Federal Grant Will Help Gateway National Recreation Area Continue Recovery From Superstorm Sandy

More than a year has passed since Superstorm Sandy roared up the East Coast, battering just about everything in its path. The damage was particularly extrensive at Gateway National Recreation Area in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, where wastewater treatment systems were destroyed, phone service was knocked out, and historic buildings were ravaged. With hopes of avoiding similar storm damage in the years ahead, the NRA has received $11.1 million in grants for projects designed to make the coastal areas more resilient to storms.

Of the Eastern Seaboard parks hit by Hurricane Sandy, Gateway sustained the greatest amount of damage from a dollar standpoint. The supplemental appropriations bill passed by Congress in January 2013 carried $180 million for the NRA.

"Yes, there's a lot of road damage, there's a lot of dock damage, there's bike path damage, there's roof damage," then-Superintendent Linda Canzanelli told the Traveler in March 2013. "Just Sandy Hook alone, the early, short easy estimate was there was 20,000 dumptrucks worth of sand that has to be moved. So, you put all of those cumulative together with Jamaica Bay and Staten Island and Sandy Hook, the 20,000 acres of Gateway, and it rolls up to that number."

On Monday the park was among a number of entities that split $102.7 million in federal grants to help pay for work that will make coastal areas more resilient to future storms. Gateway NRA received $11.1 million of the total for work at its Jamaica Bay Unit. Shore Road at Fort Tilden in that unit was destroyed by Sandy.

The National Parks Conservation Association, which lobbied for projects that could restore ecosystems that provide a measure of protection for coastal areas, said the $11.1 million "will greatly benefit Jamaica Bay, which is one of New York City’s largest and most important open spaces, consisting of salt marshes, beaches, residential and commercial areas, and includes the National Parks Service’s Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. As a major stop on the Atlantic Flyway, Jamaica Bay’s restoration and resilience is critical for helping to protect the surrounding urban communities of Brooklyn and Queens from future storms, provides recreational and outdoor opportunities for millions of urban residents, and will improve the overall environmental health of the region."

“What is most exciting about these grants, many of which are matched by funds from our local partners, is the role that they will play in the overall ecological restoration of Jamaica Bay,” said Cortney Worrall, Northeast senior regional director of the NPCA. “These grants will provide badly needed funds to improve the salt marshes, maritime forests, and oyster beds in Jamaica Bay that were impaired and damaged by the compounded impacts of excessive nutrient loadings, dredging, and the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy. The migratory birds, fish, shell fish, and countless other species that depend on a healthy Jamaica Bay will have a chance to thrive while we provide greater protection from future storms for local communities.”

According to NPCA, the salt marshes and wetlands of Jamaica Bay at Gateway "are one of the first lines of defense for local communities. Salt marshes and wetlands buffer against flooding, erosion, and storm surges while also serving as the nurseries for countless fish and shell fish species and the feeding and spawning grounds of birds, waterfowl, and shorebirds. Unfortunately, studies conducted over the last 15 years show more than a 60 percent loss in salt marshes at Jamaica Bay since the 1950s."

The four projects that will be funded in Jamaica Bay include salt marsh restoration in Spring Creek, wetlands and maritime forest restoration in Sunset Cove, green infrastructure-based storm water improvements in Brighton Beach, and oyster bed enhancements to existing oyster bed restoration projects. Together these projects are poised to improve the overall health of Jamaica Bay’s salt marshes, wetlands, and ecology as well as help to ensure that Jamaica Bay plays a role in protecting the surrounding areas from future storm threats, NPCA said in a release.