Cuomo vetoes legislation aimed at further protecting Jamaica Bay

Jamaica Bay
Photo by NYC Parks

Legislation from two Queens lawmakers aimed at further protecting Jamaica Bay was struck down by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s veto pen on Dec. 27.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato carried the measure to their respective chambers that would extend a bill that was put in place in 2014 that corrected the longstanding problem of the use of sub-quality dredging material to fill in the borrow pits of Jamaica Bay, which is expected to expire on June 30, 2022.

“The bill would have raised the standard to prevent contaminants into the bay,” Addabbo said. “I hope to see some action on this matter before the original bill sunsets, because we cannot move backwards after the amazing work already done to revitalize Jamaica Bay.”

Borrow pits, also known as a sandbox, is an are where material such as soil, gravel or sand has been dug up for use at another location. In his veto statement, Cuomo said the legislation would change the criteria for fill Jamaica Bay borrow pits to comply with the federal criteria for the unrestricted ocean dumping of dredged material, which is not applicable to Jamaica Bay.

Under this bill, the Department of Conservation would be required to utilize more restrictive, and costly federal ocean dumping criteria to test the materials instead of DEC’s existing standard, and further, the legislation would make this enhanced standard permanent, Cuomo continued.

“The increased costs and time associated with the bill’s required fill standards will impact the availability of applicants with high-quality material for use as fill, which is critical for the restoration of these pits. This bill would make the procurement of this material, and in turn, the achievement of revitalization goals for Jamaica Bay extremely challenging, if not halt restoration altogether.”

(Photo by Mark Hallum)

Addabbo said he was disappointed with the Cuomo veto, but will continue to fight for the protection of Jamaica Bay’s waters.

“I intend to continue my efforts in working with the governor’s administration, community leaders and my colleague, Assembly member Stacey Pheffer Amato, in finding legislative ways to further protect the bay,” Addabbo said. “In recent years, the New York State Department of Environmental Protection has worked incredibly hard to clean up the waters of Jamaica Bay, so much so that residents and visitors have seen marine wildlife in the bay that haven’t been there for decades, such as dolphins and even whales.”