DEC Presents Mitigation Project In Howard Beach

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

City officials presented a project that aims to better protect Howard Beach from future weather events like Superstorm Sandy.

Representatives from the Dept. of Environmental Conservation attended last week’s Community Board 10 meeting to discuss the Spring Creek Hazard Mitigation Project for the first time.

During Sandy, flood waters from the storm’s surge engulfed coastal areas in Queens and throughout the City, including Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach.

The project would provide those areas with better storm protection by renovating Spring Creek Park, which is adjacent to 165th and 161st Avenues and 83rd and 78th Streets in Howard Beach. The renovation will boost up the inland protection for neighborhoods adjacent to residents’ homes, create a larger buffer between the park’s grassland and wetland and restore much of its natural habitat.

The DEC representatives touted the project as the first nature-based storm resiliency plan.

“There’s a whole new school of thought involving around how we use nature to protect us from future storms,” said Venetia Lannon, regional director of the DEC’s Region 2 office, which covers the five boroughs. “We have the ability to prove that at Spring Creek Park.”

Following the presentation, some CB10 members raised some concerns about the project, concentrated on how that area of Howard Beach would be affected by the project and how the “old” side of Howard Beach also needs to be protected from future storms.

“While I appreciate this study and what the Governor is doing with this money, that wetlands the way it is, absorbed a lot of the storm,” said CB10 member John Calcagnile, adding he would like to see this project spread to the other side of Howard Beach.

As part of the project, the agency would create land in the park that would be open to the public. Another CB10 member, Joann Ariola, asked who would police the area once it is open.

“Would there be guidelines? Can you barbecue up there, can you go up to the beach over there?” she asked.

DEC reps said they envision the public space more as a “nature walk,” not somewhere to have a picnic or barbeque.

According to the DEC, the entire project will cost more than $50 million and it will take an estimated 18 months to complete once construction begins.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.