Showing posts with label Ecology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ecology. Show all posts

January 21, 2019

A Disempowering NYC Board Wants to Destroy The East River Park

"So Many of us spent so much time there as kids and young adults. For me, it was how I met New York."


By Joseph Hanania

The crowd at the recent meeting of Community Board 3 was agitated. Vaylateena Jones, a 50-year Lower East Side resident, and board official were especially vocal. “The way this planning is being done is disempowering,” she said. “City officials collaborated with us over four years and came up with a detailed design — only to now return with this entirely new design. Do our voices even matter?”

The topic was the future of East River Park. Once a derelict waterfront space, it had been restored, over 10 years, with well-lit ball fields, children’s fountains and a serpentine esplanade featuring a large sink for fishermen to clean their catch. Then Hurricane Sandy deluged the park, swamping F.D.R. Drive and Lower East Side.

The city’s latest plan to protect from future flooding called for burying the park under eight to 10 feet of a landfill and starting over. This was not the original plan, and that’s what had locals upset.
The latest plan calls for burying the park under landfill to act as a bulwark against flooding.

The latest plan calls for burying the park under landfill to act as a bulwark against flooding.
The original plan grew out of an unusual collaboration between an organization created after Hurricane Sandy by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to lead the region in addressing climate change along with 20 or so Lower East Side advocacy groups. The proposal called for an eight-foot landscaped berm at the park’s western edge insulating the F.D.R. and the Lower East Side from flooding. 

“This renewal project did not come through normal city channels,” said Amy Chester, director of that new organization, Rebuild by Design. Its first target was the Lower East Side, whose low-lying public housing is especially vulnerable. The berm surrounding the park would be the first link in a string of buffers around all Lower Manhattan — known as the Big U — to protect against rising seas.

“Everything went swimmingly,” Ms. Chester said, “until the city announced, on a Friday afternoon in September, with no community consultation, that the plan was being scrapped.”

Damaris Reyes, executive director of the grass-roots group GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side), who had phone banked and gone door to door to keep her largely minority community abreast, was outraged. City officials, she said, “went into radio silence. Suddenly, no one knew what was happening. We were disrespected.” 

The damage to the park after Hurricane Sandy.CreditElizabeth A. Kennedy/Barcoft Media, via Getty Images
The city was scrapping the berm, and three months later, it announced its new plan. It would bury the park under landfill and build a new park over that.

According to Lorraine Grillo, commissioner of the city’s Department of Design and Construction, the shift in plans followed the city’s standard review of a design project. Afterward, she said, officials made “a better choice” — and a notably more expensive one. The original plan was budgeted at $760 million; the city’s revised scheme would cost $1.45 billion. 

Additionally, HUD had $330 million for anti-flooding efforts, but the agency required this money be spent by 2022 or be forfeited.

Looking over the renderings at one of the December meetings that introduced the plan, Bill Buchen, a 40-year East Village resident, and landscape architect, shook his head. “I totally hate this,” he said. “They are choosing a way which removes plant life, trees and everything which sustains life — in favor of what?” 

East River Park during its opening in July 1939.CreditSeelig/NY Daily News Archive, via Getty Images
For one thing, in favor of traffic. Unlike the original idea, according to Ms. Grillo the city’s plan would avoid a time-consuming shutdown of a lane of on the F.D.R. Drive “every night for five years.”

The park — officially known as John V. Lindsay East River Park — is the forgotten green space of the city’s shorelines. On Manhattan’s West Side, Hudson River Park has become a glamorous, heavily traveled tourist destination. And across the East River, the waterfront, from Brooklyn Bridge to Greenpoint, has experienced a renaissance featuring expensive buildings and the new, five-acre Domino Park — much of this financed by developers such as Two Trees.

East River Park is different. Running from 13th Street south to Cherry Street, it was conceived by Robert Moses in 1939 across the highway from public housing and gradually fell into disrepair until its $93 million refurbishments, completed in 2010. Two years later, Hurricane Sandy arrived, killing 43 in the region and causing $19 billion in damage, with the Lower East Side taking the brunt.

