On July 2nd, SWIM, Guardians of Flushing Bay, Riverkeeper, Waterfront Alliance, and NY League of Conservation Voters participated in a panel discussion about the future of Flushing Bay and Creek at a Town Hall meeting organized by City Council Members Costa Constantinides and Peter Koo, and Congress Member Grace Meng. SWIM Coalition Steering Committee member, Korin Tangtrakul of NYC Soil & Water Conservation District, represented SWIM on the panel.
As part of the Town Hall meeting, the elected officials hosted a panel discussion, moderated by Adriana Espinoza of NY League of Conservation Voters, about the concentrated influx of large scale municipal infrastructure and private development projects planned for Flushing and how they will impact the health of Flushing Bay and Creek.
In a sense, the discussion that took place at the Flushing Town Hall meeting about Flushing Bay and Creek is the story of our waterways in almost every borough of New York City: Development and commerce often taking precedence over preserving the natural resources that surround us.
In the case of Flushing, there is a proposed transportation rail project, the LGA Airtrain, that would run along the shoreline of Flushing Bay and alienate a portion of parkland, and a brown field remediation project that would yield more private residential development along the waterfront. There is also the Flushing Creek Plan, overseen by the City Planning Department, which is a comprehensive plan (funded by the New York State Environmental Fund) to restore the long term ecological health of the creek, the City Department of Environmental Protection’s water quality improvement plans: a) the CSO Long Term Control Plans for the Bay and Creek, b) Stormwater Management Plan and c) Green Infrastructure Plan, and other projects being led by the Army Corps of Engineers and State agencies that will impact the health of the Creek and Bay.
From 2017 - 2018, in response to all the pollutants (including dead rats, trash, and raw untreated sewage) that recreational boaters and other users of the Creek and Bay constantly encountered, SWIM Coalition members, Guardians of Flushing Bay and Riverkeeper worked closely with a wide array of local stakeholders to generate and publish a Vision Plan for Flushing Bay and Creek. Here is a link to the executive summary for the vision plan. The plan outlines the current conditions in the creek and bay and highlights the many opportunities that abound for revitalizing these two waterways.
SWIM Coalition has worked closely with Riverkeeper and Guardians of Flushing Bay to ensure that the public is informed about the City’s CSO Long Term Control Plans for the Bay and Creek and that stakeholders have ample opportunity to weigh in on the decisions the City is making about the health of these two vital community assets. The CSO Long Term Control Plans must reduce the ~3-5 billion gallons of untreated sewage and polluted stormwater runoff that currently discharge into the Bay and the Creek every year. Here is a link to SWIM's fact sheet about the CSO LTCP’s for the Bay and Creek.
We were thankful for the opportunity to update the public on the status of the plans at the Town Hall meeting. In the case of Flushing Creek, the City is proposing chlorination of the discharges rather than reduction of CSO volume. The community is skeptical of this proposal for its lack of precedence and the potential ecological harm chlorination could have if not implemented properly. The City must do better.
Here is a link to a recent white paper published by several professors at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing Queens, on why chlorination is not effective and can cause ecosystem disruption.
Council Member Constantinides introduced new legislation, to the City Council last month and to the public at the July 2 Flushing Town Hall that will help address many of the community concerns about the Flushing CSO Long Term Control Plans as well as all the other CSO LTCP’s across the City. Regarding chlorination, the bill calls for the NYC DEP Commissioner to “complete a study on chlorination treatments for raw sewage and develop and submit to the Mayor and the City Council and post on its website a report evaluating, for each location in the City where a combined sewer overflow long term control plan includes chlorination:
anticipated designs for chlorination methods and types and levels of chemicals,
the effectiveness of such designs at treating or neutralizing pathogens and other pollutants;
potential adverse impacts of the use and discharges of chlorination chemicals and chlorination chemical byproducts and the extent to which anticipated designs will be able to avoid adverse impacts.
The report shall consider the experiences of other wastewater treatment utilities with chlorination treatments for combined sewer overflows. The commissioner shall complete the study and submit the report by July 1, 2020.” Waterway Advocates across the City are thrilled that the legislation calls for this study and report. See SWIM's blog post on the proposed legislation here.
While the proposed AirTrain, residential development, and chlorination all raise questions about water quality and water access for the Flushing waterways, there are some solutions to look forward to, such as more green infrastructure along the uplands and shorelines of the two waterways, and a 25 million gallon storage tunnel in Flushing Bay to capture more CSO volume and significantly reduce CSO events. The attendees at the town hall meeting made it clear, during the panel Q&A, that Flushing Creek has been neglected for too long, and that we need more leadership from elected officials to bring more attention and urgency to improving Flushing Creek.
We thank local leaders Koo, Meng, and Constantinides for working together to establish a robust public dialogue about the many plans underway in Flushing. Be sure to follow Guardians of Flushing Bay here for up-to-date details on what’s happening with the Creek and Bay!