BC Beams As Mayor Allocates $7M to Sunset Cove Restoration

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For the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, local residents and Bay lovers, this past Friday, October 6 was a day of jubilee, as the Mayor’s Office hosted a press conference to officially announce an allocation of $7M towards the restoration of Sunset Cove in Broad Channel (BC).

The Sunset Cove restoration and revitalization project, estimated to cost just under $15M, will crucially help protect the BC community from floodwaters and improve the health of Jamaica Bay. Plans for the project include removing contaminated fill, providing access to the park, creating a resilient shorefront that restores native habitat for fish, birds and wildlife, and restoring critical tidal wetlands in the Bay. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, the Office of the Mayor Senior Director of Climate Policy and Programs and Chief Resilience Officer Daniel Zarrilli joined residents and local officials at the site to make the announcement.

Sunset Cove Park is a 12-acre parcel of land located on a former derelict marina in BC. Formerly known as Schmitt’s Marina, the site was acquired by NYC Parks in 2009 at the urging of the community, following prosecution of the owner for environmental and other violations. The area consists largely of hazardous and contaminated construction fill, debris, and invasive vegetation with limited coastal protection and ecological function.

Phase One of the project, with an estimated total price tag of $14M, is to restore the site by excavating contaminated and hazardous fill to create a tidal wetland. Plus placement of a clean sand cap in the marsh, along with planting of native wetland plant species, which will restore the shoreline ecosystem and create habitat. Phase Two of the project, estimated to cost $1.8M, will complete the installation of a planned boardwalk and outdoor classroom providing opportunities for environmental education for local and neighboring schools across the City and foster community engagement.

Bay champion fighter, Dan Mundy, Jr., co-founder with his dad, Dan Mundy, Sr., of the Ecowatchers, said, “Today marks the crowning achievement of a group effort with the Parks Department, the Mayor’s office, Borough President Melinda Katz’s office and local officials, Councilman Eric Ulrich, Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato and Senator Joseph Addabbo who were all deeply involved in helping the Ecowatchers’ mission to restore and revitalize Sunset Cove.

“This has been a long road due to joint jurisdictional issues. We had hit a speed bump with the funding that posed challenges for all our partners and their budgets, but everyone stepped up to the game. However, now with this $7M funding from the Mayor’s office, our vision for the revitalization of Sunset Cove will soon be a reality,” Mundy, Jr. said.

The mayoral funding matches an existing $7 million for the restoration of Sunset Cove from a Department of Interior – National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Grant and DEC Mitigation funding. Work will include the restoration of five acres of salt marsh and seven acres of coastal woodland; removal of contaminated fill across the site and replacement with clean sand; and the installation of a pedestrian pathway along a perimeter berm which will provide both access and storm protection. The design for Sunset Cove was completed in May 2016. Following the design, the project received bids that were nearly double the available budget, effectively stalling progress. Now with the additional funding from the Mayor’s office, the project will be able to move forward immediately. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2018 and will be completed in 2019.

Mundy, Jr. said, “Now we are going to have wetlands, an elevated berm that is going to double as storm protection, while offering opportunities to walk along that berm and see the beauty of the Bay out for miles. Thanks to funding from the borough president’s office, phase two of Sunset Cove’s restoration will feature a boardwalk that walks out to an outdoor classroom. The boardwalk is a great nod to fantastic ideas, as the Parks Dept. has been able to preserve pieces of the old Rockaway boardwalk that was ripped up during Hurricane Sandy to use towards the construction of the Sunset Cove boardwalk. We are going to remold that lumber down with Brazilian cherry wood with a fantastic finish. Finally, we are going to have an eco dock, allowing access for children to come and participate in oyster studies. We are really trying to push kids to put their technological devices down, get their hands dirty and enjoy and learn from the outdoors.

“On these  islands on the Bay we restored, and brought hundreds of children from the inner cities, who have never been out on a boat before, together we planted 400,000 plugs of marsh.” Mundy, Jr. said.

Deputy Mayor Glen said, “I was floored with the amount of work that was going on in BC after Sandy. Last October 2016, 20 percent of the Build It Back BC projects were underway or complete, and today, the figure is 95 percent. A year does make a difference. We listened to the Mundys and found the money to make this project a reality. This land is going to be cleaned, restored and be both a barrier and sponge for when the waters do rise. This is a rare moment where we can see government actually works and gets stuff done.”

Councilman Eric Ulrich, a vocal critic of de Blasio, made the crowd laugh when he said, “In regards to the Mayor’s office $7M funding for the revitalization of Sunset Cove, here’s something you thought I would never say. ‘Thank you Mayor de Blasio and your administration for being here today and working with community advocates like the Mundys who do an amazing job everyday fighting for BC and Jamaica Bay.

Mundy, Jr. struck a cord when he said, “Once reconstruction is completed, this is going to be a beautiful resilient park, bringing back the wetlands that we are losing, and most importantly, offer an educational component that does not exist anywhere. While we made a lot of noise to get this project done, we are thankful for all our partners who worked steadfastly with us to make the revitalization of Sunset Cove finally come to fruition.”

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