City, Fed Sign Jamaica Bay Management Deal, Announce Plans For Conservancy And Science Program

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a deal yesterday establishing a management agreement between the city and the National Parks Service for 10,000 acres of parkland in and around Jamaica Bay.

The deal, announced nine months after the intent was made public in October, establishes the framework for collaboration between the National Parks Service and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to promote access, establish research and education programs, and develop recreational opportunities in the park area, which includes Floyd Bennett Field and the marshlands and waterways around it.

(Video of the announcement is above. Note that this was originally a live stream, and the announcement does not begin until the 12:50 mark.)

The Jamaica Bay area is federal parkland, but jurisdictional lines have blurred for years as city and state infrastructure bleed into the park. Finger pointing between the patchwork of agencies and levels of government has long hampered improvements to the area, including squabbling over whose responsibility it is to make repairs to Plumb Beach – repairs that will soon be made after 10 years of community unrest as the sands washed away.

But the troubled history was not a part of yesterday’s announcement, which instead focused on a slew of initiatives planned for roll-out under the new partnership.

“This historic partnership will improve our city’s great natural treasure – Jamaica Bay – by creating restored, resilient natural landscapes, more outdoor recreation, new and cutting-edge research collaborations, and an improved, sustainable transportation framework,” said Bloomberg.

The initiatives will be bolstered by a new era in philanthropic support for the park, as Bloomberg and Salazar announced they will soon establish a conservancy or “Friends of” group to rally funds and public-private support for Jamaica Bay projects. The Rockefeller Foundation has already committed $1.5 million to the soon-to-be-established conservancy. Bloomberg named Thomas F. Secunda, a founder of Bloomberg L.P., as its chairman.

“Forty years after the Gateway National Recreation Area was created by creating separate city and federal parklands, a new conservancy is being created to realize the full potential of these 10,000 combined acres of publicly owned land.  We look forward to entering the next phase of planning for the site,” said New York City Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

The city issued a press release outlining specific goals of the achievement, which are:

  • Creating a seamless and interconnected network of improved recreation spaces, including more camping and boating opportunities, integrated land and water trail systems, and community activity areas;
  • Coordinating habitat restoration, research and resource management in the Bay;
  • Ensuring public transportation and access to and within Jamaica Bay strongly supports existing and new experiential activities, including public transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and ferry access;
  • Providing unified signage, maps and marketing wherever possible;
  • Integrating business practices for maintenance and management;
  • Developing new revenue generation sources and philanthropic support to enable the redevelopment and support the ongoing operations of the parks without regard to underlying ownership; and
  • Jointly developing a series of programs in which urban youth can learn the values of stewardship through service activities.

Finally, as part of the agreement, the city and NPS have issued a request for expressions of interest that calls for a university or other academic partner or science-focused organization to manage an intensive research program focused on the restoration of the bay, including potentially creating a new science and resilience center to coordinate and bolster research efforts.

Although the focus of the announcement was the management deal and efforts to increase access to the park, as well as developing numerous public programs on Floyd Bennett and elsewhere in Jamaica, Bloomberg and Salazar were asked no questions and made no comment on plans to hand over the last two unused historic aircraft hangars over to National Grid and Texas-based Williams Transco as part of the natural gas pipeline project.