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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — More than eight years after being destroyed during Hurricane Irene, the berm at Wolfe’s Pond has been restored.

The $3.8 million Wolfe’s Pond Park Landscape Reconstruction project was completed in early November, reconstructing the berm that separates Wolfe’s Pond from Raritan Bay, which will allow the pond to return to its pre-Irene conditions.

The city Parks Department is currently working with city’s Department of Environmental Conservation to restock the pond with fish — welcome news for local anglers who fished in the pond for years before it was badly damaged earlier this decade. The fish should be back in the pond by spring.

The berm, a raised bank of soil and plantings, was breached during both Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy the following year, allowing sand from the beach to be deposited into the pond, decreasing the depth. Additionally, salt water mixed with the fresh-water pond, creating brackish water and throwing off the pond’s fragile ecosystem.

In summer 2012, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) urged FEMA to speed up its funding process for the pond’s repairs. With the funding secured, the project to repair the berm’s damage from Irene began. Unfortunately, shortly after, Hurricane Sandy hit, further damaging the berm and the pond itself.

While the project was fully funded for the Irene repairs, damage from Sandy had to be assessed, with a new plan put in place to address the additional damages.

The project’s design phase ran from March 2013 through October 2015, with extensive review and comment required before the city was able to obtain work permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The procurement phase ran from October 2015 to June 2017, nearly a full year longer than its projected end date of July 2016. Construction began in October 2017, taking 25 months to complete, with the project finally wrapping up in early November 2019.

NEW BASKETBALL COURTS ON THE WAY

The berm at Wolfe’s Pond isn’t the only part of the park being restored to its former glory, with the basketball court set to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Wolfe’s Pond Basketball Court will be fully reconstructed as part of the $2.8 million Staten Island Basketball Court Reconstruction project, which also includes two other courts located at Old Town Playground and Midland Field.

The courts will be completely repaved, painted and color sealed, with new benches, fencing and drinking fountains with bottle-fillers also being installed.

The repaving of the court at Wolfe’s Pond Park is long-overdue, with dozens of cracks seen scattered about the pavement.

All three courts are expected to be completed by April 2021.


City resumes year four of deer vasectomies to cut population


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STATEN ISLAND — Year four of the Island’s controversial deer vasectomy program is in full swing.

City contractor White Buffalo got back to work on deer vasectomies across the Island in early December and will continue on with its work through January.

The relaunch of the program comes after the first three-year phase of the program, which began in 2016, came to an end last January.

After the first phase of the $4.1 million three-year program ended, the city decided to award White Buffalo another $2.5 million contract for five more years of vasectomies.

When the vasectomy program launched three years ago, White Buffalo’s initial contract was not supposed to exceed $3.3 million over the three-year research study.

But the contract ballooned to nearly $1 million more because the contractor said it kept finding more deer than expected on the Island each year of the program.

HOW THE MONEY WAS SPENT

A cost breakdown of the three-year program first reported by the Advance, showed that just 7.6 percent of the $4.1 million program went toward supplies to sterilize the borough’s bucks and bait to lure them. The rest of the $3.7 million for the program was used to pay senior scientists, wildlife biologists and technicians, and veterinarians charged with capturing and sterilizing the deer for White Buffalo.

Despite skepticism from Island elected officials and local residents about the effectiveness of the program, the city’s Parks Department has reported a 15 percent drop in the borough’s deer population.

So far, the Parks Department said 98 percent of the Island’s male antlered deer were sterilized since the program started, while fawn births have dropped by 77 percent.

“The goal of this contract is to maintain the high level of vasectomized bucks on Staten Island and continue to see the overall population of deer decrease,” said Parks Department spokeswoman Charisse Hill.

Many believe the Island’s deer are to blame for an increase in residents contracting Lyme disease and vehicle collisions with deer remain a constant problem around the Island.

Some had asked the city to consider sterilizing female deer instead through a process known as ovariectomies, a procedure that removes females’ ovaries.

