NEW YORK CITY, N.Y.— Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced an agreement formally establishing a partnership between the National Park Service and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to coordinate park management and connect urban communities, and especially young people, with the natural beauty and history of the region. The announcement took place during a signing ceremony this afternoon at Jamaica Bay with officials from the National Park Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“One of the primary goals of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative is to work with local communities to reconnect people with nature and outdoor recreation,” said Salazar. “By coordinating more closely with the City of New York, we will create a seamless network of urban parks that are easily accessible to people who live in nearby communities and the millions of visitors this great city welcomes every year.”
“The agreements with our Federal, State and philanthropic partners will have with far-reaching benefits for what may be the greatest natural treasure lying within the borders of any city in the nation – Jamaica Bay,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The partnership with the Interior Department will allow us to be bolder, more innovative, and more cooperative, by managing these extraordinary public lands around the bay as one great urban park.”
“This is an important step towards a more efficient organization where we can blend our passion, our talents and our resources to make our parks more welcoming to visitors and wildlife alike,” said Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Linda Canzanelli.
Under the agreement, the Park Service and the city will collaborate in four areas: effective management of park lands; science and restoration of Jamaica Bay; access and transportation to park lands around Jamaica Bay; and engagement of New York City youth with hands-on science programs and fun public service projects to promote recreation, stewardship and “green” careers.
As part of the effort to restore Jamaica Bay and improve water quality in the wildlife refuge, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also announced that Jamaica Bay is now a “no discharge zone,” which means that boats are completely banned from discharging sewage into the water. This action is part of a joint EPA and New York State strategy to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into the state's waterways. Discharges of sewage from boats can contain harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine, which have a negative impact on water quality, pose a risk to people's health and impair marine life. Today's designation will eliminate this source of pollution.
“If you don't have clean air, land and water, you can't enjoy the great outdoors and banning boat sewage from Jamaica Bay stops one source of pollution that is both harmful and completely unnecessary,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This action will improve water quality in this magnificent bay that is right in the backyards of millions of New Yorkers."
The benefits of the agreement signed today include:
Effective management through collaboration: The National Park Service and New York City Parks manage contiguous lands with overlapping missions. Through effective land use and program planning that ignores boundaries, they can create a seamless and interconnected network of natural, historical, and recreation spaces urban park that all New Yorkers can visit, with or without a car.
Science and restoration: Through better coordination of research, data gathering restoration efforts and pilot projects, government agencies, non-profit organizations and academic institutions can work closer together to restore and conserve the health of Jamaica Bay.
Access and transportation: The city and the Park Service will work to improve public access to Jamaica Bay and within Jamaica Bay through existing and new transportation choices, and through better public information about those options.
Youth and education: The city and the National Park Service can jointly develop a series of programs in which urban youth can learn the values of stewardship through service activities.
The agreement may also be expanded in the future to include federal and city park lands on Staten Island.