Southern Brooklyn

Activists: Jamaica Bay Pipeline Could Open Up Other National Parks To Industrial Use


Though the proposed installation of a natural gas pipeline beneath Jamaica Bay has sparked wide-ranging concerns from opponents – from environmental damage to the risk of a terrorist attack – a growing coalition of activists say its biggest threat is setting a precedent that would open up all national parks to industrial uses.

A group of local activists calling themselves Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP) gathered at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways on Saturday, spreading the word about the proposed pipeline and gathering petition signatures from beach-goers in an effort to stop H.R. 2606 – federal legislation that would authorize work in the park. Under a banner that read “Keep the gas industry out of our National Park” and “Kill the Bill, Protect Your Park,” CARP representatives touted the list of local and national groups that are coming together to battle the plans: the Brooklyn Green Party, SANE Energy, United for Action, Brooklyn for Peace, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and, they say, many more signing on every day.

Though the individuals at the Saturday rally were all locals – mostly from Marine Park – their concerns have national implications, they say.

“Having a pipeline and metering station going through a national park is absurd,” said Karen Mascolo, a CARP member who also works at the Floyd Bennett Gardens Association. “If you let industry come in, you’re opening up the door to allow industry into any national park.”

The proposed placement of new natural gas pipelines from Williams and National Grid. (Source: Williams) (Click to enlarge)

The plan they oppose is a private project called the Rockaway Lateral Delivery Project, which will use national park land to connect a primary natural gas artery in the Atlantic, just off the coast of the Rockaways, to a National Grid hub in Brooklyn. The pipe will go under the Rockaways, across the Rockaway inlet and underneath Floyd Bennett Field. There, the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company (TRANSCO)  will install a gas metering station in two currently-unused hangars off Flatbush Avenue, which will be monitored remotely from their Texas headquarters. The line will then continue up Flatbush Avenue and into National Grid’s main system.

The National Parks Service, however, claims that the language of the legislation provides that no precedent will be set for industrial uses in other national parks.

“The legislation is very specific to Gateway, so it establishes no precedent for other parks,” said NPS spokesperson John Warren.

The bill – sponsored by Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, representing Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, and co-sponsored by Republican Congressman Bob Turner – has already passed the House and awaits Senate approval.

Warren declined to comment further on the bill, noting, “This is a bill that is pending before Congress. It’s not law and until it becomes law there’s nothing we can say.”

At the heart of the issue is the metering station – an industrial facility approximately the size of a football field – that will be housed in the historic hangars along Flatbush Avenue. The decrepit hangars will be restored, and Transco will pay rent to the park, providing much-needed revenue at the budget-strapped National Parks Service.

And it’s not like the activists are opposed to public-private partnerships to bring those hangars up to snuff, it’s the choice of partner that has them worried.

“Other historic buildings and parkland are going to go the same way – public-private partnerships – but it’s a question of who you’re going to give it to and what they’re going to do with it,” said CARP member Karen Orlando.

Orlando told Sheepshead Bites that during a meeting with Transco that she attended, representatives of the company compared the proposed facility to the Aviator Sports Center, a school building, or any other of the traditional concession vendors that government usually partners with.

“But it’s not just any other concession,” Orlando said. “We’re not talking about a shoe store. We’re talking about a shoe factory.”

In testimony before a House subcommittee on National Parks, Stephanie Toothman, associate director of cultural resources for NPS, said that the plan to use the hangars beats the alternatives.

One alternative NPS and Transco explored was to place the metering station outside of NPS property. But a huge building with security infrastructure near the park, but not in it, would have hurt the park by obstructing its “viewshed” – essentially, the view of the park from nearby road- and water-ways.

Another option is to construct a new facility within the park, saving the historic hangars for future uses, perhaps determined by the Gateway Management Plan intended to increase recreational opportunities at the location. But that “would be contrary to the National Park Service’s goals of reducing infrastructure and carefully managing existing facilities,” Toothman told the subcommittee. Additionally, “Floyd Bennett Field and its associated buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district, and such new construction could additionally jeopardize  this status.”

But even that explanation seems a little contradictory to the critics.

“They want to put this industrial thing in historic hangars – an actual national landmark – on hangar row?” said Mascolo of CARP. “They’re going to fix it up very nice on the outside, but do whatever they want on the inside and that’s okay?”

“I see it as a Trojan Horse,” said Orlando. “They come in and make everything nice and offer all this money, but at the end of the day it’s industrializing a park. It’s a deal with the devil.”

UPDATE (3:11 p.m.): Orlando just wrote in, saying that they collected 585 signatures to their petition, and beachgoers created 60 handwritten postcards opposing the plan, in just four hours on Saturday.

“It’s pretty easy to get people to sign this [petition],” Orlando told us. “It’s pretty outrageous they don’t already know about it.”

