Legislative Gazette, February 25th, 2014
Some state legislators are looking to place a moratorium on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to remove the mute swan from New York wilderness, while the DEC said opponents should read the plan before rejecting it outright.
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz sponsors a bill, A.8790/S.6589, that would place a moratorium on the DEC’s labeling of mute swans as a “prohibited invasive species” and the agency’s plan to remove all mute swans from New York, saying the plan would rely on extreme and unnecessary measures such as shooting and gassing mass populations of swans.
According to the DEC the mute swan was introduced it New York from Europe in the late 19th century for ornamental purposes and escaped into the Hudson wilderness in the early 20th century. Their population has steadily grown since.
“Wildlife experts and environmentalists are not unanimous in their belief that exterminating the mute swan population is justified, and there’s plenty of debate over whether eradicating mute swans will be even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or our environment,” said Cymbrowitz, D-Brooklyn. Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, sponsors the bill in the Senate.
The DEC has defended its plan, however, with collected evidence of the mute swan’s negative effects on the environment. According to the DEC, the presence of swans causes a 70 to 80 percent decrease in submerged aquatic vegetation.
The agency also noted the disappearance of black tern, an endangered bird native to New York, from some habitats after the arrival of mute swans.
The DEC also notes that the E-coli in swan feces ruins water quality.
Peter Constantakes, a spokesman for the DEC, said the most effective way to address the concerns about the growing population of mute swans in New York is to gradually reduce their numbers in the wild. He said the plan is more balanced and comprehensive than critics suggest and opponents should read the plan before rejecting it outright.
Between 2005 and 2012 the DEC took more than 400 nests, nearly 2,500 eggs and more than 500 adult birds from the wild. The eggs were destroyed and adult birds were either shot or euthanized. According to the DEC’s report, without aggressive removal of mute swans, their population will continue to grow uncontrollably. Constantakes also said the plan allows for people to enjoy the birds through responsible private ownership.
Constantakes said the DEC does not comment on pending legislation.
“The annihilation of swans in New York is pointless and senseless and it won’t solve anything,” said Kristin Simon, the senior cruelty case worker for PETA. “PETA supports anything that prevents the harming of animals. This bill has our full support.”
New York Daily News, February 25th, 2014
This study is eely important.
In one of the largest eel research projects to slither across the East Coast, New York Aquarium researchers in Coney Island have begun collecting the slimy sea creatures along the Hudson River to better understand their decline.
The baby glass eel is one of the only species that can survive in both salt water and fresh water — and each year, thousands are born in the Sargasso Sea by Bermuda and swept to the coast of North America, including the Hudson River.
But their ranks are dwindling.
“The eel is an amazing animal,” said Chanda Bennett, 38, who heads the aquarium’s education department, which is run by the Wildlive Conservation Society . “But many populations of the eel are in decline because of coastal development, degradation of habitat and overharvesting.”
Two yeas ago, Bennett teamed up with scientists in upstate New York to study the gradual population purge, an issue occurring throughout the world.
In Brooklyn, Bennett and aquarium staffers have recruited 50 volunteers, including high school students, to help with weekly counts. Although last year the project was cancelled due to complications from Hurricane Sandy, on Sunday the volunteers were back. A total of 500 volunteers are working on the project.
They started by dropping a giant mop-like device with a concrete base into the water to attract the eels and other sea life at sites in Gravesend and Bay Ridge. “We created an artificial habitat for them,” said Elliot Colgan, 17, a senior at the Institute of Collaborative Education.
The eel study originated at the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Starting in 2008, officials dispatched similar research teams all across the Hudson River. All told, 103,123 eels have been examined.
Although most of the eels have been identified upstate, a lack of Brooklyn eels doesn’t have experts worried.
On the contrary, it’s allowed borough volunteers to play a role.
“Growing up, there were few of those opportunities available,” said Bennett, a Flatbush native. “That’s why I like to provide these opportunities to our urban youth.”
Staten Island Advance, February 25th, 2014
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Councilwoman Debi Rose is trying to get Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council involved in saving the former Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House that has been sold to Savo Brothers of Prince’s Bay.
The Committee to Save Mount Manresa also is planning protests at PS 48 and at a shopping center affiliated with the Savo Brothers.
Ms. Rose (D-North Shore) said she will speak to the mayor, who is a former public advocate. Ms. Rose on Monday spoke with the mayor’s Government Relations Chief Emma Wolfe about the Manresa situation and they’re expected to talk further in the next few days. The current Public Advocate Letitia James attended a committee rally on Saturday at Manresa.
On Wednesday, Ms. Rose will introduce a resolution calling on the Savo Brothers to protect the property in its current form.
While a resolution is non-binding, having the council vote on a resolution is a strong show of support from the city’s legislative body and will help in discussions with the mayor’s administration on other possible options for addressing this issue, Ms. Rose said. Members of the Committee to Save Mount Manresa will hold a media conference at noon Wednesday with Ms. Rose at City Hall.
