State's Largest Expansion of Artificial Reefs Will Provide New Habitats, Restore Fishery Resources, and Bolster the Region's Economies
More Than 43,000 Cubic Yards of Clean, Recycled Tappan Zee Bridge Material and 5,900 Cubic Yards of Jetty Rock Will Support Construction of 6 Artificial Reefs
Governor's Announcement to Support Environmental Protection and the State's Marine Ecosystems Made in Conjunction with Earth Week
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the largest expansion of artificial reefs in state history to improve New York's diverse marine life and boost Long Island's recreational and sport fishing industries. In New York's first ever, comprehensive program to construct artificial reefs, the Governor has launched an initiative to deploy materials including tug boats, barges, and scows, as well as concrete and clean, recycled materials from the demolition of the former Tappan Zee Bridge. These materials will support the development of six artificial reefs on Long Island at sites off the shores of Smithtown, Shinnecock, Moriches, Fire Island, Hempstead, and Rockaway.
AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on Governor Cuomo's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, thank you very much. Well this is a great day. It's a special day. It's my pleasure to be back. First to County Executive Steve Bellone, who's a good friend and a great partner for many years. And he'll always tell you the truth. If you listen to what he says, he tells you the truth. You notice in the introduction he said four times, "and Governor Cuomo, providing resources. And that's what we love about him. Providing resources." The relationship is not about love, it is about money. It's about providing resources. I'm sure he likes me genuinely as a person. But it's about the money, honey. A big round of applause for Steve Bellone.
We have a great new partner, Laura Curran, who's doing a great job, it's a pleasure to have her here. Let's give her a big round of applause. You're going to hear from Bill Ulfelder, who is the New York Executive Director for the Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy does great work all across this state and this nation, and he is a tremendous asset. We're very pleased to have him here with us. Let's give Bill a round of applause.
And we have Captain Tony DiLernia, who is our representative on what's called the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which is very important because that sets quotas for the northeast, eastern seaboard fishing regulations, etc. New York has historically gotten the short end of the stick, and with Tony representing us you couldn't have a better advocate than Captain Tony DiLernia. Let's give him a round of applause.
And Steve mentioned him, but coming to Sunken Meadow brings back a lot of memories which I'll tell you in a moment. But my father was a very, very tough judge of especially, he was a tough judge period. But he was an especially tough judge of other elected officials. And he believed public service was about courage and principle and delivery. And he had such a profound respect for Pat Vecchio, he smiled every time he saw Pat Vecchio. Pat Vecchio is a legend as you know, but he is, if anyone young in this business who wants a model to emulate, it's former supervisor Pat Vecchio. Let's stand up, a round of applause. Let's stand up for Pat Vecchio, let's give him a round of applause.
Sunken Meadow State Park brings back a lot of memories, and County Executive Bellone is exactly right. My father's family grew up in Queens, South Jamaica, Queens. My mother's family grew up in Brooklyn. And most of the siblings moved to Long Island. Why? Well because Long Island, that's where you had the beaches, the parks, you know that was God's country, Long Island, compared to Queens and Brooklyn. So they got up and they moved to Long Island, and we would come visit and it was God's country. Magnificent, really public service distributed parks, golf courses, just it was unimaginable. And that was the attraction, and then you had what Mother Nature gave you, which was the bays and the rivers and the beaches, Montauk Point, Jones Beach. It was just beautiful. And that is the underlying asset that made Long Island Long Island. It is the beautiful nature and surroundings and what government has done to provide access to those resources.
My father worked very hard, he wasn't ever around. But my grandfather, Andrea, who I was named for, my father's father, we used to go to Jones Beach and Sunken Meadow. That was the big decision that they would argue about during the week. Do we go to Jones Beach or Sunken Meadow? Jones Beach, Sunken Meadow. And he would take me out with my grandmother and a couple of my cousins and we would come here and that was the whole day, and that was just a perfect experience and a perfect day. My grandmother would make the sandwiches before we left. First generation immigrants, so everything, they were very careful about money and about food, and I'd be a young kid, I'd be on the beach, I'd open the sandwich and inevitably you would get sand in the sandwich, and you take that bite and you'd hear that crunch, and you'd say grandma I can't eat this sandwich. She would say, "you're going to eat that sandwich." I ate that sandwich, sand and all. Sand I think actually helps the digestive process. It's Mother Nature's digestive expedient. But then what happened over the years was we sort of took it for granted and we let many of our parks and natural attributes disintegrate or degrade. Sunken Meadow was just - we didn't do maintenance; we didn't do upkeep. Why? Well because it's all about doing money and budgets and taxes, and the first line that always goes is maintenance. Well maintenance, we don't have to do it this year. We'll do it next year. and that happens year after year after year. Our Commissioner of Parks Rose Harvey came in and did a presentation to the state agencies when we were doing the budget and she said, let me show you some pictures of what happened to our State Parks system. And our State Park system is a national jewel by the way. And she went through pictures of what was and what is and how it is degraded, and she was right. We asked for the largest investment in State Parks in the state's history, close to $1 billion in park recreation and Sunken Meadows is an example of that. $14 million - pavilion redone, bathrooms redone, gold course upgraded. So we can turn it over to the next generation better than we found it. And she has done a fantastic job, Sunken Meadows is just an example of that. Rose Harvey, let's give her a round of applause.
