Thousands of fish killed in Flushing Creek by NYC sewage overflows

Councilmember Peter Koo, Riverkeeper, and Guardians of Flushing Bay are having an emergency press conference in response to the mass fish kill-off in Flushing Creek. It is believed that this environmental destruction is caused by the Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) system used in this area.  You can join in the fight to upgrade this unsafe infrastructure on Friday, August 11, at 2:00PM on the Tidal Gate Bridge in Flushing Meadow Corona Park.  The press conference will demand that the City take meaningful action to reduce CSO in the Creek.

The New York State website describes how a CSO system works.

Combined sewer systems (CSS) are sewer systems that are designed to collect storm water runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe and bring it to the publicly owned treatment works (POTW) facilities.  During rain events, when storm water enters the sewers, the capacity of the sewer system may be exceeded and the excess water will be discharged directly to a waterbody (rivers, streams, estuaries, and coastal waters).  The untreated water may contain untreated sewage that may impact human health.

When the city of Bremerton, Washington, spent more than $50 million that achieved a 99.9% reduction in CSO events and volume, it made this animation explaining how the CSOs work.  Combined sewers are an outdated technology that need to be upgraded so human and industrial waste are correctly treated to avoid raw sewage being dumped into our waterways.  There are many options on how to decrease or eliminate CSO that New York should use to fix problems like this.  New York State is one of the larger CSO contributors in the United States.

About ten percent of the CSOs in the United States are found in NYS.

About 24 hours after the last CSO discharge from a recent rain storm, CUNY Queens College measured almost zero oxygen in Flushing Creek.  It’s unclear how often or severe these die-off events occur since the ‘average’ dissolved oxygen levels collected do not adequately identify these extreme events.  The City’s current plan to chlorinate rather than capture CSO is not a viable long-term solution.

Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek are actively used areas for recreational boating, fishing, and Dragon Boat practices (though the Dragon Boat Festival this weekend will be held at Meadow Lake).  The Eastern Queens Greenway is working to create a family-safe path from Eastern Queens to Flushing Meadows / Corona Park to connect the community to their parkland and waterways.  We need to start developing Flushing Bay into an area that can be enjoyed by the ever-growing population of Flushing.

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Image courtesy of Guardians of Flushing Bay

The Community Praises the Protected Bike Lane on Oceania Street and 210th Street

Oakland Gardens residents and the students of Nathanial Hawthorne Middle School 74Q just got a big safety improvement that our community leaders are excited about. Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik, Congress Member Grace Meng, Assembly Member Nily Rozic, Assembly Member David Weprin, and Community Board 11 Queens Chair Christine L. Haider all spoke yesterday praising the bidirectional, protected bike lane.

One of the biggest group of supporters at the event were members of the Eastern Queens Greenway which created a petition requesting this improvement. We felt that improving this street was important because of the rampant speeding and car crashes. On July 1st, 2015 at 6:07 PM a mother and her two daughters (8 and 10 years old) were killed at this location in the backseat of a car their grandfather was driving. Deborah Burns (the 47 year old, Jackson Heights driver who killed the family) was later indicted for three counts of manslaughter for driving 60 miles per hour in a school zone with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. Narrowing the street with a bike lane to reduce speeding was supported by the DoT and Community Board 11 who voting unanimously to build the bike lane earlier this year.

Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik spoke about supporting the design.

The safety of our children is always a top priority. I thank DOT for its attention to the streets near Middle School 74Q and look forward to a safe school year.

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Photo courtesy of @BarryGrodenchik

Assembly Member Nily Rozic iterated her commitment to street safety in our neighborhood.

My office has continued working closely with MS 74Q, CB 11Q, and our local bike advocates to ensure appropriate measures would be taken to improve safety in the area. While local residents will have to adjust to DOT’s proposed changes, they are a necessary step forward to prioritize everyone’s safety by greatly reducing the number of collisions we have seen in the area.

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Photo courtesy of @nily

Congress Member Grace Meng talked about how protected bike lanes can dramatically increase the safety for neighborhood children.

Nothing is more important than protecting our children, and it’s essential that we do all we can to keep them safe. These critical improvements are a long time coming and they will go a long way towards keeping kids out of harm’s way as well as improving conditions for motorists and pedestrians. As an alumna of Middle School 74Q and a founder and Co-Chair of the Kids’ Safety Caucus – the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child-safety issues – I applaud these traffic enhancements and look forward to the improvements being completed in time for the new school year. Many thanks to Council Member Grodenchik and the Department of Transportation for leading this important effort.

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Photo courtesy of @RepGraceMeng

Assembly Member David Weprin focused on how by reconfiguring street space we can make a safer, more efficient design for everyone.

Improvements to traffic safety are always a welcome announcement here in Queens. The increased space for drop-off and pick-up in front of MS 74Q, one-way conversion of 210th Street, additional bicycle lanes, and all around enhancements to crosswalks and curbs in the area will create safer conditions for the Oakland Gardens community. I commend Council Member Barry Grodenchik for working with the city Department of Transportation to implement these life-saving traffic safety improvements.

