407-Acre Ecologically Restored Property in Brooklyn will be Transformed into State Park on Jamaica Bay
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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the 23rd proposal of the 2018 State of the State: New York State, in partnership with the National Park Service and the City of New York, are working to establish a new 407-acre state park on Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn, providing crucial new open space access to one of the most underserved areas of the state. The new state park complements the state's efforts to build 34 new or improved pocket parks, community gardens, playgrounds and recreation centers within a ten-minute walk for every Central Brooklyn resident.
"This new state park will be a treasure in the heart of Brooklyn, offering hundreds of acres of beautiful parkland on the shores of Jamaica Bay," Governor Cuomo said. "We are committed to ensuring every New Yorker can access the recreational, health and community benefits of open space, and this park will open new doors to wellness for New Yorkers who need it most."
New York State has signed preliminary agreements with National Park Service, with the intent to ensure future capital investments to improve and open the park to the public. Upon a final agreement with the National Park Service, phase 1 of the capital project will commence. Phase 1 will be funded by a $15 million State investment to open the restored property, making available 3.5 miles of waterfront, miles and miles of paths and trails, and a coastal highland, planted with native species.
The park will feature opportunities for biking, hiking, water-based activities such as fishing, kayaking, and waterfront environmental education, and will include restrooms, shade structures and concessions. With National Park Service approval, phase 1 is expected to fully open in 2019. Later phases will include construction of a connecting bridge between the two sites, dedicated environmental education facilities, and an amphitheater, creating a unique and expansive cultural and natural space for the community.
The 407-acre site, which has never been open to the public, includes the former Pennsylvania Avenue Landfill and Fountain Avenue Landfill, which were operated by NYC Department of Sanitation from 1956-1983 and deeded to the National Park Service as part of Gateway National Recreation Area in 1974. In 2002, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection began a $235 million site remediation that included the installation of an impermeable cap and below-ground barrier to support future use.
In addition, more than 1.2 million cubic yards of clean soil, up to four feet deep, was spread across the site and more than 35,000 trees and shrubs were planted. The addition of prairie grass and native plantings prevents erosion and has created a diverse ecosystem of more than 400 acres of coastal meadows, wetlands, and woodlands that have attracted local wildlife. The full remediation and restoration of the site was completed with significant community input in 2009.
Under the preliminary agreement with the National Park Service and the City of New York, New York State Parks will plan, develop, open and operate the public park in cooperation with the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which will continue to manage the former landfill infrastructure.
Rose Harvey, Commissioner of New York State Parks, said, "State Parks is excited by the opportunity to serve these traditionally park poor neighborhoods in Brooklyn. A natural preserve in the backyard of Brooklyn's 2.6 million people features open rolling hills and 3.5 miles of waterfront, connecting city and nature, and asphalt to meadows. I commend Governor Cuomo for his commitment to expanding outdoor recreation in every corner of the state, and thank the National Park Service and the Department of Environmental Protection for working with us to make the project a reality."
Joshua Laird, Commissioner of the National Parks New York Harbor, who oversees 11 national parks with 23 destinations located in New York City and northern New Jersey, said, "Today's announcement marks an important step towards meeting Secretary Zinke's goal of opening more federal lands for public enjoyment. National Parks are not only out west; they are also right in our back yard here in New York City. Thanks to the interest of New York State, a never-opened section of Gateway National Recreation Area may soon be available for public enjoyment. The National Park Service's mandate to expand recreation opportunities paired with New York State's idea to operate a park at the former Pennsylvania & Fountain Avenue Landfill site set the stage for this cooperative effort. Residents of Brooklyn and visitors from all over the City and nation may soon be able to enjoy the site's sweeping vistas of New York Harbor and the natural beauty of Jamaica Bay."
NYC Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen said, "It's a monumental undertaking to close and cap a landfill, and transform it into beautiful open space and restored wetlands. The City proudly supports this endeavor. We thank the City's Department of Environmental Protection for all its work readying the site, and look forward to working with the State to deliver a beautiful new park to Brooklyn."
"Opening this area, abundant with beautiful natural resources, expansive views and space for recreation, to the public is a perfect example of how Parks and green spaces can transform and enhance our communities," said U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries. "I thank Governor Cuomo and all of our partners for taking this community dream and making it a reality for Brooklyn."
The Friends of Penn & Fountain Parks, Inc. said, "A dream is about to become a reality on Jamaica Bay and thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo and his 'Open Spaces' mandate for New York State, Penn and Fountain Parks will soon be open for public use. Not only will East New Yorkers have access to the amenities of Jamaica Bay recreation, but, future generations of New Yorkers will experience the grandeur at Penn and Fountain and enjoy the profound silence of breath taking vistas as far as the eye can see. For us at Friends it is the culmination of 25 years of community involvement."
Thomas F. Secunda, Chairman of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, said, "For generations, the residents of central Brooklyn have lacked access to their waterfront and open spaces. Today's announcement marks a major milestone in the decades-long effort to turn these former landfills into a wonderful new park. I congratulate Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Harvey, New York State Parks and the MVVA team on developing an exciting plan for an accessible park that can be enjoyed by the community and visitors alike. I would also like to thank the various government agencies that have made opening this park possible, including the National Park Service, the Mayor's Office and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Finally, if not for the community and its leaders who have waited many years for this day to come, we may not be here today and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy is proud to support this effort together with them. We look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure that this special open space becomes a world-class park and a jewel in Jamaica Bay."
The Brooklyn park will be the second state park opened by Governor Cuomo in New York City. Governor Cuomo dedicated Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park in 2012. State Parks operates seven state parks throughout the five boroughs of NYC, including Bayswater Point State Park and Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens, East River State Park in Brooklyn, Clay Pit Ponds State Park in Staten Island, Riverbank State Park in Manhattan, and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx. The Governor also opened Buffalo Harbor State Park in 2015 and Hallock State Park Preserve on Long Island earlier this year.
The park will be a signature initiative in Governor Cuomo's holistic and historic $1.4 billion Vital Brooklyn model to benefit the health and wellness of Central Brooklyn residents.