A Wetlands Strategy

The New York City Wetlands Strategy document is available in a draft for public comment. I hope you’ll give it a look and perhaps even submit your thoughts about it: the comment period ends on Feb. 18th. Comments can be sent to planyc@cityhall.nyc.gov. (A tip of my Panama here to the excellent A Walk in the Park blogger, who covers the waterfront and the rest of city park news.)

The draft document looks pretty good, considering. One can’t imagine a real Republican mayor’s administration producing anything like it. I mean, a recognition of climate change, rising water, and science?

It begins with a recognition that wetlands are vital to the city: “Much of the city’s natural waterfront consists of wetlands, the biologically rich area where water and land meet. Wetlands help improve water quality, control floods, capture stormwater runoff, sequester carbon dioxide, moderate storm surges, provide habitat for local and migratory birds, fish and other wildlife, and create a
unique opportunity for New Yorkers to observe wildlife and to undertake other quiet, contemplative recreation.”

Legally, the city is required to come up with “a strategy to avoid and minimize wetlands losses and achieve no net loss of wetlands in the city; standardize and improve the management of wetlands and associated buffer areas; and balance the needs for wetlands protection with other, competing land uses that are in the public interest.”

That last clause is, of course, a caveat you could drive a truck through. A truck filled with fill, presumably. I’d like to see that notion of “balance” (weighed in the scale of the development/corruption nexus) swept away like a house in a tidal surge. The city’s (and the region’s, for the estuary system encompasses three states) wetlands loss has already been tremendous. “No net loss” is merely the base-line: expansion of wetlands should be the goal.

So something I’d like to see in this document, something that would make it more visionary, is a renewal of Civilian Conservation Corps like entity, putting people to work in the assessment, restoration, and reclamation of wetlands. The city is going to have to invest in sea walls to protect some of its watery edges, and the sooner we start, the better, but natural buffers, which do so much more than just blunt the rising sea, are a necessity as well.

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