ANOTHER APPROACH UNDER CONSIDERATION

Meanwhile, Borough President James Oddo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have been working on bringing a controlled cull to state-owned property only.

DEC has said they are moving forward with assessing whether to authorize a cull on state-owned property.

However, it does not look like the city plans to be a partner in the effort unless it thinks the vasectomy program isn’t working anymore.

Earlier in December, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s seen “consistent progress” in the Island’s vasectomy program and that he would stand by his administration’s current approach “until we think the policy is not working.”

De Blasio also said he had public safety concerns around bringing a cull to the Island because Island residents live in close proximity to where the deer are. He said any weapon that could be used on Island deer could potentially endanger nearby residents too.

The Parks Department said White Buffalo was the only bid it received for the latest vasectomy contract.


Mount Loretto Unique Area: A day at the beach made for everyone


Link to article

Typically you would think a day late in November would be too cold for the beach, but that wasn’t the case on a recent walk at Mount Loretto Unique Area. It was not that hot, but not that cold. You needed a jacket, but not gloves and hats.

The sun was bouncing off the water which was nearly flat, it was so calm.

“It’s a nice time of the year,” said Glenn Mazzola.

Joe Padalino was not thrilled to hear we were going to the beach.

“I didn’t want to get caught in the sand,” said Padalino who uses a wheelchair to get around.

But it was a different story when we traveled from the parking lot along the non-vehicular road to the coastal area of the state park. There were two paths to the beach to help people go places they couldn’t usually go.

“Now I feel good because I am actually on the beach,” said Padalino from the observation deck at the end of one of the paths. “It’s not something I get to do much.”

“It’s a good place to get lost in your mind,” he added.

What made it especially nice was Howie Fischer, an experienced birder, met us there. He had his telescope for getting a better look at the water fowl out in the bay which included brant, grebes, loons and ducks.

A black-and-white duck (bufflehead) was one some of us got a good look at. Fischer reported back that he saw or heard 30 species, and he helped us be aware of some of them even if we didn’t get a good look.

We started our visit to MLUA at the observation deck on the Mount Loretto Pond near the parking lot. This is a special place for Lifestyles because we were at the ribbon cutting for the accessible trail to the observation deck.

At the pond we saw geese, and a large blue-and-white bird (great blue heron) and a small blue-and-white bird (a kingfisher), both with serious beaks for fishing.

Take a look at our photos for more of what we saw and commentary on it.

Written collaboratively by Joseph Jones, Greg Mazzola, Dolores Palermo, Joseph Padalino, Steven Filoramo for Life-Wire News Service with Kathryn Carse.

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“You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.”


Innovative Pilot Project To Combat Harmful Algal Blooms


News

| Friday, October 11, 2019 |

By New York State Governor’s Office

Last week Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the launch of an innovative new pilot project to combat harmful algal blooms – or HABs – and return clean water to the Village of Southampton’s Agawam Lake. The pilot is directed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of General Services in partnership with the Village of Southampton. The pilot project is part of the State’s $82 million initiative to study, respond to and prevent HABs in New York waterbodies. If the pilot in Agawam Lake proves successful, it will be applied statewide. The Governor launched the HABs initiative in 2018 with $65 million in state funding.

"Safeguarding New York’s water quality is a top priority and we are providing direct assistance to communities to swiftly and effectively respond to harmful algal blooms," Cuomo said. "We are deploying new and innovative tools like the HABs harvester to address the algal blooms in Agawam Lake, and will continue exploring the latest technology to eliminate these blooms altogether and keep waterbodies around the state clean and safe. If this pilot works, then we will bring it up to scale and apply it across the state wherever possible."

The mobile algae harvester will separate algae and other substances from the water and return the resulting filtered and improved water to the lake to abate the HAB. The algae harvester uses technology that is often employed within drinking water plants.

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "DEC scientists and water quality experts, and our state and local partners, are investigating the causes of algal blooms across the state and pioneering cutting edge solutions to respond to these blooms and the threat they pose to New York’s waterbodies. Today’s launch of this new pilot project in Agawam Lake will advance New York’s efforts to address these potentially toxic algal blooms."