Community Board 11 Queens Chair Christine L. Haider spoke about the Community Board’s unanimous support of this protected bike lane.

Community Board 11Q is very concerned for the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. This area, in front of MS 74Q, has had several accidents, including a fatal one. The DOT’s plan will narrow Oceania Street and, hopefully, maintain a safer area for all. CB 11Q voted unanimously at our March 6th public hearing, all 31 members in attendance, for DOT to implement this proposal.

Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White, agreed that this redesign helps increase safety and quality of life for community members.

Transportation Alternatives applauds Council Member Grodenchik and the parents of MS 74Q for advocating for this vital series of street safety improvements on Oceania Street. Oceania’s unnecessary width leads to speeding and other dangerous behaviors, and reclaiming that space for walking and biking with a road diet, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian safety improvements will dramatically reduce injuries and fatalities for all users by slowing down cars and increasing the visibility of people on foot and bike. This project will also improve access to MS 74Q, Cunningham Park, and the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, making it a big win for the quality of life for all Queens residents.

The community at Nathanial Hawthorne Middle School 74Q played a major role in getting this street design improved. PTA President Cathy Grodsky spoke about how important this change is to the students.

We are all so grateful for the Council Member’s steadfast commitment to MS 74Q and to all the schools in our wonderful district. We are hopeful that these new traffic changes will help alleviate long-standing issues and make the streets safer for our students.

CLIMB President Michael Vitti pointed out that designs give community members the option to travel around their neighborhood without their car.

We want to thank Barry Grodenchik, NYC DOT, the Community Board, the City Council, Friends of Cunningham Park, Transportation Alternatives, and everyone else who made this new bike lane possible. 210th Street and Oceania Street was a wide, dangerous speedway but now has been calmed to create safe passage for bicycles, pedestrians, and cars. This type of green infrastructure is what keeps New York City on the forefront of Vision Zero to limit injuries in the community. This is even more important to us because our mountain bike trails and the Motor Parkway Path now have safer access for those who choose to leave their cars at home.

Our own Eastern Queens Greenway advocate Joby Jacob showed how connecting the community to it’s parkland is good for everyone.

Oceania Street and 210th Street connect numerous park facilities, including a school playground, a popular mountain biking trail, a playground for small children, and the forty-mile long Brooklyn Queens Greenway. The Eastern Queens Greenway is dedicated to a vision of family safe connections between our parks. We are very happy to stand with MS 74Q, Council Member Grodenchik, CLIMB, Transportation Alternatives, and others to ensure the safety of the students, parents, faculty, and staff of MS 74Q. We believe this traffic calming as well as the two-way parking-protected bike lane will ensure the safety of many people heading to enjoy the wonderful park facilities in Eastern Queens. We also can’t wait to see more of our neighborhood kids feeling safe enough to ride their bikes to school.

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Photo courtesy of @juaninQNS

We look forward to the implementation of this protected bike lane and for the redesign of Eastern Queens streets to better serve all road users.

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Photo courtesy of @nily

Brutal Crimes Should Have No Place in Our Parks

(This article is published with permission from the Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy where it was originally written.)

For many years the Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy has advocated for park improvements to increase safety.  We have requested better paths and fewer fences so the park is more welcoming and less desolate.  We have asked for better design and maintenance so the park does not have overgrown areas that provide cover for illegal dumping, rape or murder.  Kissena Corridor Park needs to be designed to bring in the community, not crime.

On July 19th, 2017 an attacker sexually assaulted a 32 year old women and, what is believed to be the same attacker, sexually assaulted a 17 year old women the next day on July 20th (according to QNS).  On July 20th, police apprehend a suspect in Kissena Corridor Park based on witness accounts (CBS).  The suspect, who was charged with rape and robbery lives close to the park (New York Post).

In June of 2016, three women were attacked around Kissena Corridor Park within 6 days of each other (AMNY).

In December of 2015 a man was charged with the stabbing death of 28 year old women found in Kissena Corridor Park (NY Daily News).  At 3:00 PM homeless man discover the body and went to a nearby church to call 911 (Queens Gazette).  The body was found only about 300 feet from an entrance, right next to a gated area (NY Daily News).

Although the NYPD reports that crime is decreasing city-wide, our parks may be an exception.  By one study crime has increased 23% in our green space (Times Ledger).

It is time for the City of New York to take responsibility for cleaning up Kissena Corridor Park and give it the resources to support the growing community around it.

If you’d like to make the park more accessible to the community, please sign our petition to build better paths and connecting it to Flushing Meadows Park and Kissena Park.

To help us develop this parkland into something every Queens resident could be proud of, please consider coming to Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy’s next meeting from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM on Thursday, August 17 at:

Flushing Hospital, 5th Floor Auditorium
146-01 45th Avenue
Flushing, NY 11355