2017-08-30 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Flushing Bay Dying

A copy of this letter was received at the
offices of the Queens Gazette.
August 16, 2017
Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza
New York City Department of
Environmental Protection
9605 Horace Harding Expressway
Corona, New York 11368
Re: Water Quality Conditions on Flushing
Bay & Flushing Creek

Dear Commissioner Sapienza:

I am writing on behalf of Guardians of Flushing Bay (Guardians), a coalition of Dragon Boat teams, other human-powered boaters, environmentalists, and community members whose mission is to advocate for and promote a clean and healthy Flushing Bay.

This summer, we’ve been seeing extremely poor water quality conditions in Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek. Beyond anecdotal evidence by our members, (there is) documentation by the Water Trail Association and DEP’s Harbor Survey point as to deteriorating water quality conditions as the summer progresses. Please see the attached summary of water quality test results from both sources.

Furthermore, in the past few weeks, members of the Guardians have reported (via video and photo documentation) some alarming and inexcusable conditions, with very poor communication back after reporting. These include:

 Dry weather discharges in Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek (reported to DEP on 6/30/17 and DEC on 7/5/17). Communication on this issue has lagged – we’ve had to ask DEP and DEC for updates, and have repeatedly requested to be kept in the loop.

 High Enterococcus counts during both wet and dry weather (reported to DEP on 8/1/17).

 Improper signage of CSO outfalls in Flushing Creek (reported to 311 on 7/19/17 and DEP on 8/8/17).

Then, last week, we saw video documentation of a “river of sewage” taken by a Queens College professor on Saturday, August 5 (which was after only a 0.13- inch rainstorm that morning), followed by Riverkeeper’s blog post on Wednesday, August 9 reporting on their observations of thousands of dead fish on the Bay and Creek. (www.riverkeeper.org/blogs/water-quality-blogs/nyc-sewage-overflows-kill-...) Our water quality readings that day were 9,804 MPN for Enterococcus, and readings for dissolved oxygen were near zero.

Thus, we were appalled with DEP’s written comments that appeared on NY1. Under these circumstances, it cannot be fairly stated that Riverkeeper’s footage, Queens College’s footage and water quality testing data, and water quality data from samples taken by our own members led to “reckless charges” about the deleterious impacts of combined sewer overflows. Our conclusions are based on personal experiences on the water, direct observations, and scientific evidence backed by water quality analysis. These are facts.

We demand evidence from DEP that fish kills to this degree are not uncommon, as DEP claims, or that “predator fish” are to blame for the near-zero dissolved oxygen level. We have not seen a fish kill like this in Flushing Creek, and the poor water quality – with such extremely high Enterococcus counts and extremely low dissolved oxygen measured following CSO events (before). Leading us to conclude that combined sewer overflow are to blame.

This has been a wet summer with many CSO events on the Bay and Creek, and we expect these conditions to worsen as climate change brings more intense precipitation events to our region. We’ve had 18 CSO events since May, and six rainfall events that were over an inch of rain (according to Weather Underground’s weather station at LaGuardia). We anticipate CSOs are going to become even more frequent, and the Bay and Creek will continue to suffer if the existing infrastructure is not improved.

We understand and appreciate DEP’s narrative that water quality in NY Harbor has improved dramatically in the last century. The improvements have been dramatic, and show how we can achieve better results on Flushing Bay and Creek. However, we are disheartened that DEP will not acknowledge the poor conditions of Flushing Bay and Creek that hundreds of boaters still experience every week. It is 2017, and we are still seeing consistent failure to meet water quality standards for recreational waterbodies.

We are looking to DEP for leadership in facing these water quality issues and proposing real and meaningful solutions. We do not believe chlorinating the outfall in Flushing Creek, and constructing a storage tunnel for half of Flushing Bay’s CSOs 20 years from now will be sufficient. We need immediate plans to capture, not chlorinate, at Flushing Creek, and interim solutions in both waterways, such as more robust green infrastructure efforts and floatables control. The Flushing Bay and Creek waterbody is a real jewel and significant resource to the community. Environmentally sustainable solutions which protect the ecosystem, including wildlife, are essential.

We are eager for your response. We may be reached at: GuardiansofFlushingBay@gmail.com. Sincerely,

Korin Tangtrakul
For Guardians of Flushing Bay

Poll Site Now Accessible

To The Editor:

About five years ago, I wrote a Letter to the Editor, stating that PS 2 had been closed to voters by a court decision because it was not handicapped-accessible. I just received a notice from the Board of Elections. For the 2017 elections, PS 2 has been reopened as a polling site. I want to thank Councilman Costa Constantanides for his efforts in making this possible.

Frances Luhmann McDonald

Ferries Rule

To The Editor:

After waiting for years, residents will finally be able to board the “Astoria Ferry To Launch On August 29” (Richard Gentilviso, August 24). This new route with stops in Astoria, Roosevelt Island, Long Island City connecting with 34th Street and Wall Street will provide a new transportation option for thousands of Queens residents. Our waterways are an underutilized natural asset which can offer significant transportation alternatives for thousands of New Yorkers. Most of our existing public transportation and roadways are already operating at or above capacity. New ferry services are being implemented far more quickly than construction of new subway, commuter rail or highways. These can take years, or even decades until completion of environmental reviews, planning, design, engineering, real estate acquisition, permits, procurements and actual construction before reaching beneficial use. Completing all of the above along with finding funding for ferry boats, docks and parking with costs in the millions have proved to be easier than finding the billions of dollars necessary for construction of new or extended subway, commuter rail or highways.

In April 1967, the old Jersey Central Rail Road ended ferry service between Liberty Street in Manhattan and Pavonia, New Jersey. Later that year, in November 1967, the old Erie Lackawana Rail Road suspended ferry service between Barclay Street in Manhattan and Hoboken, New Jersey. Fast forward to today. Thousands of daily commuters use ferries from Hoboken, New Jersey to the World Financial Center. There are also 66,000 daily patrons of the Staten Island Ferry System which connects St. George, Staten Island with the Whitehall Street, Manhattan Ferry Terminal. Unlike the other four boroughs, 500,000 Richmond County residents have no direct subway or commuter rail system linking them with the rest of NYC.

Thousands of ferry riders for several years have utilized the East River ferry connecting various waterfront neighborhoods from Queens and Brooklyn with stops in Manhattan, including Long Island City, East 34th Street, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Wall Street, Governors Island, Sunset Park, Bay Ridge and the Rockaways will now be joined by Astoria.

NYC can also apply for capital grants from the New York State Department of Transportation and United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration to assist in funding ferry services. NYS also provides State Transportation Operating Assistance for transportation systems. Ridership on any transit service generates yearly federal transportation formula capital assistance. Numerous past private ferry operators have come and gone. They could not financially survive based upon farebox revenue alone without government subsidy. MTA bus, subway and commuter rail, along with NYCDOT Staten Island Ferry is subsidized by a combination of city, state and federal assistance for both capital and operating costs. All of these new ferry services will continue requiring similar subsidies if they are to survive.

Riders could purchase weekly or monthly passes for discounted fares. These could be supplemented by using Transit Checks which will further reduce the cost per ride.

Who would not want to enjoy the fresh air and breeze that only waterborne transportation can provide? Riding a ferry can be less stressful than being packed in a subway car like sardines in a can.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

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