Now those who live near the park are frustrated that the plan to preserve the ecosystem is being swept aside. “The community’s painstaking work over four years is being completely pushed aside,” said Carlina Rivera, a councilwoman from the East Village. “The new plan represents a fundamental departure from anything the City had discussed. The mayor’s office has failed to provide detailed analyses of why the cost increase is necessary. Until those questions are answered, I cannot back the direction the mayor’s office has taken.” She is leading a City Council oversight meeting next Tuesday that will address the new park plans. 

A lively debate at the recent community meeting where the city’s new plan was presented.
Christine Datz-Romero plans to be there. Ms. Datz-Romero has been involved with the park since she moved to the East Village from a German town in the 1980s. In 1997, she became director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a volunteer environmental organization headquartered in the park’s fireboat house. 

Soon after the group moved into the boathouse, the boiler went out. It took the city three and a half years to replace it. “And now,” she asked incredulously, “the city says it can bury and rebuild the entire park in three years?”

For several years, the Ecology Center has assisted the Parks Department’s gardener in planting the park: hundreds of echinaceas, a coneflower with medicinal properties; 15,000 bluebells; and milkweed to attract monarch butterflies. Volunteers also cared for the park’s hundreds of lindens, oaks, and London plane trees. 

A poster urging locals to attend the public meetings.CreditRick Loomis for The New York Times
The new plan will also create a temporary ecological desert for hundreds of species migrating the Atlantic Flyway. Buried, too, will be the running track field house with its sea monster tiles and the track itself (just refurbished for nearly $3 million). The fate of the amphitheater, the original home to Shakespeare in the Park, now home to Summer Stage salsa concerts, remains uncertain.

“We agree we need to protect our community, but I don’t understand why we have to destroy a park to do so,” Ms. Datz-Romero said. Instead, she envisions the park as a floodplain, slowing and absorbing rising waters with salt-tolerant Juniper and sumac trees her volunteers have already planted.

“We have seen no environmental impact statement addressing any of this. Instead, we are told little, our concerns steamrollered,” she said. A draft impact statement will be issued this March, just before the city certifies the proposed plan, Commissioner Grillo said.

The deputy parks commissioner Alyssa Cobb Konon pointed out that following Sandy’s saltwater drenching, the park’s tree canopy had considerably thinned. The city’s plan calls for increasing tree species from the original three to 52 hardier ones; by planting 1,300 trees on fresh, raised soil, the new park will resurrect that canopy.
The new plan calls for trees to be removed and replaced by a wide variety of saplings.
Rick Loomis for The New York Times 

The new plan calls for trees to be removed and replaced by a wide variety of saplings.CreditRick Loomis for The New York Times
In a separate interview, the Parks Department commissioner, Mitchell J. Silver, said that unlike passive parks that double as floodplains, like those by Jamaica Bay, East River Park has structures, lights, and synthetic turf, which “does not do well” in floods. And with the river projected to rise two and a half feet in 30 years, raising the park is the only way to save it.

By bringing in landfill and soil by barge, the new plan allows for daytime construction away from the highway, minimizing traffic disruptions. After its scheduled March 2020 launch, the new plan can thus be completed in three years rather than five, with flood protection in place by 2022.

Still, the park’s closing under either plan has left people like Joan Reinmuth, a retired nurse and 30-year East Village resident, doubtful. “This park is more than a recreation facility,” she said. “These kids in NYCHA houses don’t take vacation cruises. They don’t shop at Zabar’s for fish; they fish to eat. Early mornings, men are shaving in the fountains.”

At last week’s meeting, Susan Stetzer, district manager for Community Board 3, got a commitment that after initially shutting the park down, the city will look to reopen it in sections. “That’s huge,” she said.
Correction: January 18, 2019
An earlier version of this article misspelled the given name of a member of Community Board 3. She is Vaylateena Jones, not Vaylateeba.

A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 20, 2019, on Page MB7 of the New York edition with the headline: To Save East River Park, the City Intends to Bury It.

