Staten Island Wetlands Protected (NYC)

Staten Island, NY, 7/25/2006: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the protection of 15 acres of tidal wetlands in northwest Staten Island. TPL negotiated and facilitated the acquisition of the wetlands from a private owner. The protection effort is the result of a 2002 Consent Decree with the former Mobil Oil Corporation negotiated by the EPA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The tract, located on the west shore of Staten Island at the intersection of the Arthur Kill and Neck Creek near Meredith Avenue, is across the West Shore Expressway from Meredith Woods Park. The City of New York will take over responsibility for its protection. Ultimately, the land will be accessible to the public.

Wetlands serve as a natural filter to harmful chemicals in our waters. They provide storm protection and erosion control, as well as food and habitat to numerous fish and other wildlife. About 80 percent of the harbor’s tidal wetlands and underwater lands have been lost to filling, dredging, and other human activities. The acquisition of this property is a key incremental step in the preservation of the remaining ecologically important sites. The action is consistent with the goal set in 2003 by the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program, a multi-stakeholder program authorized by the Clean Water Act, which aims to acquire or preserve 2,700 acres of habitat by 2009.

“TPL identified this site as a critical acquisition priority in An Islanded Nature, a joint publication of TPL and the NYC Audubon Society,” said Clark Wallace, TPL project manager. “We are very pleased to have helped protect this critical wildlife habitat.” “Preservation of tidal wetlands is a top environmental goal of the Bush Administration,” EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg said. “Acquiring this particular marsh in the New York City Harbor area is a smart investment for the local ecology and the citizens of Staten Island.”

“Today’s acquisition provides significant environmental benefits for the community and demonstrates our steadfast commitment to preserve the delicate balance of our ecosystem,” stated United States Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf.

“Staten Island’s tidal wetlands are referred to as the “Everglades of New York City,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “They serve as feeding ground for 40 percent of the wading birds, such as herons and egrets in the region. This acquisition brings us closer to completely protecting the entire tidal wetland system in the area.”

The $1 million used to purchase the tract of wetland is part of a 2002 Consent Decree between the federal government and the Mobil Oil Corporation (now Exxon/Mobil) involving an extremely significant hazardous waste case. In that case, the United States alleged that the Mobil Oil Corporation illegally stored and disposed of benzene-contaminated wastes at Port Mobil, a major petroleum product storage and distribution terminal in the Arthur Kill section of Staten Island. In addition to requiring that Exxon/Mobil acquire or restore environmentally sensitive lands associated with the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary, the Consent Decree required that Exxon/Mobil admit liability and pay a penalty of $8.2 million. Exxon/Mobil is obligated to spend an additional $2 million on the acquisition or restoration of land associated with the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary for purposes of preservation.

TPL selected the wetland from a list of desirable sites compiled by federal, state, local government and environmental groups. For more than two decades, TPL has worked to protect the New York harbor estuary and in particular the Arthur Kill corridor of northwestern Staten Island. To date, the organization has protected 25 properties comprising 472 acres, working in partnership with the State of New York and the City of New York.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected more than 2.2 million acres of land nationwide, including more than 75,000 acres throughout the state of New York. Since 1978, TPL has helped create, expand, protect, and steward more than 250 parks, gardens, and natural areas in New York City. This work represents an investment of more than $200 million in land purchases and in the design, construction, and stewardship of these important community resources.

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NOTE TO EDITORS: A picture of a portion of the wetlands acquired can be viewed on the EPA Region 2 Web site homepage or contact Rich Cahill to request a digital version of the photo: (212) 637-3666, Cahill.Richard@EPA.Gov.