking havoc on habitats, Jamaica Bay has quite the story to tell.

And one Queens environmentalist is enlisting the community to tell it.

Dan Hendrick, an environmentalist working on a documentary called “Jamaica Bay Lives!,” invites the community to Jamaica Bay History Night Wednesday at the Queens Library at Broad Channel, at 16-26 Cross Bay Blvd., from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Residents are encouraged to bring photos, home movies and their own personal stories to share with Hendrick, the library and their neighbors.

“So often we take our own personal history for granted,” said Hendrick. “We think of history being written by presidents and politicians, when in reality history is written by all of us.”

Hendrick wants to examine that history for his film, but the night also kicks off an effort to document Jamaica Bay for Queens Memory Project, a collaboration of the Archives at Queens Library and Queens College Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and Archives.

Queens Memory Project combines historical and contemporary photography, maps, news clippings and other documents with oral history interviews of current residents.

“Stories we hear and things we learn could be used for the film, but we also wish to share it with Queens Library and make it part of Queens’ collective history,” Hendrick said. “We are interested in a 360-degree view of Jamaica Bay from the biggest story to the smallest story.”

Hendrick expects to hear many accounts of one of the biggest stories to ever hit Jamaica Bay: Hurricane Sandy. The filmmaker began shooting the documentary in August 2011, more than two years before the storm rushed ashore.

“Sandy changed the storyline,” Hendrick said of the film, which he expects to wrap in early 2014. “We have an opportunity to ask what is going to happen with the bay. Given the fact that we are facing rising sea levels, what happens to the people who live on the shore?”

Hendrick invites residents from up and down the shore — Rockaway, Broad Channel, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Howard Beach and beyond — to attend and share their stories. It is a free event and attendees are asked to register by contacting Hendrick at [email protected] or 917-207-8715.

The history night — and the film — will also target what could happen to the Jamaica Bay ecosystem. Next week’s meeting comes on the heals of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s allocation of $645,000 in state funds to help rebuild 28 acres of salt marshes — a fragile part of the bay that provides habitats for wildlife and protects the bay itself.

“These salt marshes are disappearing at a fast clip, up to 48 acres every year,” said Hendrick. “They act as critical habitats for birds, shellfish and small fish. From the human standpoint, the marshes absorb rains and prevent erosion by helping to break up big waves before they reach the shore.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.