Check out City Birder Tours, and Green-Wood sponsored tours on their calendar pages here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

Historic Floyd Bennett Field Under Siege

Floyd Bennett Field is one of the National Parks System's Gateway National Recreation Area. As part of the Jamaica Bay Unit, it is not only an important recreation area for New Yorkers, but also a critical wildlife environment containing one of the last remaining grassland habitats. Now this area in under threat by natural gas interests petitioning the federal government for permission to run a pipeline through this national park. The only notice that the public was given of this project was in a Mill Basin tabloid and a Rockaway tabloid. No notice was provided to the greater environmental/shoreline communities.

Ida Sanoff of the Natural Resources Protective Association went to the meeting and sent this scathing report:

I went to the meeting Wednesday night at Floyd Bennet Field. There was one Tuesday night in Rockaway. There was virtually no publicity about these meetings. The meeting was a poster session and there were LOADS of experts there both from the pipeline company (Williams) and from National Grid. Many were flown in from other states. All of them were very well versed in the project and very, very, very nice. So right away, I'm thinking:

a) There's going to be major money flowing in and around this project and

b) They want to make sure that there is NO public opposition. Here is a link to the site for the project:

In a nutshell, they want to tap into an existing underwater pipeline, lay 2.79 miles of pipe on the sea bottom (they blow the sand out of the way to make a shallow trench, then fill it in) and 2.79 miles of onshore pipeline. The onshore portion will be tunneled under Riis Park and Jamaica Bay, then end up in a metering station which will be constructed in one of the old hangers at Floyd Bennett. Once operational, the system will be controlled remotely from...Texas. Part of Floyd Bennett will be dug up so the pipeline can come in so let's hope they find nothing more noxious than old horse bones. Then they are going to dig up Flatbush Ave. all the way to Avenue U to lay more pipe, that will be hooked up to a line on Avenue U. Since an easement is involved, NYS and NYC will be getting a big fat check. As they blow miles of sand out of the way, there is no guarantee where it is going to be carried. Given the currents, it will probably move to the west, but if a good storm comes up, who knows where it will end up. Smothering a productive fishing spot perhaps? But who cares, destroy some habitat then throw some mitigation money around and everyone will be happy.

About a year and a half ago, many of us attended a meeting convened by the Regional Plan Association, (RPA) regarding a Blue Ribbon Panel's recommendations for the future of Floyd Bennett. To ensure and enhance the environmental and historical integrity of Floyd Bennett, the only uses proposed in the Blue Ribbon Panel's report were recreational and historical. Even the NYPD and Dept. of Sanitation facilities, that have been there for decades, were to eventually have their footprints reduced so as not to detract from the recreational and historical aspects. I even pulled out that meeting's documents to confirm this. At the Blue Ribbon Panel meeting, like good little children, we all sat around our big round discussion tables, put on our thinking caps, and talked about what WE would like to see at Floyd:

Birding - yes!
Model airplanes - yes!
A hanger where you could watch old planes being restored - yes!
Community gardens - yes! etc, etc.

When I mentioned the Blue Ribbon Panel to a National Grid rep, they said there was a "question of interpretation" about what "historical" and "recreational" meant. In short, they were going to try and b.s. their way through, to justify what they were doing. The RPA knows if a pigeon is planning to poop on the sidewalk, yet at the Blue Ribbon Panel meeting, there wasn't a word about this metering station. Very curious!


Of course, the really nice, knowledgeable people from out of state painted a wonderful picture for us of how perfect this whole project is. But as we all know, in the real world, stuff happens. Already this summer, there have been brush fires in Staten Island, New Jersey and elsewhere. There are frequent brush fires in Marine Park and a history of fires at Floyd Bennett. The fire hydrants at Floyd Bennett are problematic. When I mentioned the hydrants, the pipeline people turned white. I guess they thought that no one knew this dirty little secret. There aren't that many hydrants and many of the existing ones just don't work. Brush fires are bad enough, especially when the wind comes howling in off the water. Put a gas metering station in the midst of all of this and BOOM! However, we were told that the metering station can be shut down - from Texas. But of course, even if new gas can be prevented from coming in to the metering station, the gas that is already in there, remains there. And if for some reason, the remote shut down of this station - from Texas - does not work, everything is TOAST. Haven't we heard about nuclear power plants that were supposed to shut down and didn't because something went wrong??? But we were assured that here, at Floyd Bennett, everything would be perfect. Floyd can be desolate, especially at night. What about security? Why should terrorists go to Manhattan with all of the security there when they could just come out to Floyd Bennett in the middle of the night and have a blast (literally!).

AND... The folks who will operate the pipeline have a history of accidents ..."The Williams Transco natural gas pipeline, an 11,000 mile pipeline that runs from the Gulf Coast to markets on the eastern seaboard, sprung a leak in Bergen County, New Jersey, according to a recent media report. The leak in a 36-inch-diameter section of the pipeline represents the second incident calling in to question the pipeline’s integrity in less than a month. A natural gas compressor station owned and operated by Williams, which pumps pressurized natural gas obtained from hydraulic fracturing wells in Pennsylvania through the Transco pipeline, exploded last week. The Williams Co., which is already operating under a federal Corrective Action Order in connection with a massive natural gas pipeline explosion in Alabama last year, has a lengthy record of pipeline safety violations, according to documents obtained by" Here's a link to more accidents with the Williams Transco pipelines.

Oh, but don't worry, EVERYTHING will be perfect with the huge pipe that will be tunneled under Rockaway and under Jamaica Bay. I wonder what would happen if there was a gas leak in the pipe that will snake under the Bay? Will they have to level a marsh island perhaps, to access it? A well known marine scientist was at the meeting Wednesday night and he was concerned about the possibility of salt corrosion in the offshore pipe. But of course the pipe would be built to the highest standards and it would be fine. Oh, by the way, just last week, right here on Ocean Parkway, in the middle of Brooklyn, water got into a gas line. People turned on their oven and had water fountains. An old water main broke, and someway, somehow water got into the gas line. It's not supposed to happen, EVER, but it did. There were also a lot of contradictory statements in the local media about whether or not a gas leak was present. But of course, nothing would ever happen to that high pressure pipe right off shore and sitting under Rockaway and Jamaica Bay.

It gets even better. The National Parks Service, which should be outraged that this non-historical, non-recreational and non-environmental use is coming to one of the old historic hangers, is instead smacking their lips at the thought of the hanger being "restored". Restored for WHAT??? All that will be done is that the outside will be made to look pretty. Gee whiz, while we're at it, maybe someone can build a nice shopping mall in there too? After all, that's what happened to Vandalia Dunes, a critical Buffer the Bay property. How about a supermarket in the middle of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge? If they put a green roof on top of it and some nice plants, it can even be considered "restoration"! Don't think it can't happen. Someone I know has been trying for years to get a shopping mall built on some undeveloped parkland here in far western Brooklyn, but they did not have enough political clout to get through the alienation of parkland process. Permitting a metering station within Gateway, a National Park, sets a very frightening precedent. The NPS really needs to be held accountable for permitting this to move forward.

And there is even more: Some of you may be aware of plans to build Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals off the coast of Rockaway and New Jersey. Well, right now, Clean Ocean Action in NJ has defeated the latest one that was proposed, but we expect that more projects will soon be rearing their ugly little heads. Although an LNG facility is NOT PART OF THE ROCKAWAY PROJECT, if someone DID build one, they MUST be given permission to hook up to this pipeline. How convenient!

1 comment:

Sweetgum Thursday said...

Wanted to thank both you and Ida for this post.

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope