Good for Business, but Bad for Birds and Horseshoe Crabs? – The New York Times

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Some Coney Island residents are concerned that new ferry service would harm wildlife in Coney Island Creek Park.
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It’s Monday. We’ll look at ferry service planned for Coney Island that critics say would disrupt the food chain for birds and wildlife. They also fear it could release toxic pollutants. We’ll also look at a new statue of Frank Sinatra, dedicated on his 106th birthday.
New ferry service planned for Coney Island would cut the commuting time for people who work there, like employees at the J-R Market near where a pier for the ferries is to be built. Wilton Cartagena, the owner of the store, said most of his employees live in the Bronx and now spend four hours going to and from work.
It would save them time. He said it would also bring customers to a neighborhood that has been “very neglected for a long time.”
But what is good for business may come at the expense of wildlife. And some residents are angry about the ferry project after hearing that scientists for the city’s parks department said that city officials had pushed ahead with a plan to build the ferry landing despite concerns that the wildlife’s food chain would be disrupted and toxic pollutants might be released.
Coney Island Creek is popular with fishermen and even religious groups that perform baptisms there. It’s also a destination for bird-watchers and birds they want to watch, like the white-winged dove and the thick-billed murre that fly all the way from Arctic. The birds look forward to delicious meals there: The creek is filled with horseshoe crabs, a major food source.
My colleague Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura writes that the scientists have questioned whether there was pressure to meet Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal of connecting the five boroughs by water. Time is running short for de Blasio: His term in City Hall ends on Dec. 31.
The scientists question if the rush was tied to redevelopment efforts on Coney Island — particularly luxury condominiums being built there by the billionaire John Catsimatidis. He has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the city over the past three years to build a ferry stop on Coney Island.
Catsimatidis, in an interview, said that sales of condo units hinged on an operational ferry service. He has already constructed two buildings and promoted them with advertisements that declared: “Ferry to Manhattan Coming Soon!”
“As far as we’re concerned, we built two beautiful buildings, and we spent $400 million,” he said. “You know, that’s a lot of money.” He dismissed the environmental concerns with an expletive.
The scientists say that construction of the ferry pier would probably disrupt the crabs, who like quiet water. There are also fears that dredging during construction — and the waves in the wake of high-speed ferries — would release carcinogens like mercury, lead and dioxin that are trapped in the creek bed. Coney Island Creek Park is across the water from another park that is a former industrial dump.
Concerns about the environmental impact arose almost as soon as the city issued a feasibility study in 2018, offering two locations for the pier: one to the east and the other to the west of the narrow waterway that connects the creek with Gravesend Bay. The Economic Development Corporation, a semi-independent city agency in charge of the ferry project, ultimately settled on the location to the west, saying it had more water depth and was less exposed to adverse weather.
Several scientists from the parks department told The New York Times they had given their superiors extensive data showing the negative effects of ferry service from Coney Island Creek.
The scientists said their comments were not reflected in an environmental-impact statement sent to regulators to help determine whether to issue a permit. They said the document concluded instead that there would be no significant environmental impact.
Anessa Hodgson, a parks department spokeswoman, said that the environmental impact statement went through several rounds of review and that comments from the public were also taken into account. The department came to the “ultimate concurrence with the conclusions” outlined in the environmental-impact statement from the economic development agency, she said.
The Economic Development Corporation said in an email that it took environmental concerns seriously and that construction would not have proceeded without full approval by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Still, local residents who oppose the ferry project questioned the process, saying that if the parks department had heeded its own scientists, regulators might have taken more time to assess the situation. That could have meant delaying the start of the ferry service to a later date, probably not until after de Blasio leaves office.
Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus, whose district includes Coney Island and who has been leading the opposition to the Coney Island Creek location, said she wanted ferry service, but not at any cost.
“We would be thrilled and do back flips if we have a ferry in Coney Island,” she said. But she added, “Our health is so important that it’s much more important to have it done the right way than any old way.”
Weather
It’s a sunny day, New York, with temps in the mid-50s. The evening is mostly clear with temps dropping to the low 40s.
alternate-side parking
In effect until Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve).
Eric Adams canceled a series of fund-raisers scheduled for this month, including one that was to be hosted by a divisive public relations executive.
A Brooklyn court plans to arraign the son of a former Panamanian president on money-laundering charges.
Start spreading the news: There is now a Frank Sinatra statue in Sinatra Park, which is on Sinatra Drive, not far from the Frank Sinatra Post Office Building. Or a restaurant called Leo’s, where the walls are covered with photographs of guess who.
All those places are in Hoboken, N.J., the mile-square city across the Hudson River from Manhattan where Sinatra was born 106 years ago yesterday. The statue was dedicated by Mayor Ravi Bhalla at a ceremony with Sinatra’s daughter Tina Sinatra and the comedian Joe Piscopo, who impersonated Sinatra on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s. (Piscopo has said that when he met Sinatra, Sinatra “said to the people around us, ‘He’s pretty good, that little expletive.’”)
The sculptor, Carolyn Palmer, said before the ceremony that her career arc had taken her from “the saints to the sinners — but who is really perfect?” Palmer said she was commissioned after officials in Hoboken saw a magazine that showed her busts of four popes in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The city raised $100,000 in donations for the statue; no municipal funds were spent on it.
Sinatra couldn’t wait to wake up in the city that doesn’t sleep. But the bronze eyes in the statue of Ol’ Blue Eyes face away from the place where small-town blues melt away.
“We felt it would be better if he had the backdrop,” Palmer said. “You can see the Empire State Building. If you’re taking photos till about noon, he’s going to look like a silhouette. In the afternoon sun, the photographs will look lovely.”
She wanted to capture Sinatra’s streetwise charm and the confidence that bordered on arrogance. “I portrayed him around the age of 50,” she said. “I wanted that joyous happiness without too many hardships. I had to decide, did I want Frank drinking with a cigarette, in his depressed years, or did I want a Frank who would lift up everyone?” The statue shows him leaning against a lamp post that looks like the one on the cover of the 1954 album “Songs for Young Lovers.” But the pose is jauntier.
Here’s an illustrated look behind the intricacies of the sidewalk Christmas tree.
On Saturday, the pioneering Manhattan art gallery Metro Pictures closed after 41 years.
Can parties help us heal? Inside a night of release at a bar and club in Queens.
METROPOLITAN diary
In tribute to a New York City institution, this week’s Metropolitan Diaries offers readers' tales of encounters with Stephen Sondheim.
Dear Diary:
Many years ago, my husband and I decided on the spur of the moment to see a Broadway show. We phoned and reserved tickets.
When we arrived at the box office, my husband got on the line, and I stepped to the side and stood next to a young man.
The person in front of my husband was Stephen Sondheim.
The woman at the box office asked Mr. Sondheim for his first name.
“I hope she doesn’t ask him to spell it,” I said quietly.
The young man next to me laughed.
— Marcia Altman
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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