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Coney Island Creek Community Update

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

SWIM Coalition, Coney Island Beautification Project, NYC Water Trails, Billion Oyster Project, NY Littoral Society, Partnerships for Parks and DEP participated in the third annual Coney Island Creek community update workshop at the Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium on February 3, 2018.

Coney Island Creek stakeholders have gathered for the past three years at the Coney Island Aquarium to discuss the state of the Creek and the many activities and programs underway to get it cleaned up and made safe for primary contact.

In February 2016, SWIM connected with Coney Island Beautification Project and the Partnerships for Parks Catalyst Program to host a Clean Water Steward workshop to alert stakeholders about the City's CSO Long Term Control Plan for Coney Island Creek. We invited NYC DEP to attend the workshop so that stakeholders could speak directly with City officials about their concerns and DEP could hear how important the Creek is to the community. The conversation we started back in 2016 has continued and flourished, SWIM and DEP met with community stakeholders throughout 2017 and held a second workshop at the Aquarium in early 2017. Thanks to these discussions, the City now has a deeper understanding of the issues that need to be addressed in the Creek in order to make it safe enough for recreational contact.

DEP made Coney Island Creek a priority area for the City's forthcoming Stormwater Management Plan for the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, which serves a large portion of Coney Island.

The Creek, like many of the local tributaries in our neighborhoods, has an industrial past and pollutants from various sources have caused water quality in the Creek to be compromised. Here is a great blog about Coney Island Creek by the Coney Island History Project. There is still a lot more work to be done in cleaning up the Creek but there are signs of that starting to happen.

In the Fall of 2016, Citizens became aware that the City and State had discovered an illicit discharge of 200,000 gallons of raw sewage per day flowing into the Creek from a large apartment complex (Beach Haven) for at least a year. SWIM wrote about this on our blog at the time. Needless to say, there was a lot of public outcry and many flaws in the State and City's public alert process came to light as did the issue of illicit discharges into our local waterways. There is now a robust dialogue between the community, local elected officials, NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection about how to remedy the impacts of the discharge as well as how to better alert the public about these events. They happen all over the City! Here's an article about this issue.

In January of this year, the State announced that the apartment complex has paid a large fine and now has a best practices protocol in place (which will be monitored by the City) to ensure that this never happens again.

The community learned on Feb. 7th, at a CB 13 community board meeting, that the Beach Haven settlement funds will be used to support environmental benefit projects within the Coney Island Creek watershed that address water quality in the Creek, green infrastructure, the creation or improvement of open space and waterfront access, ecological and recreational programs, stormwater management, and green jobs training. The funds will be distributed in the form of grants by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation over the next two years. Stay tuned for more details in the months ahead.

Here is a map SWIM produced for the community depicting all the known storm sewer and combined sewer outfalls on the Creek . We are working on a public comment letter to the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation about the City's proposed CSO Long Term Control Plan for Coney Island Creek which is not proposing any further CSO volume decreases. This means that ~ 75 million gallons of untreated raw sewage will continue to discharge into the creek each year. We think the City and State can do better than that.

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