2015-03-04 / Features

Sunnyside Chamber Holds Meeting


The Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce met at the Dog and Duck restaurant on Skillman Avenue for its February meeting, to hear Dan Hendrick, an environmentalist who lives nearby but concentrates his environmental interest on Jamaica Bay, at the south end of Queens.  He also works for NRG and its subsidiary, Green Mountain Power, which have reportedly reduced energy consumption rates tremendously in the last few years.  (Pat Dorfman, an SCC member, said NRG should join the chamber and Hendrick said he’d give that some thought.)  He showed a short film about Jamaica Bay, shot before the arrival of Sandy, the storm that did great damage in several places on the Northeast coast in October 2012.  The film is just part of a larger one he and others are close to producing for the general public.

Jamaica Bay, comprising water, wetlands and small islands off the shores of Brooklyn and Queens and surrounded by them and the Rockaways, is larger in size than several city parks, Central and Prospect among them, combined.  For generations it has been an area for development and homesteaders and also for all sorts of dumping, being a last resort for those who don’t otherwise know what to do with the junk they’re stuck with.  No doubt the greatest developmental projects have been airports, first Floyd Bennett Field and then Idlewild/John F. Kennedy Airport, but shopping centers and other projects have also contributed to the pollution of the bay.  In addition to that, four sewage treatment plants flush effluent matter into it.  Hendrick said that the movement for more resilient, Netherlands-like development has been promoted for the bay.

The film opens with a shot of a fishing boat and, in the background, a four-car A train coming across Broad Channel.  It’s a striking image of a relatively modern urban conveyance looming above the timeless water and men practicing an ancient trade.  Environmentalists and local residents hail the fact that 100 types of fish are found in the waters and 300 bird species shelter in the salt marshes and the islands; though they deplore the fact that the marshes are being eroded by nitrogen from the pollution draining into the bay.  The environmentalists and other activists such as Hendrick are trying to stem and reverse the pollution, because in effect the islands are, in Hendrick’s words, “drowning in place.”  Since the bay is supposed to be under federal aegis as Gateway National Park, he was asked if the government is active in its cause and he said no, the government fails to care for it properly.

The full movie is of course largely post-Sandy.  Hendrick said it should be 75 or 80 minutes long and is narrated by a well-known Hollywood actress (and activist) whose name, he urged for some reason, should be withheld until the film comes out.  He said the makers consulted with Tribeca Film Festival officials about getting it entered there, but problems with completing it nullified the opportunity.

Sandy brought great destruction and trouble into many residents’ lives and Hendrick expected that many would leave their damaged houses behind and let the wreckage deteriorate while nature reclaimed the area.  However, they love the place too much to leave just because of a little disruptive weather.  They’ll build higher if necessary and are impatient about anything that delays rebuilding.

As for those who don’t and couldn’t live there but would like to see Jamaica Bay from time to time, there is both train and bus service, the latter of which, Hendrick promised, goes quickly down Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard.  He said that he could set up nature walks for those interested.  A nature walk lasts about an hour and, he said, there are lots of birds and animals to see, including seals that don’t skip meals and have grown quite fat.



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