New York — New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Vincent Sapienza joined with Brooklyn, Queens elected officials, community leaders, and environmental advocates to announce a $400 million plan to further improve the ecological health of Jamaica Bay. The plan includes an array of waterbody improvement projects including 50 acres of wetland restoration, seven acres of ribbed mussel installations, and environmental dredging, all of which will result in a healthier Jamaica Bay. The projects will also deliver economic, social and ancillary environmental benefits, including healthier air and lower summer temperatures due to the addition of a significant number of new trees and plants. The plan was submitted to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and if approved, planning and design could begin as soon as 2019.
“A hallmark of the ecological revival of Jamaica Bay has been the productive partnerships formed between community groups, environmental advocates, educational institutions and city, state and federal agencies — and today we join together once again to announce a $400 million plan to further improve the health of the Bay,” Sapienza said. “We all recognize the Bay as an ecological jewel within the five boroughs, and we will build on these partnerships as we construct wetlands, install ribbed mussels and build green infrastructure in the Bay’s watershed in the coming years.”
“Our wetlands are vital to the health of our ecosystem and the resiliency of our city against the impact of climate change. The Jamaica Bay Improvement Plan is a comprehensive set of projects that would strengthen the watershed and improve the capacity of coastal communities in Brooklyn and Queens to handle damaging sewer overflows,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I thank DEP Commissioner Sapienza for his leadership on advancing this important investment in the future of our bay.”
“The health and resiliency of Jamaica Bay isn’t only an environmental consideration, it is also vital for the economic success of southeast Queens,” said Congressman Gregory W. Meeks. “The $400 million will provide the resources for extensive wetland restoration, dredging and ribbed mussel installation. I commend DEP for diligently working with the community and elected officials to identify what projects are critical for Jamaica Bay, and investing accordingly.”
“This additional $400 million investment into Jamaica Bay is yet another step forward in making the bay healthier for the surrounding communities and the overall ecological health of New York City,” said State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., a member of the New York Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “With this funding, DEP will be able to begin expanding several green infrastructure projects as well as restoring many acres of wetlands. I would like to thank DEP for their continued efforts to improve the health of Jamaica Bay through these various projects.”
“We cannot overstate how a worthwhile investment in Jamaica Bay is to the returns we get as a city,” said State Senator Roxanne Persaud. “Restoring wetlands doesn’t just help our residents during major storms, they protect us from coastal erosion, and make our waterways cleaner for the plants and animals in their habitat. I look forward to seeing results from this exciting DEP project.”
Alex Zablocki, Executive Director, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy said, “The announcement of a $400 million investment plan to improve the health of the Bay is welcome news and will lead to healthier communities across Brooklyn and Queens. Jamaica Bay is host to over 300 species of birds and diverse marine life dependent upon wetlands, marsh islands and upland forest. Green infrastructure projects will help stabilize and restore these precious resources supported by the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy and our government and non-profit partners. While city, state and federal agencies, along with groups such as the America Littoral Society and Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers have worked tirelessly to restore parts of the Bay over the past years, the plan announced today will further enhance and support its resilience.”
DEP has already invested more than $1.5 billion to improve the health of Jamaica Bay. This includes large underground tanks at Paerdegat Basin and Spring Creek to store any sewer overflow during rainstorms, the restoration of 137 acres of wetlands and 442 acres of maritime forests/grasslands through strategic partnerships and significant upgrades to the wastewater treatment plants that drain to the Bay, including reducing nitrogen levels. Ongoing is a massive $1.9 billion project to build a storm sewer system in southeast Queens as well as Green Infrastructure at schools and public housing as well as parks, playgrounds and curbsides. All of this work has already resulted in significant improvements to the water quality in Jamaica Bay.
However, over the last 150 years New York City has lost approximately 85 percent of its historical wetland coverage, a significant amount of this within the Jamaica Bay watershed. These important natural areas serve as a protective transitional area between a body of water and dry land. Wetlands are extremely valuable as they help to absorb storm surge, filter impurities from the water, increase dissolved oxygen levels, reduce coastal erosion, capture greenhouse gases and serve as a productive ecological habitat and nursery for juvenile fish. Wetlands are among the most productive natural areas on earth and are particularly important in urban waters.
In order to continue restoring these essential functions to Jamaica Bay, DEP is proposing significant investments in the restoration of wetlands and salt marshes. Ribbed mussels have also proven to be particularly effective at filtering impurities from the water and the plan calls for substantial installations in several of the Jamaica Bay tributaries. In addition, DEP will continue to expand the successful Green Infrastructure program to the communities surrounding the Bay.
The Plan calls for:
- Jamaica Bay (including Northern Channel, Inner-Bay and Rockaway Shore) — Restoration of 16 acres of wetlands
- Thurston Basin — Green Infrastructure expansion including 147 greened acres within the watershed; 3 acre ribbed mussel installation
- Bergen Basin — Green Infrastructure expansion including 232 greened acres within the watershed; environmental Dredging; 50,000 cubic yards of sediment removed; 4-acre ribbed mussel installation
- Spring Creek — Restoration of 13 acres of wetlands
- Hendrix Creek — Restoration of 3 acres of wetlands
- Fresh Creek — Restoration of 14 acres of wetlands
- Paerdegat Basin — Restoration of 4 acres of wetlands
Jamaica Bay is a 31-square-mile water body with a broader watershed of approximately 142 square miles, including portions of Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County. It is a diverse ecological resource that supports multiple habitats, including open water, salt marshes, grasslands, coastal woodlands, maritime shrublands, and brackish and freshwater wetlands. These habitats support 91 fish species, 325 species of birds, and many reptile, amphibian, and small mammal species. In fact, Jamaica Bay is a protected United States Wildlife Refuge and is part of the larger Gateway National Recreation Area.