Agawam Lake, a scenic recreational park in the village of Southampton, is suffering from algae blooms that threaten the lake’s water quality. HABs have been reported in the lake each year since at least 2013. This algae harvester, which has been used successfully in other states, is being piloted in New York to see if it will help remove algae from the lake. The algae harvester will be temporarily installed at Agawam Lake Park and is expected to be operational for two weeks. DEC will sample and closely monitor the lake for changes while the pilot project is being conducted.

Most algae blooms are harmless. However, exposure to toxins and other substances from certain HABs can make people and animals sick. The increasing frequency and duration of HABs also threatens water quality and recreational use of waterbodies essential to ecosystem health and statewide tourism. HABs have been detected in more than 400 water bodies since 2012. To address HABs, DEC works with the State Department of Health, OGS, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and other state and local partners. DEC and the DOH continue to lead the most comprehensive HABs monitoring and reporting program in the nation. Hundreds of waterbodies are monitored annually by DEC, DOH, State Parks, academic institutions, and volunteer monitoring partnerships. In addition, DOH public health protections includes oversight of regulated beaches and public water systems.

When it comes to HABs, DEC encourages New Yorkers to "KNOW IT, AVOID IT, REPORT IT." KNOW IT – HABs vary in appearance from scattered green dots in the water, to long, linear green streaks, pea soup or spilled green paint, to blue-green or white coloration. AVOID IT – People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discolored or has algal scums on the surface. REPORT IT – If members of the public suspect a HAB, report it through the NYHABs online reporting form available on DEC’s website. Symptoms or health concerns related to HABs should be reported to DOH at harmfulalgae

While the exact cause of HABs is not fully understood, HABs usually occur in waters high in phosphorus and/or nitrogen. New York State has many programs and activities to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen from entering the water from surrounding lands, including stormwater permitting programs, funding for water quality improvement projects, and a nutrient law that restricts the use of phosphorus lawn fertilizer.

New York State’s HABs program works with partners to identify, track, and report HABs throughout the state, and communicate health risks to the public. This spring, DEC launched a new NYHABS reporting system that allows both the public and trained algal bloom samplers to send reports of HABs to DEC electronically via a simple, user- and mobile phone-friendly form. These reports, once evaluated by DEC and DOH, are posted to the NYHABS page.



qns.com, September 11th, 2019

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Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) deemed Strack Pond in Forest Park “suspicious” of containing toxic algae on Aug. 30.

Based on visual observations from the pond, DEC staff identified what might be blue-green algae, which contains toxin-producing microscopic organisms called cyanobacteria. The agency has not yet confirmed whether Strack Pond contains this form of harmful algae bloom through testing.

Around the beginning of September, four bodies of water around the city were confirmed by the DEC to contain harmful levels of toxins. According to the DEC website, the Manhattan sites include the pond in Morningside Park and Turtle Pond and Harlem Meer in Central Park.

In Brooklyn, parts of Prospect Park Lake also were confirmed to contain the blue-green algae. Over the whole summer, the Parks Department surveyed a total of 26 waterbodies citywide and found harmful algae blooms in 10.

Councilman Robert Holden warned residents that they may see the Parks Department posting caution signs around the pond this week. He advised residents not wade, fish or drink the water near the algae.

The algae blooms are especially treacherous for dogs who may lose consciousness or die if they swallow the contaminated water while swimming or licking the algae from their fur.

“When enjoying fresh water features in city parks, it is important to try to avoid contact with any algae and keep pets on leashes and do not allow them to enter or drink from lakes and ponds unless in areas specifically designated for such activities,” a spokesperson for the Parks Department wrote in a statement.


DiNapoli audit finds state air pollution program severely underfunded and facing $70 million deficit


New York Daily News, August 19th, 2019

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ALBANY — New York’s clear air program is strapped for cash.

A Department of Conservation program that collects fees and issues permits to the state’s major air polluters is seeing its revenue decline quicker than its expenses, leading to annual deficits that topped $70 million in 2017, according to an audit conducted by Controller Thomas DiNapoli.