“I have been and will continue to do everything possible to prevent the destruction of Mount Manresa,” Ms. Rose said. “Unfortunately, there is no easy or quick solution to this problem – options such as re-zoning and eminent domain are lengthy and expensive processes.”
Meanwhile, the committee is planning to protest when Attorney General Eric Schneiderman appears at an unrelated public forum at PS 48 in Concord at 6 p.m. Thursday. The forum in being hosted by Schneiderman in conjunction with Community Boards 1, 2, and 3. Schneiderman and his senior staff members will be on hand to address a number of public issues and concerns including environmental protection, labor rights, civil rights, charities and consumer fraud protection.
“The committee will be there to express our outrage over the approval of the sale without an investigation of the issues that were brought to light in the case, including the incorrect appraisal that was submitted and the apparent conflict of interest that was not revealed up front in the arms length transaction,” said Barbara Sanchez, secretary of the committee.
The committee claims that Richard D’Aversa served both as secretary of the board of Manresa and also worked for a law firm representing Savo Brothers, Menicucci Villa & Associates.
The committee said the attorney general should have ordered a separate appraisal of the Manresa site because in initial court documents it was incorrectly listed as 10 acres rather than its actual 15.4 acres. The committee believes that there were possible violations at Manresa of the State Environmental Quality Review Act by the Jesuits, the city Buildings Department and the Savo Brothers. The committee will demand an investigation into the zoning of Mount Manresa, a property on which townhouses could be built.
On Saturday at noon, the group will be protest at the shopping plaza in Great Kills where Pathmark is located. The group will do its Doo Wop show on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Colonnade Diner and march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Forest Avenue on Sunday.
The committee remains “clearly dedicated to pursuing the appeal as well as any and all legal and lawful means of challenging this sale and the destruction of this sacred nature retreat,” said Daniel Marotta of Gabor & Marotta, a legal counsel to the committee.
“The builders are proceeding at their risk, since they know that the sale could be voided entirely if it was unauthorized in the first place, and since it may not be possible to build there.”
Division of Environmental Permits:
Staten Island Advance, February 25th, 2014
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The West Shore is primed to become Staten Island’s next economic hotspot, but one key piece of the puzzle is still missing: Mass transit.
The Staten Island Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC) is looking to change all that by pushing for money for two studies that could bring a long-sought light-rail system to fruition.
The endeavor is the SIEDC’s “signature project and highest priority,” Robert Moore, chairman of the SIEDC’s board of directors, told members of the Advance Editorial Board.
The SIEDC has for years pushed the project, saying it is necessary if the West Shore is to realize its potential as the Island’s business hub.
The idea is to build a 13.1-mile public transit system with stops from Richmond Valley to Elm Park. It would carry Island commuters to the Bayonne Bridge and connect with New Jersey Transit’s Hudson Bergen Light Rail Line, which leads to PATH trains into Manhattan.
A 2009 rail study showed that the line could attract 13,000 riders a day.
Speaking at last year’s SIEDC conference in Bloomfield, then-Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio spoke in favor of the rail line, saying it would “revolutionize” transportation by linking the Island to Bayonne and beyond.
What’s needed now is $5 million each for an alternatives analysis study and an environmental impact statement.
Moore said that big-ticket federal funding for the project can’t be secured without those studies being completed.
“This will bring all the questions together and put the final project in place,” said Moore. “This could be a final study.”
He credited the Staten Island Advance with helping to keep the light-rail issue at the forefront as well.
In addition, the studies must be sponsored by a local transit agency, such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or the city Department of Transportation.
The SIEDC, working with Island elected officials, is lobbying the state to pay for the studies, which will make it easier for a sponsoring agency to then be found. The group hopes that the same agency will sponsor both studies.
Said Steven Grillo, SIEDC’s vice president of projects, “We’re very close to the final piece of this. There are no more meetings to have.”
In addition to light rail, other alternatives like fast ferries and Bus Rapid Transit would also be studied, but a light-rail system has long been the SIDEC’s goal.
“Light rail works in New Jersey,” said SIEDC President and CEO Cesar Claro. “Imagine what it could do on Staten Island.”
Even absent the expected development boom, the West Shore still needs more transit, said SIEDC Project Manager Varun Sanyal.
He pointed out that the city Economic Development Corp. estimates that the area will be home to 65,000 new resident by 2030.
That could lead to 55,000 more cars in the area, too many for the West Shore’s already stressed traffic infrastructure, including the outmoded West Shore Expressway, to handle.
Add to that the expanding presence of the Corporate Park of Staten Island, the coming Freshkills Park and the development of a mega movie studio at the old Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, Charleson, and the need for expanded transit for residents and workers is clear, proponents say.
“There needs to be a viable public transit option on the West Shore,” Grillo said. “It’s about getting people on and off the Island.”
Grillo said that the Hudson Bergen line was the most popular in the country, and that Hudson County was one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S.
Grillo said that another goal is to attract Hudson County workers to live here on the Island, and increased transit is necessary for that.
“It would be a missed opportunity if we don’t tap into that,” he said.