Birders’ Coalition for Gateway Follow-Up — 11/26/2013

Disturbing discrepancies became apparent following the November 26, 2013 meeting with NPS Commissioner Joshua Laird and Gateway Superintendent Jennifer Nersesian and the December 3 Jamaica Bay Task Force meeting at which Gateway’s chief of resources Dave Avrin discussed the status of the refuge. As a result the Birders’ Coalition for Gateway sent a letter to Commissioner Laird asking for clarification on several key points; the letter also reiterated the coalition’s concerns about the general management plan for Gateway as well as plans for the rehabilitation of the West Pond.

Regarding the GMP, the letter noted that under alternative B (focus on recreation) there would be adverse impacts on wildlife and habitat (for example: wind-surfing at Plumb Beach that is a prime location for horseshoe crabs; kayaker access to bay islands that serve as breeding sites for terns). Starting in mid-January when the NPS will announce its choice of GMP alternative, the coalition intends to closely monitor and if necessary actively oppose any actions that are deemed detrimental to Gateway’s natural resources.

Further, the coalition letter emphasized that the “proper restoration and management of the West Pond is critical to the ecological integrity of Gateway.” The NPS/GNRA schedule for the West Pond is both puzzling and constricting. No action of any sort had been taken in the year after Hurricane Sandy. The environmental assessment now being done by the NPS and a private consulting firm will not be finalized for a number weeks. Most of 2014 will be devoted to workshops and public hearings to fine-tune the plan for the West Pond. This leaves one year (2015) to commence and complete all of the work regarding the West Pond, a very narrow time period for a project of this size. The coalition is seeking clarification as to whether or not all federally allocated Sandy funds must be used by the end of 2015. If these are indeed the parameters of the project, the coalition will certainly be attentively observing all stages of the rehabilitation of the West Pond “to make sure that appropriate deadlines are established and met.”

The letter concluded by pointing out that the Birders’ Coalition for Gateway and similar organizations are “valuable sources for information and stakeholder insight,” and as such represent a strong advocacy force of thousands of New Yorkers.

Andrew Rubenfeld
Chair, Conservation Committee