Federal funds to dredge part of Flushing Bay were announced last week, but area officials are more concerned about the future of Flushing Creek.
The announcement of $12.1 million to remove 125,000 cubic yards of material was jointly made by Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing), for maintenance dredging of sandbanks to begin this fall and be completed by next January.
“Flushing Bay is an important local channel for ships and boats,” Meng said. “Ensuring that these vessels are able to freely navigate through this body of water helps promote and improve everything from trade and commerce to recreation and public safety.”
But marine biologist James Cervino of College Point said Tuesday that the real purpose of the dredging is to clear passages for barges traveling to the city’s North Shore Marine Transfer Station across from LaGuardia Airport.
The recently completed facility in College Point will handle waste, compact it and put it on barges for disposal elsewhere.
“This dredging will allow for safe passage of barges to the transfer station,” Cervino said. “The dredging is wonderful, but they need to help more mom and pop marinas nearby. College Point never gets anything.”
Alex Rosa, project consultant to Friends of Flushing Creek, a group created last year to promote cleaning the waterway, is also pleased about the dredging, but says more needs to be done to clean up the creek.
“The project to dredge is great,” Rosa said. “The bay and the creek are ground zero for raw sewage and anything to remove it is positive.”
Cervino, however, who is also chairman of Community Board 7’s Environmental Committee, said the dredging will only take out sediment and that the combined sewer overflow retention tank in Flushing is not enough to eliminate waste in the creek.
The city’s $349 million Flushing Creek CSO project, which became operational in 2007, reduces waste to the creek by more than 50 percent.
The project took nearly 15 years to complete and is located underground on a parcel of land in Flushing Meadows Park at College Point Boulevard and Fowler Avenue.
Rosa and her group met with the city Department of Environmental Protection commissioner last November to discuss future plans. The agency had to submit a long-range control plan to the state the following month.
The Friends group pushed for construction of a second CSO tank nearby. But the DEP decided on a cheaper plan to add bioswales and green roofs to help control flooding and to add higher amounts of chlorine as a treatment in the creek to eliminate the smell.
Cervino said the chlorine plan is ineffective and a waste of money. “It’s also a carcinogen for breast cancer,” he said. “I hope the state Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t approve it.”
Rosa agrees, adding, “I want the city to stop dumping in the creek. You can’t have the federal government cleaning up after New York City.”
She wants to see the end of raw sewage entering the creek whenever it rains hard and to the creation of waterfront access for recreation.
Rosa is also working with Meng and the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a number of options for dredging the creek and hopes to have ideas ready by the summer. Federal funding is needed.
Rosa added that she is “deeply disappointed” by the DEP plan, noting that another CSO tank would be very expensive, but saying, “you need to put resources where the problem is.”
She said the group is focusing on the state now because the DEC has not approved the city’s plan yet.
In addition, her group has met with City Planning, and Rosa said the agency is aware of her group’s concerns.
“We want this resolved as part of the mayor’s upzoning plan for Flushing West, which calls for affordable housing,” she said. “You can’t have it on an open sewer, which is the creek.”
Last November, the city announced that 10 blocks of Downtown Flushing’s waterfront is being targeted for upzoning to help implement the mayor’s plan for more affordable housing.
“Bringing in more people will just create more waste,” Cervino said.