Comment policy


  1. Parks = for people, picnics, playing, maybe even piping plovers in this particular one. Wacko talk is equating a group of people asking a question about land use and whether industrial facilities belong in parks, especially ones protected by the National Park Service to a group of people being against either industry or electricity. In any event, I think the quote came from someone other than me, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good one. I’m pretty sure that Gateway actually came into being as a recreation area (and most parks protected by NPS) to protect them from industry.

  2. People need jobs, electricity (we use more and more), heating; they need gas for cooking. The natural gas pipeline people are talking about fixing, and renting those decrepit hangars. There is nothing they could do to make some people happy.
    I like your website. I like gardeners. Believe it, or not.

  3. We weren’t all locals from Marine Park – I know that at least two of us came in from Manhattan on such a blazing hot day to alert the public to what had been kept a pretty good secret until now: the Rockaway Lateral Pipeline. It’s not just your neighbors who are concerned about the pipeline, though the construction involved would be a nightmare for South Brooklyn and – far worse – a blast anywhere along the route would cause catastrophic results. We’re concerned that this plan would increase global warming from the inevitable leakage of the fossil fuel called “natural” gas; we’re worried about the wildlife and the Bay, and that it’s just about impossible to clean up a spill underwater; and despite what the Parks Service says, we fear that such use of our own National Park would open the door to digging, mining, drilling and other exploitation of public lands. Think Grand Canyon, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Yellowstone National Park. Then think of what BP did to the Gulf of Mexico. Do you really trust big gas and oil?

  4. If they can kill birds in Gateway then they can lay pipes. And then they can return to using Jamaica Bay as a sewerage run-off point. Perhaps a chemical factory or a dozen nearby.

    The  NPS is supposed to protect our natural treasures. They are pointedly asleep at the wheel lately. It’s really quite appalling.

  5. How much is the NPS spending to produce the 5 year plan (that is already 2 years in the making) that DOES NOT include industrial use of Gateway. How much do we have to subsidize the oil and gas industry by giving away puplic land, and a recreational and historical area as well?

  6. I agree. Industrial facilities the size of a football field remotely monitored by  folks in Texas do not belong in a national park.  You’ve described a slippery slope for future industrialization of Floyd Bennet and the entire Gateway area. 

    Does anyone know where the current gas monitoring facilties are located? 

  7. “And then they can return to using Jamaica Bay as a sewerage run-off point. Perhaps a chemical factory or a dozen nearby.”

    This is an absurd comment.

    How do you propose we meet our energy needs.  What plan do you have to offer?

  8. Why do we have to subsidize the industry?
    The United States is giving away valuable land that can be mined. 
    The departments involved pulled the wool over our eyes letting the public be fully informed only when it is too late.
    Especially using that weasel Bloomberg to ensure the last part of the journey right in our own backyard…..literally. Though I am sure he was more than happy to be of assistance and push this through. Money to money to money.
    We’re all going to hell.

  9. The first part is the assumption that this line will be needed. The thinking is that there will be increased need for natural gas over time. The second part is that we could be developing safe and efficient alternate energy sources. But multinational companies like National Grid do not want us to go in that direction.

  10. There are three critical issues here:
    1.    Handing over the people’s land to Big Energy. Our parks should be funded with public dollars – which would be available in abundance if we weren’t subsidizing the oil and gas industry to the tune of $113 billion over the next decade — a sum that doesn’t include the additional cost of damage wrought by leaks, spills, explosions, and deaths.
    2.    Risking habitat loss and species extinction. We are risking a precious wildlife area and bird sanctuary for yet another dirty-shale-gas pipeline. Species are going extinct at an alarming rate, largely through human activity. This pipeline is another nail in the coffin.
    3.    Promoting unneeded dirty shale gas over renewable energy at a time of galloping climate change. We have the technology to make the change to renewable energy – wind, water turbines, tidal energy, solar, geothermal – but every fossil fuel project that gets approved moves us further away from that transition.
    We have to vote out politicians who are in the pay of Big Oil and vote in politicians who care about the future of this planet.

  11. It’s not an absurd comment. If the birdbrains, aka Michael Grimm and Bob Turner, in Washington can rationalize the construction of these facilities then they can rationalize other projects just like it.

  12. “We have the technology to make the change to renewable energy – wind, water turbines, tidal energy, solar, geothermal”
    Breezy Point would be good place for wind turbines, you think? Wind turbines good for birds?

    Even with government support, solar has flopped. Can’t see geothermal working in NYC. Not at all practical.

    I haven’t heard anything about tidal energy for years. There was some project in East River. I can not imagine it amounted to anything, or we would have heard.

    People want their cars, the big house, the air conditioners, the TV’s, their various electronic devices. 

    They don’t like raw food, for the most part.

    And they like cheap energy. Especially poor people.