You know, we're so lucky to be New Yorkers. New York State has such a great history, when you look at what state was the innovative state, what state was the pioneering state, what state was the adventurous state - it was always the state of New York. Partially because our history was we experienced the problems first, right? We were the stepping off point so we encountered the situation before most other states. But it was also our spirit. And our spirit was a very positive, can-do spirit. All the big movements started in New York. Women's rights movement, starts in New York in Seneca Falls. Civil rights movement, starts in New York. The workers' rights movement and workers' safety starts in New York after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The environmental movement starts in New York, on the Hudson River when there was a plan to build a power plant, Storm King power plant. And people didn't want to see the Hudson Valley degraded, and that literally started the environmental movement. So we have always been ahead in terms of seeing the problem and getting there first. And we also always had a positive, can-do spirit. We're going to do it. We're not going to talk about it. We're going to actually do it. We're going to make things happen. And we did the impossible. Everything we built was the first and the biggest and the best. And everything we built was impossible by all the experts, right? Longest bridges, longest tunnels, longest subway system in Manhattan - you can't do it and somehow we did it. Somewhere along the way we lost that mojo for doing, especially on Long Island. We got to a point where nimby and pessimism ruled the day rather than optimism and growth. That doesn't work. You either have to grow and improve or you're going backwards. It's almost that simple. And for those of us in public service, I believe when you die and you go to the pearly gates. Our good Lord doesn't say, what did you talk about doing. What press releases did you issue about things you wanted to do? What proposals did you make to the legislature that never happened? Our good Lord says, show me the list of what you actually accomplished. What did you actually get done. And that's what matters. And we have to get that spirit back, we have to get that spirit of actually accomplishing. Well, there's opposition. There's opposition to everything. Raising the flag - there's opposition. I mean, there is no perfect anymore. Especially in this political world and this litigious environment, but we were always about vision first.
We're now doing the Long Island Rail Road. 1843, they built the Long Island Rail Road. Now think about this mindset, it's 120 miles from Manhattan to Montauk Point. They built the Long Island Rail Road, not to get to Montauk Point, but only to access a ferry at Montauk that could take you to Boston because they thought they would expedite the commute to Boston. So to expedite the commute to Boston, which first of all, who is commuting to Boston, I don't know. And what was the difference really to expedite the commute to Boston. But to expedite the commute, they built a rail road from New York City to Montauk Point - 1834. That's the kind of can-do spirit. Now by the way, the ferry goes bust because nobody is going to take the train all the way out to Montauk to take the ferry to go to Boston. But, they built the Long Island Rail Road, and then what it wound up doing was accessing Long Island. And people started to go, and development grew, etcetera and the highway system, parkway system, and we went from there. But that's who we were. That kind of spirit, that kind of energy. And then George Washington Bridge, Verrazano Bridge, Holland Tunnel, you couldn't build because there was no tunnel that long that you could actually aerate. Where you could get the fumes out and oxygen in. We said, baloney, we could do it. That spirit is what we're rekindling.
The Long Island Rail Road is a perfect example of that. They have been talking about building that second track and third track since I was four years old. And you hear on the news report in the morning, there's a delay on the Long Island Rail Road because the track has a problem. They mean literally, the track, because there is one track. A squirrel dies on the track, Long Island is backed up for three hours because there's one track. But why don't we have two tracks? Oh, that's an idea. How about we have three tracks? Oh, that's an idea. But, then we would have to do this, and this, and this, and now we're actually doing it and we're doing it in real time.
One of the reasons in love working with Steve and Laura, they are going to have a long list when they get to the pearly gates of what they've done and when I talk to them about taking on an ambitious project, a lot of politicians say to me, well, you can hear the fear in their voice. Well, we'll have to see, I don't know, there's going to be opposition. Laura and Steve are always the exact opposite. How do we get it done? How do we do it? It's going to be tough, but we can do it. And we are doing great things together on Long Island. Let's give them another round of applause.
