By Mark Hallum
Politicians from communities surrounding Jamaica Bay are looking to a cleaner future for the waterway as they gathered at Crossbay Kiteboarding Launch in Broad Channel last Friday to celebrate the passage of a package of environmental bills at City Hall.
The bills, passed at the end of Climate Week, will resurrect the Jamaica Bay Task Force five years after it was disbanded under Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as examine whether or not basement flooding can be used to heat and cool buildings through geothermal exchange technology.
Climate Week is an city government initiative in its 10th year that aims to raise awareness to human caused environmental changes.
“While the road to a healthier Jamaica Bay is still long, we now have a road map for protecting the health of Queens’ crown jewel along with the communities that live around it,” Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said at the Sept. 28 news conference. “We can end Climate Week with a big win in the fight against rising sea levels, pollution, and extreme weather.”
Constantinides, the chair of the Environmental Committee, authored the bills which passed in April and have recently been signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Jamaica Bay Task Force will be comprised of 11 members, five appointed by City Council Speaker Cory Johnson (D-Manhattan) and six by the mayor, each from surrounding community boards. According to the bill, the group will include members who are experts in hydrology, biology and geology.
The task force will focus on management of sewer overflow and a control plan for the effects of climate change, according to the City Council.
“For more than a generation, the communities of southeast Queens suffered flooded homes, street ponding and sewage backups with little to no intervention from our city government,” City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) said.
Miller added that the legislation adds to the $2 billion invested by the de Blasio administration in flood mitigation along Jamaica and cleaning up the often overlooked waterway.
The Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers are an environmental organization comprised of fishermen and recreational enthusiasts who voiced support for the bills.
“Jamaica Bay is home to thousands of species of birds, fish and marine life and is one of the greatest natural resources in the northeast,” said Dan Mundy from Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers. “It is without a doubt the most important urban park in the National Parks System and this legislation will help us to preserve and protect it and ensure that future generations can enjoy it.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall