Jamaica Bay Wasted?


Last weekend, Martin and I paddled our kayaks into Jamaica Bay, checking out the avid birdlife, exploring the piers, dodging the fishing lines, thinking the fishermen can’t really be eating their catch, wondering why the waterline has a black discoloration, and  imagining the passengers watching us from the windows of still low flying planes taking off  from JFK (an airport, home to bird-murdering planes and plane-destroying birds, situated on a wildlife refuge protecting birds is lost on most people).  The flattish shoreline changed to a grassy elevation that was beautiful but somehow seemed odd so we pulled the boats up to a large stack extending vertically from the shore, enclosed by a barbwire fence and warning of flammable conditions. Ah!  We’re standing on a landfill!    This natural/manmade environment often creates a weird, out of place, feeling.  We collected as much litter from the beach as we could stuff into the laundry baskets, large plastic containers, and plaster buckets washed up from I can’t imagine where, planted a discarded red West Indian flag left behind from some celebration and rode the outgoing tides back to Paedergast Basin.
Jamaica Bay is a saline to brackish, nutrient-rich estuary covering about 25,000 acres with a mean depth of 13 feet.  Located on the southern tip of Long Island, the majority of the land is publicly owned by our federal government and New York City.  Gateway National Recreation Area which covers 9,155-acres includes Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Breezy Point. Floyd Bennett Field, Marine Park, Edgemere Park, Jacob Riis Park, Fort Tilden and numerous other fun and historic places to visit. Portions of the wetlands and uplands are part of John F. Kennedy International Airport.  Small areas in the upland buffer around the bay and on the Rockaway Peninsula remain in private residential or commercial ownership.
Jamaica Bay is protected shoreline by the federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act.    The Nature Conservancy recognizes Breezy Point and Fountain Avenue Landfill as Priority Sites for Biodiversity.  The New York State Department of State and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation designated Jamaica Bay as Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats. The New York City Department of City Planning recognizes it as one of three special natural waterfront areas needing important attention to restore habitats and improve water quality.screen-shot-2014-09-13-at-2-13-15-pm

As part of the New York metropolitan area, Jamaica Bay, the uplands around the bay, and the Rockaway barrier beach, are dominated by urban residential, commercial, and industrial development. 12,000 of the original 16,000 acres of wetlands in the bay have been substantially altered by dredging, land fill, and development.  Virtually the entire watershed of Jamaica Bay is urban, developed land receiving pollution from a variety of sources such as municipal waste water treatment plants, sewer overflows, untreated storm water runoff from the roads and developed areas around the bay (including the de-icing chemicals from the runways at JFK), leachates from Edgemere, Fountain Avenue, and Pennsylvania Avenue Landfills now closed (a combined 400 acres), atmospheric pollution and toxic chemicals from vehicles, airplanes and boats, windblown and discarded trash, and the potential spills from increasing water transport of oil and chemical products. All of these present and historic inputs of toxins contaminate sediment in parts of the bay which have lethal and sublethal effects on benthic organisms and bioaccumulate up the food chain.

Interaction of nutrients and other gases
between the benthos and other organisms in the water column


The salt marshes of Jamaica Bay are prime habitat for migratory birds and wildlife.   The area once enjoyed a worldwide reputation for oysters and a vigorous fishing industry.  A majority of the waters and marshes have been protected since 1972 as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.  The marshlands are diminishing at the rate of approximately 40 acres per year, most likely from rising sea levels, more vigorous storms and tons of nitrogen discharged into the bay every day. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection  under Mayor Bloomberg installed enhanced treatment measures and some progress is being made. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/jamaica_bay/JBWPP_Update_100108_FINAL.pdf

Jamaica Bay is also located adjacent to the confluence of the New York Bight and New York Bay.  This is the turning point of the primarily east-west oriented coastline of southern New England and Long Island and the north-south oriented coastline of the mid-Atlantic. This unique geographic location concentrates marine and estuarine species migrating between the New York Bight and the Hudson and Raritan River estuaries.  Over 330 species of special emphasis and listed species are found here seasonally or year round, incorporating 48 species of fish and 120 species of birds.  The center of the bay is dominated by calm to extreme subtidal open water with numerous low-lying islands, salt marshes, intertidal flats, and uplands, all important for nesting waterbirds. http://cleanocean.wordpress.com/cleanoceanzone/

1. Hudson River, 2. East River, 3. Long Island Sound, 4. Newark Bay, 5. Upper New York Bay, 6. Lower New York Bay, 7. Jamaica Bay, 8. Atlantic Ocean

How You Can Help:

Until next week!

Garbage Girl


2 thoughts on “Jamaica Bay Wasted?

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