March 23, 2018

Mini Islands of Plastic Are Being Formed in Our Oceans

Discarded fishing net in the Pacific
Discarded fishing nets were part of the haul 

A collection of plastic afloat in the Pacific Ocean is growing rapidly, according to a new scientific estimate.
Predictions suggest a build-up of about 80,000 tonnes of plastic in the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" between California and Hawaii.
This figure is up to sixteen times higher than previously reported, say international researchers.
One trawl in the center of the patch had the highest concentration of plastic ever recorded.
"Plastic concentration is increasing - I think the situation is getting worse," said Laurent Lebreton of The Ocean Cleanup Foundation in Delft, Netherlands, which led the study. 
"This really highlights the urgency to take action in stopping the in-flow of plastic into the ocean and also taking measures to clean up the existing mess."
Waste accumulates in five ocean areas, the largest being the patch located between Hawaii and California. 

Image copyrightSome of the plastic collected


Image caption

The garbage they found
The researchers used boats and planes to map this area of the North Pacific, where rotating currents and winds cause marine debris, including plastic, seaweed, and plankton, to converge.

ocean plastic waste infographic

The three-year mapping effort showed that plastic pollution is "increasing exponentially and at a faster rate than in the surrounding water", said the international team.
Microplastics accounted for 8% of the total mass of plastic afloat within an area of 1.6 million square km.
Of the estimated 1.8 trillions bits of plastic, most were larger than microplastics, including fishing nets, toys, and even a toilet seat.
Erik van Sebille of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who is not connected with the study, said the amount of plastic discovered was "staggering".
"While their estimates come with large uncertainty ranges, they do report a staggering amount of plastic," he said. 
"And they also discovered that the Garbage Patch is moving around much more than anyone expected." The use of aerial surveys, as well as boats, could partly explain why the new estimates are higher than in the past. 
However, the differences could also be down to increasing levels of plastic pollution in the time since the previous studies were carried out.
Plastic washed out to sea following the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami could account for as much as 20% of plastic accumulating in recent years, the research, published in Scientific Reports, suggests. 
What the study found
  • Plastics made up 99.9% of all debris in this part of the ocean
  • At least 46% of plastic consisted of fishing nets, and over three-quarters of the plastic was debris larger than 5cm, including hard plastics, plastic sheets, and film
  • Although most large items had broken down into fragments, the researchers were able to identify a small number of objects, including containers, bottles, lids, packaging straps, ropes, and fishing nets 
  • Fifty items in the sample had a readable production date: one from 1977, seven from the 1980s, 17 from the 1990s, 24 from the 2000s and one from 2010
  • Only certain types of debris that were thick enough to float stayed and accumulated in this zone, such as the common plastics polyethylene and polypropylene, which are used in packaging.

Presentational grey line

Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic enter the ocean. Some drifts into large systems of circulating ocean currents, known as gyres. Once trapped in a gyre, the plastic will break down into microplastics, which may be ingested by sea life.
The message of the study is clear, said Laurent Lebreton. 
"It goes back to how we use plastic," he said. 
"We're not going to get away from plastic - in my opinion, it's very useful, in medicine, transportation, and construction, but I think we must divert the way we use plastic, particularly in terms of single-use plastic and those objects that have a very short service lifespan."

It is adamfoxie's 10th🦊Anniversay. 10 years witnessing the world and bringing you a pieace whcih is ussually not getting its due coverage.