And let me tell you about what we're going to be doing this summer together. The County Executives, myself, and many of you I hope. As I was saying, New York has a long and proud history when it comes to many progressive firsts, but certainly when it comes to the environment. We were a national leader from day one. Nation's first state park, created, State of New York, Niagara Falls, 1885. The Adirondack Park, which is a national, if not international jewel, it is just phenomenal, 1892. Teddy Roosevelt really expanded it and brought notoriety to it, but it is magnificent. If it was a national park, it would be one of the largest in the United States of America and it is magnificent. In terms of government regulation on the environment, we started an EPA, Department of Environmental Conservation, before the federal government even started a Department of Environmental Conservation.
So today, part of our legacy is to continue that progressive movement and that progressive vision. When it comes to the environment, there is no state in the United States that has been more aggressive than New York. No state in the United States. California talks about it a lot and they've done a lot of good things, but we have actually been more aggressive in environmental protection measures. $300 million for what we call the Environmental Protection Fund, which is the largest investment in history. A $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act. Clean water is going to be the issue over the next 20, 30 years. The more we look at and study our ground water, the more problems we find. The more chemicals you look for, the more chemicals you find. And we're paying the price of decades that just dumped sewage and dumped remains thinking that, well once you pour it into the ground, it's gone. It's never gone. You pour it into the ground, it's in the ground water table, it sits, and then it mixes with all the other chemicals and now you have a cocktail that no one has ever seen before. Especially on places like Long Island where you have a porous surface and ground water table that's moving. But that's one of the largest investments.
We also have to clean up our bays and our rivers. We started a first-ever $200 million shellfish projects which restores clams and oysters to the natural waters. Joe Saladino, Jay Schneiderman, many of the local governments have been very helpful and active in doing this. This is us planting clams, seeding as they call it. That's Steve Bellone, who you see, we were supposed to be tossing clams off the back of the boat. For some reason, Steve's eye-hand coordination put more clams inside the boat than outside the boat. But next time he's going to practice first and I'm sure we're going to be able to get those clams on the other side of the boat. This is Steve smiling, it goes back to his introduction. We gave him $380 million to connect 10,000 homes to sanitary sewer systems, which was his visionary project. And it is a visionary project because for Suffolk, if you want to take care of the water problem, you're going to have to take care of the sewer issue. It's not glamorous and it was deferred for many, many years, and it is expensive, but he is exactly right. I'm glad to partner with him and I'm glad that we can make him smile when he gets his resources. We have a ten year first ever ocean action plan which is a long-term clean up and resilience plan. We have the most aggressive off-shore wind program ever. 2.4 gigawatts by 2030 which we are very excited about.
We are in active opposition to a federal proposal that would allow offshore drilling. This is one of the more scary ideas that I've heard recently and we've heard a lot of frightening ideas. I spoke to Secretary Zinke about it. They believe there are possible oil reserves off Long Island so they're talking about literally doing offshore drilling permitting it right off Long Island. They've looked at the entire east coast but off Long Island with called the New York bite coming into the New York City harbor they're looking at a potential site. I expressed to the Secretary in the strongest terms that we are opposed to it and that we would litigate the issue if it came to that. What I didn't say what I didn't say to the Secretary is that if they insist on moving forward, we are going to do what Churchill did at Dunkirk where we are going to order a fleet of private vessels to go out and attack the rigs.
But we need to bring that same kind of aggressiveness to conserving and protecting the overall natural resources. Today we are doing we are announcing a new initiative. It is not a plan, it is not a something we hope to get done, we're going to do it. We're going to do it this summer. It goes on the list. It does two things: it protects the environment, it grows the economy, and it preserves and builds one of the assets as Steve was saying that made Long Island Long Island. The marine economy is a major driver, approximately 10 percent of the GDP for fishing and fishing related sail services industry. It's a great sporting opportunity. I actually think the 10 percent is low and it doesn't take into consideration the number of people who are just on Long Island and love using the marine resources and fishing etc.
Artificial reefs have been used all across the world all across this country to actually provide a better marine habitat and improve a degraded habitat. It started in mid-17th century with Japan who started using shipwrecks etc. to create fish habitat. South Carolina was very aggressive first in the 1830s. In the 1950s some coastal states be it started using surplus military equipment to do it. New York the first artificial reef was 1989 on the McAllister grounds south of Long Beach. The federal government understood that we're destroying habitat, we should be rebuilding habitat and artificial reefs are a way to do that.