    Shale gas is abundant, and we have it. It’s cleaner than oil, and much cleaner than coal. 

  13. Water turbines are being used in the East River — and proving to be beneficial to fish. Geothermal is not practical for NYC but it is being used elsewhere around the country — it’s ideal for suburban and rural homes and buildings that have a lot of land. A tidal energy project just went into operation last month in Maine. Solar has not “flopped” — but it only gets 1/6 the subsidies that oil and gas get. In fact, we have the capacity to solarize 650,000 rooftops in NYC, which would provide 40% of our peak electricity needs. The price of gas is artificially low — and much of the shale gas is destined for export — same as for tar sands oil — because it can be sold at much higher prices abroad. The carbon and methane footprint of shale gas is worse than that of dirty coal. There is about 10 years’ worth of recoverable shale gas in upstate NY, yet we are willing to compromise our entire watershed for this limited supply of dirty energy.

    People want and need cheap energy — I do too — but we could get rid of Indian Point Nuclear Plant overnight if we made minor conservation efforts to conserve heat, change light bulbs, etc. — and invested in a “smart grid” instead of the inefficient distribution system that we currently have. This would be a good public investment. It would also mean many more jobs than the 300 offered by Grimm/Meeks bill.

    Bottom line: We have to make the change sooner or later. Why are we investing in a 19th-century fuel in the midst of 21st-century climate change? And why are we allowing the further endangerment to already threatened flora and fauna in our public parks?

  14. Let’s not play children’s games. I could give you a list and you will deny their effectiveness. And it veers away from the immediate issue, which is that Floyd Bennett Field is on protected land. There should be no exceptions made.

  15. “The carbon and methane footprint of shale gas is worse than that of dirty coal”

    I’ve seen one such study, and many others that refute it.

     Fracking is prohibited in watershed area, and has been for years.

    Natural gas is artificially low. Who says? 


    Nobody is stopping anyone from solarizing their roof top. 

    I’m all for “smart grid”. We agree there.

  16. We got into this serious problem because we have a society of consumers, rather than citizens. The Mikes of the world want to acquire more at a time diminishing resources and climatic changes that within a few years time will become irreversible. They cling tenaciously to old means of providing what we need, and the idea of any sacrifice is anathema to them. They will not learn that while the long term scenario is bleak under any circumstances our continued path of consumption without responsibility will worsen the effects of our long term neglect of our planetary environment. Of course, when this does occur they will still be in denial as to the reasons this happened.

  17. You might want to ask FERC about the low frequency vibrations and noise permeating into homes and environment in western CT called HUM caused by changes to the Iroquois and Algonquin pipelines in 2007 to 2008. You may also inquireabout the line running along the bottom of the LI Sound from Milford CT to Port Jeef to Hunts point which is same line causing our low frequency nightmare in CT , does it have anything to do with the population collapse of lobsters in the same area as the line, and if anyone is researching it. You will be disappointed in the response. Install these lines without understanding a problem they have been made aware of for 2 years, may cause devastation to sensitive species in the park

  18. “People want their cars, the big house, the air conditioners, the TV’s, their various electronic devices.”

    You did write that.

    It’s not only about what people want. It’s about balancing that with the realities we are facing now.

  19. I hate when people have no faith in innovative solutions. Better use of our resources will lead to energy independence. Conservation/technological advances are better than efficient energy sources. We need 21st century solutions, and this pipeline sounds more like the 19th century. 

  20. with smart NEW energy resources, NOT trying to wring the last drop of fossil fuel from underwater rocks.

  21. absurd???  Hey Mikey, that’s what BP told the good people of the GULF COAST – right before the deep water oil rig EXPLODED

  22. I can tell you what they are NOT….  natural gas pipelines under federal parkland and waterways

  23. hey Mike, methinks you make a living by trying to counter BAD comments on local blogs about these pipelines NO ONE wants on federal parkland except for the people who stand to make BIG MONEY

  24. There is, in fact, considerable evidence that natural gas – particularly from fracking – is worse for the environmentent than conventional fuels. And bear in mind that the majority of natural gas in the US these days is from fracking.
    Cornell University’s report, “Methane and the Greenhouse-Gas Footprint of Natural Gas from Shale Formations,” says that “compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater.” The main component of natural gas is methane which is at least 20 times worse as a greenhouse gas than CO2. This is a scientific fact that can be verified any number of places. My online search just now included confirmation from such sources as NASA, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Scientific American, and the EPA.
    Mike is correct that there are those who refute this. Notable among them is the Heartland Institute, a think tank subsidized by the fossil fuel industry (ExxonMobil, Koch brothers, etc.). Before it was shilling for big energy, the Heartland Institute made a name for itself denying there was any link between secondhand smoke and cancer.  Not surprisingly big tobacco is also makes large financial contributions to this think tank.


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