November 7, 2012

NY {} Lets Start The Great Work Sandy Warned Us About

  By Kevin Baker 

The great thing about living in New York used to be that you didn’t have to give a damn about the natural world.
Sadly, those days seem to be gone. Even in my neighborhood, which was lucky enough to be high and relatively dry, things began to resemble a zombie movie by last Wednesday. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, hordes of Upper West Siders staggered about the sidewalks, searching for brunch instead of brains: “Rrrrrr … smoked fish … rrr … hollandaise!”
Now, it seems, we’re all ready to give ourselves a big pat on the back for how we weathered the storm.
Not so fast. Yes, the firemen, cops and emergency workers deserve all the gratitude their weary bones can carry. Yes, plenty of average New Yorkers helped their friends and neighbors.
But as for the institutional response, public or private … Sorry, but 85 dead and counting, over $60 billion in damages, a subway system still not fully operational a week after it shut down, massive blackouts throughout the region, days of gas-line fistfights and raging fires in Queens just doesn’t add up to a good response. (Note to ConEd: when a piece of equipment that’s absolutely vital to keeping the lights on blows up in the first hours of a storm everyone was predicting for days … you’re not doing your job.).
New York has been under assault, human or otherwise, pretty continually for almost 20 years now. And yet the response of our leaders remains basically reactive.
Yes, it’s nice that FEMA is now run by people with detectable brain patterns, and that Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg have become staunch believers in climate change. But more needs to be done—much more. And it is probably up to us to do it.
IT’S NOT THAT NO ONE could see this coming. Scientists have been talking about global warming for a generation now. The dean of the city’s investigative reporters, Wayne Barrett, warned five years ago that Bloomberg deputy Dan Doctoroff was deliberately and grossly minimizing the possible effects of hurricanes and rising sea levels in putting together the administration’s much-vaunted blueprint for the future, PlaNYC.
Nonetheless, the Bloomberg administration did all it could to promote massive new developments in nearly every part of the city that ended up underwater last week: the West Side of Manhattan, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, the Queens riverfront, Red Hook, the Rockaways. And plenty more is coming. Remember watching the flood waters sweep over Coney Island? Thanks to an elaborate masquerade the city played with developers, Coney was rezoned two years ago to allow the development of 30 30-story buildings. That’s enough luxury condos to spark a financial crisis as well as an environmental one.
And while global warming is new, New York has been bedeviled by similar weather patterns throughout its history. In the past, we generally managed to learn something from them. The question is if we’ll do so again.
Back near the end of the last Little Ice Age, fierce winds off the Atlantic frequently combined with cold fronts from Canada to batter the city. The “hard winter” of 1779-1780 brought snowdrifts 18 feet deep and a record low temperature of 16 degrees below zero, and froze the harbor solid for five consecutive weeks. New Yorkers adjusted by harvesting the waterways for ice to get them through the summer, and turning them into roadways to get out of town. In the winter of 1821, they even set up makeshift taverns on the Hudson to attract the foot traffic crossing to Jersey.
In March of 1888, a cold front combined with—surprise, surprise—heavy winds off the ocean to suddenly turn a warm spring rain into a howling snowstorm. “The Blizzard of ’88”—or as it was known at the time, “The Great White Hurricane”—became shorthand for natural disaster. In the city, some 40 inches of snow fell, and severe flooding and conflagrations swept New York. The fires alone caused $25 million worth of damage, or more than $600 million in today’s money.
When temperatures dropped to 6 degrees—the coldest ever recorded here in March—the region came to a standstill. New York’s vast webs of telegraph and telephone wires were encased in ice and its many elevated railroads ground to a halt. More than 200 New Yorkers died, some of them freezing to death in the street.
In response, the city began to bury its wires, cables and trains, and professionalized its street-cleaning department. But today, the city’s underground is more vulnerable than ever.
So what to do?
The good news is that many very smart people have already spent a good deal of time thinking about this. Some of their ideas were all over last Sunday’s New York Times, ranging from gigantic, high-tech solutions—vast barriers or gates to seal off much of the city at key chokepoints—to incredibly inventive, low-tech solutions, such as “absorptive streets,” or natural barriers of marshes and oyster beds.
The bad news is that they require leadership and money to be implemented. Neither is likely to come from Washington anytime soon. So we’ll have to do it ourselves. A special tax on, say, stock transactions, or luxury items, or the very highest incomes might raise enough cash—though the usual suspects are likely to balk at a tax for even such an urgent and worthy purpose.
So here’s another idea. Once upon a time, when no government would shell out the money for a pediment on which to place the Statue of Liberty, a newspaper started a campaign to raise the money through thousands of individual donations. In exchange for donations of as little as a penny, Joseph Pulitzer would print their names in the pages of the New York World.
Maybe some newspaper today could start the “Keep Lady Liberty’s Head Above Water Fund,” dedicated to not only preserving our city and region, but also to making it the hub of global climate research and solutions. (Then again, maybe someone else should take this on, given how busy newspapers are trying to keep their own heads above water.)
Our local universities could be persuaded to open new climate change centers, in exchange for the vast amounts of land and legal support we’ve given them lately. Abandoned or underused facilities, such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard or Governor’s Island or the Kingsbridge Armory could be devoted to this purpose. The unemployed could find work building these wondrous new projects. The Bloomberg administration could finally find a reason for its third term.
Of course, simply getting their names in the paperwould hardly suffice for people today. The enterprise I have in mind would operate as an investment fund. As the new technologies, devices and clean energy solutions we produce are put into place around the world—as they surely would be—each investor would get a return on his dollar, once the city’s safety is secured.
New York has been reacting to storms for almost four centuries now. It’s time we got ahead of the next one.

