By Jon Cronin, Editor
Following the completion of MacNeil Park’s new sewer overflow outfall pipe, recent storms have plugged the outfall with garbage. Local environmental advocates said that they have long believed the pipe was poorly designed.
Kat Cervino, vice president of the Coastal Preservation Network (CPN), noted the amount of garbage surrounding the outfall and added that the hole should be higher.
She said that “as we told the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] and the DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] when they were first proposing this project,” the cove has a historic trash accumulation route. “Because it’s a little cove, it all sticks here. That’s why we’ve been cleaning it as volunteers since 2002.”
Cervino said that dead seagrass is a natural part of the cove’s ecology, but it is currently blocking the outfall pipe with waste that has come through the pipe and with large pieces of floating garbage that have been washed ashore by recent storms.
She added that during the planning stages, she and her husband, James Cervino—who is the president of the CPN and a marine biologist—suggested that the outfall pipe be consistent with the decommissioned one and go out beyond the pilings, which are approximately 100 feet from the shore.
In 2017, the Queens Tribune interviewed James Cervino about his opposition to the plan. He suggested to “just move the pipe out” at that time.
Kat Cervino said that she reached out to local elected officials, the DEP and the DEC when she and her husband noticed the blockage, but has only heard back from Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D- Flushing).
“Daniel Rosenthal is behind us and so was his predecessor, Michael Simanowitz,” said Cervino.
Tim Thomas, a spokesman for Rosenthal, said the assemblyman is drafting a formal request for the DEP to begin a scheduled maintenance plan for the site.
“From the moment the design of this outfall was announced by the Department of Environmental Protection, there were immediate concerns raised by the community. DEP went forward with this plan against the urging of elected officials and our local community organizations,” Rosenthal said. “Once again, it appears that the city’s shortsighted construction is to the detriment of our residents in College Point. My office has spoken with DEP and the department informed us that they are coordinating with [the] Parks [Department] to begin a cleanup of the site. Our office has also asked DEP for a commitment to institute regularly scheduled site visits to ensure this does not occur again.”
The DEC responded to the situation and stated that it had contacted the DEP regarding the need to clear the outfall. The DEP, in turn, informed the DEC that the agency is aware of the situation and is working to clear the shoreline and the outfall.
For College Point, the site is one of only two points of access to the water, which is among the reasons why the Cervinos lead cleanups of the beach twice a year. A kayak launch point also operates at the site.
Last year, James Cervino said that his group is doing its best to protect “the oysters, the bivalves, the keystone species that we’re trying to protect and grow down there. These are species that we’re growing under a permit to protect against shoreline erosion, to enhance biodiversity, to enhance and do scientific experiments.”
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 125.