The probe found that the program, meant to be self-sustaining based on fees collected, wound up borrowing from the state’s short-term investment pool and reallocating almost $50.4 million in expenses primarily from its general fund appropriations.

“New Yorkers rely on the Department of Environmental Conservation to control pollution and keep our air clean," DiNapoli said. “My auditors found that this important program regulating industrial pollution is running a deficit, forcing the agency to spend money that should be going to other priorities.”

Revenues fell 38.8% during the audit period, from 2009 to 2017, while expenses only fell 10.8% during the same time, DiNapoli found.

The good news is that New York’s air quality may be better off despite the program’s shortfalls. The deficit is in part due to a drop in the number of regulated facilities, from 468 to 380, and overall emissions fell 54.4%.

Businesses that emit pollutants from manufacturing chemicals or plastics and energy facilities that burn oil, gas or coal need permits from the state to comply with the federal Clean Air Act. The “Title V Operating Permit Program” requires states to monitor pollutant output, collect permit fees and take action against violators that exceed established limits.

In its response to the audit, the DEC noted that several other states are in the same situation and that “program costs do not decrease as pollution decreases because additional regulatory complexity requires more oversight.”

Auditors looked at 32 invoices totaling $8,328,281, consisting of four invoices from each of the eight years and found inconsistencies and inaccuracies that led to overcharging and underbilling. A total of 15 of the 32 invoices were not accurately documented and seven mistakes led to a total of $352,418 being billed incorrectly.

The audit also found the program uses an overly complex system to record, track and assess fees and the DEC failed to hand over annual reports to the controller’s office in a timely manner.

The DEC said the agency is already taking steps to improve monitoring systems to ensure expenses are appropriately charged and stood by its system.

“As noted in our response to the Comptroller’s report, despite the 90 percent reduction in emissions under the Title V program over the last 20 plus years, resulting in improved air quality for New York communities, program costs have not declined at the same rate, and it is unrealistic and impractical to expect otherwise,” a spokeswoman said. “This challenge is not unique to New York State, which has some of the most rigorous air quality standards in the nation.”


Borough President Once Again Pushing for Organized Hunt to Control Staten Island Deer Population


Staten Island Advance, July 26th, 2019

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Staten Island Borough President James Oddo posted a cell phone video this week of a deer on a friend’s lawn. During the video, the deer flees the yard and seconds later is killed by a car.

The NYPD says 100 vehicle collisions with deer were reported on Staten Island last year.

Despite efforts to reduce their numbers, the deer population remains surprisingly high on the island. As a result, the borough president is trying again to prop up an old idea of his: allowing hunters to kill them.

"It’s not an easy issue. It’s not a pleasant issue. It’s one of those issues that where people are passionate on both sides and I get dirty looks, about it, every time I talk about it. But it’s my responsibility and I’m going to continue to talk about it," Oddo told NY1.

For three years, a city program has been giving deer vasectomies. Nearly 1,600 deer have been fixed and the deer population has gradually fallen to just under 1,800. That’s down 500 deer from 2,100, just as officials predicted.

But Oddo says an increase in Lyme disease cases and a reduction of vegetation show the deer population is not being reduced fast enough.

He’s met with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to talk about allowing limited hunting.

"If we’re allowed to do the cull ultimately on only-state owned property that there would be an impact. It would be effective. I don’t want to put Staten Island through anything if, at the end of that process, we really aren’t moving the needle," Oddo said.

City Hall opposes Oddo’s idea because hunting is illegal in the city.

But the DEC says it is exploring whether to allow hunters using cross bows on state-owned land would make a dent in the deer population.

Residents we spoke with are divided.

One man said, "Something needs to be done."

Another woman told us, "Don’t hurt them, don’t disturb them, just let them be. And it’s their habitat too."

Oddo says he knows attempting an organized hunt wouldn’t have immediate results because the issue is all but certain to find its way to court.

But he says let that fight begin now before the deer wreak more havoc on Staten Island.