New Source of OIL!!! (but only if this was 1920)

The Bowie-Gavin process of extracting oil (June 1927 issue of Science and Invention magazine)
As a non-renewable resource, we’re pretty certain that at some point we’ll run out of oil. But today—just as it was a hundred years ago—we’re not quite sure when that will come to pass.
In 1908, Teddy Roosevelt appointed the National Conservation Commission to take a proper inventory of America’s natural resources and discover areas where egregious waste was occurring. When it delivered its findings to Congress in 1909, the commission reported that the nation’s petroleum supply would last just 25 or 30 years more. Of course, the nation’s oil supply didn’t dry up in 1939; engineers developed new ways to extract oil from what used to be thought of as waste material.
The June 1927 issue of Science and Invention magazine included a short article about a process developed in 1926 by two engineers named Clifford Bowie and M. Gavin at the U.S. Bureau of Mines. In 1927, the U.S was using about 750 million barrels of oil annually (compared with about 7 billion barrels annually today), with consumption in the Roaring Twenties showing no signs of slowing down. As the article notes, when an oil field in the 1920s was considered “dry,” only about 20 percent of the usable oil had been extracted from it. The remaining 80 percent was simply soaked up into the sands.
The article reported on the new “Bowie-Gavin” process which was sure to remedy this problem:
Our sketches show the semi-commercial apparatus for distilling the oil from the shales and also from very heavy oils. The oil from this process is a cracked oil and about 20 percent of gasoline can be obtained from it.
Difficulties with other processes using the same raw material have been the plugging up of the oil vapor escape pipe by carbon which is formed when the oil is vaporized and cracked. This carbon is in the form of a hard, dense lampblack. This free carbon would also adhere to the sides of the wall of the retort and prevent the heat which is applied to the outside, from coming through and heating the oil shale and sand within.
In the Bowie-Gavin process, the oil shale or sand is dropped into the conical housing by means of a screw-operated hopper. The material falls upon the hearth plate which is heated underneath. If a heavy oil is to be treated or cracked to produce gasoline, lubricating oil and the other petroleum products, it is mixed with some inert substance like oil shale or oil soaked sand. Some of these thick oils in cool weather can be shovelled like mortar or putty, they are so viscous. These oils are not now worked, owing to the difficulty in handling them.
Today, the highly controversial process of hydraulic fracturing (often called fracking) is the latest way that companies are extracting natural gas from what used to be considered unreachable deposits. This process comes with tremendous risk to the environment, and has actually driven prices of natural gas so low that there’s currently a rush for rig operators to extract the higher priced oil. Meanwhile, Alberta has found wealth (and environmental criticism) in figuring how to tap its tar sands, the source of the oil that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to the continental U.S.
Whether new technologies will allow us to extract another hundred years of oil no longer seems to be the primary question. We must ask ourselves whether we can live with the environmental impact of our current energy choices. And just how harshly people of the future will judge the silence of our political leaders a century hence.

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