KeepHealthCare.ORG – City works to improve Flushing Bay’s health
While other developments in Queens may have dominated the headlines in the last year, the city’s been working its way through endeavors to enhance the ecological health of Flushing Bay.
The Department of Environmental Protection last Friday announced it has finished dredging more than 89,000 cubic yards of sediment in Flushing Bay. Its sewer system has also been upgraded, a move the city says is keeping 225 million gallons of pollution from being discharged into the estuary each year.
Also completed was a reduction of sewer overflow volumes, wetland restoration aimed at removing impurities, as well as the removal of sediment that would’ve been exposed during low tide and create some unpleasant smells.
“Investing more than $200 million in environmental upgrades has allowed us to significantly improve the health of Flushing Bay while also providing a breath of fresh air for residents and businesses in northern Queens,” DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said in a prepared statement.
In the spring, the city wrapped up a $33 million subsurface sewer upgrade project targeting five locations between the Long Island Expressway and LaGuardia Airport. The work lengthened and raised weirs that link the points in the sewer system to the Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant.
According to the DEP, work was done at the following five sewer regulators: 108th Street and the Horace Harding Expressway, 108th and 43rd Avenue, Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Drive, Ditmars and 100th Street, and the LaGuardia Airport Maintenance Yard.
The city said the sewer work, by directing more wastewater to the Bowery Bay facility, has reduced sewer overflows in Flushing Bay by 225 million gallons a year.
Environmental dredging is another completed component of the city’s Flushing Bay ecological improvement project. Last year, the DEP dredged parts of the estuary by the World’s Fair Marina, as well as around a pair of combined sewer overflow outfalls; the city said the completed work has reduced the foul odors the estuary is known for.
Yet to be finished is the wetland construction component of the Flushing Bay initiative; work on that started last year and will go on for several more, the agency said. When the project is done, the city said, there will be more than three new acres on the southern shore.
More than 100,000 plugs of saltmeadow corngrass, smooth cordgrass, common three-square, switchgrass, seaside goldenrod and saltgrass will be planted when all is said and done with the wetland construction work. Additionally, it features the placement of north of 53,000 cubic yards of shoreline embankment material, granular filter and wetland sand.
“Rebuilding our ecosystems doesn’t just reopen areas of Flushing Bay to the public, it makes all of New York City more sustainable for the future,” Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said in a prepared statement. He chairs the Committee on Environmental Protection.
Some College Point residents may be curious about why the city has been doing a sewer project in their neighborhood for the past two years. For those who don’t know, the work is for a $132 million initiative to separate the neighborhood’s combined sewer overflow system and decommission three sewer overflow outfalls.
Having started in 2016, the city says the work will continue through 2021.
When completed, the College Point project will have brought almost 12 miles of new sewers and nearly 10 of new water mains in addition to more than 400 new catch basins. Additionally, the city says it will result in an annual sewer overflow reduction of 50 million gallons.
The planting of 10,000 square feet of saltmarsh cordgrass in the wetlands near MacNeil Park in College Point is also planned by the DEP.
Coastal Preservation Network President James Cervino, a marine biologist who lives in the neighborhood, says some of the cordgrass near the park has already been planted — but he’s concerned it won’t last.
The biologist’s group has constructed a wetlands habitat at MacNeil’s beach, with oysters and seagrass. And he says a stormwater outfall pipe the city placed last year by the habitat has damaged it, and the same deleterious effects have and will be experienced by the cordgrass put in by the DEP.
“It’s an ecological disaster,” he told the Chronicle in an interview.
Last year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation approved the DEP’s long-term control plan for Flushing Bay and a group of other bodies of water in the city. Activists, including Cervino, disapproved of the plans because they feature the usage of chlorination, which they said would harm marine ecosystems.
The Chronicle didn’t immediately get an answer after asking the DEP for a response to Cervino’s comments.