The state started a program in 1993 but it's never been fully developed and never really proceeded. Artificial reefs are about environmental sustainability, it's economic development, it's environmental protection at the same time. It is also an alternative to recycling if you use the right materials so it's a win-win-win and it fosters marine growth. It fosters recreation, diving, fishing, etc. Everybody agrees there's tremendous potential for artificial reefs we just have to make it happen which is where I started. Get it done, get it done, get it done. Now obviously to build a reef takes 450 approvals from everyone and their cousin. We have obtained all of those approvals so we are ready to go forward and we are going to undertake the largest development of artificial reefs in the state history.
We are focusing we are focusing on 12 artificial reef sites. This year we are going to do six of the reef sites. We are going to create the reefs sites out of selvedge vessels that will be scuttled. Some ships as large as 100 feet will be scuttled. Scuttled for those of you who haven't heard the term I heard it yesterday it means it's the process of sinking it but making sure it's safe and all the materials are gone. We could have just said we're going to sink but DEC has its own language and they insisted on scuttled so we'll say scuttled. Before we scuttle a vessel, the DEC and the US Coastguard most approve it and clear it. Make sure there are no chemicals etc.
We also have a little structure ourselves that we have to think what we'll do with. It's called the Tappan Zee Bridge. It's coming down, as you know and it's a large structure so it begs the philosophical question, what does a bridge do in life after it is finished its life as a bridge? What is the afterlife? Is there a bridge heaven? Well, there is a bridge heaven. Bridge heaven is you spend all your life above the water serving people and then you go to bridge heaven is you go below the water. So we have a proven fact that there is an afterlife at least for bridges and we're going to take material from the Tappan Zee bridge which again has been cleaned and approved and has no toxic chemicals, etc. and we're going to use the old Tappan Zee bridge for new reef construction. All harmful materials will be approved and removed and that will all be approved. The reefs are different sizes and different shapes and different configurations designed for their specific location.
So, Smithtown, for example, is a mile and a half off the shore. It's a small reef. It's 3 acres. It's in 38-40 feet of water. And we'll have 3 vessels and pieces of the Tappan Zee bridge. Shinnecock Reef, which is 2 miles from the shore, 35 acres, 79 feet of water. That's obviously larger, more vessels, more pipes, more of the bridge. Moriches, 2.4 miles, 14 acres, 2 barges, Tappan Zee material, etc. Fire Island is one of the larges reef sites. 744 acres. It's 2 miles out. 10 barges of Tappan Zee material. 11 vessels. So that is going to be one of the larger reef sites itself. Hempstead reef also very large in 50 feet of water. Rockaway reef, 400 acres. There is an art to designing a reef. There is an art to everything, but especially to DEC. There is a patch reef design that uses material but leaves sandy soil between the material so it's not just one cluster of equipment. It creates a patchwork design certain species need the space in between and that's the reef design patter which will be used for all of these reefs. If will be custom designed for the specific area when the materials are actually placed. In total we're going to have 30 vessels about 40-thousand cubic yards of the Tappan Zee bridge, steel pipe, jetty rock, etc. The combination of materials apparently creates the best reef environment, attracting different species. Next month we will start with 33 barges of material, the 30 vessels. As quickly as you start to form the reef as quick as the results start to bear fruit. Right away they start to colonize and create a habitat. It will then start to attract fish. The fish start to get larger. Animals, sponges and mussels, then lobster, crabs, crustaceans, then larger marine species, dolphins, sharks, blue fish, etc. Then the habitat development capacity is really extraordinary, especially with our shoreline in many of these areas which is just barren. It is just a sandy, barren bottom. And there is no natural habitat. So this will actually create it. They will also attract black sea bass, cod, summer flounder, striped bass, which are a big spot fishing attraction. You see here several anglers. The one on the top left looks familiar. I can tell by his hat he's a state official. That's a small fish that I caught - you didn't have to say "yeah." It's not that small a fish. It's not the largest fish, but it wasn't me. I was on my brother's boat and you know what they say, "small boats, small fish," and that's what happened. But it will enhance that entire recreational capacity.
And as I said, we're going to do it and we're going to do it quickly. We start in May, actually at the Shinnecock. June, July, August and be completed by the end of August. It will do half of the 12 reefs, six reefs. New York's always led the way. We will lead the way once again and the proverb to me always, "we did not inherit the earth from our parents. We are borrowing it from our children." And that says it all. When you think this is something we are leaving for our children, then every cell in your body says we have to leave it better than we found it. We are stewards for a brief period of time on this earth then we hand it off to the next generation. And our responsibility is to hand if off better and we will. Thank you for having me.