Funds Secured to Protect Staten Isl. Shore (NY)

Staten Island, NY, March 18, 2003 — Congressman Vito Fossella (R-NY13) today announced that he has secured nearly $2 million in federal funding to help purchase and protect environmentally-sensitive open space on Staten Island’s waterfront.

The funding will be used to safeguard an as-yet-to-be-determined parcel or parcels of coastal habitat most likely on the northwestern shore of Staten Island. The land will be included as part of the Harbor Herons complex, which includes the network of coastal islands within New York City, including Northwestern Staten Island, and the spectacular variety of birds—especially herons, egrets and ibis—that live there.

Fossella said, “This $2 million will be used to protect and preserve acres of open space on Staten Island. It will prevent the development of some of Staten Island’s most precious natural resources. This funding, along with ongoing rezoning initiatives, will further protect our community from overdevelopment by preserving acres of waterfront property. I would like to thank the many groups involved in the Harbor Herons initiative for their commitment to the project and our shared goal of protecting open space in our community.”

Fossella secured $1.947 million through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. The funding was included in the omnibus spending bill that President Bush signed into law last month.

The funding will be matched by an equal amount of non-federal funds in the form of cash, other land acquisitions, restoration, etc., bringing the total financial commitment to Staten Island’s waterfront to at least $3.87 million.

The Harbor Herons complex currently consists of Goethals Bridge Pond, adjoining wetlands such as Old Place Creek, Graniteville Swamp, Sawmill Creek March, and nearby nesting islands, including Isle of Meadows, Pralls Island and Shooters Island. The land is owned and managed by a combination of the New York State through the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York City Parks Department and private organizations like the Trust for Public Land.

Clark Wallace, project manager for the Trust for Public Land, said, “The Trust for Public Land is very grateful to Congressman Fossella and the entire NY Congressional delegation for securing these funds. With help like this from our representatives in Washington, and the continuing partnership of the State and City of New York and Staten Island civic and environmental organizations, we hope to be able to continue our work to protect critical habitats in the Harbor Herons area.

DEC Commissioner Erin M. Crotty said, “Preserving open space has been one of Governor Pataki’s top priorities, and is essential in providing our citizens with a clean, healthy environment. Protecting critical lands enables us to increase recreational opportunities, maintain historic resources, strengthen local economies, and preserve valuable ecosystems. This announcement is a wonderful gift to the community and I applaud Congressman Fossella’s efforts to protect these environmentally-sensitive lands.”

New York City Parks Department Borough Commissioner Tom Paulo said, “I want to offer my gratitude to Congressman Fossella on behalf of the Harbor Herons project.”

The Harbor Herons complex is considered a breeding site for nine species of colonial wading birds and a major nesting and foraging area for herons, egrets and ibis. A 1995 survey documented that this area supported 57% of the state’s Cattle Egrets, 21% of the state’s Great Egrets, 28% of the state’s Snowy Egrets, 57% of the state’s Black-crowned Night Herons, 35% of the state’s Glossy Ibis, as well as smaller numbers of Little Blue Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants, according to the National Audubon Society of New York State.

In the harbor, the Trust for Public Land has made significant strides in protection and research including the protection of 382 New York acres (an investment of $71 million) and the publication of An Islanded Nature: Natural Area Conservation and Restoration in Western Staten Island, Including the Harbor Herons Region (2001) and the Harbor Herons Report (1990).