Posted on December 14, 2020
After thousands of New Yorkers signed a petition urging Gov. Cuomo to sign a bill aimed at keeping the waters of Jamaica Bay free of contamination, he vetoed it at the end of November — the second time he’s pulled the plug on the proposal.
The bill, introduced to the Legislature by state Sen. Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park), has two parts. One section would end the sunset clause of a 2014 law that Addabbo sponsored preventing toxic materials from being placed in Jamaica Bay to fill pits dredged for construction. The bay has several areas that are deep enough to use as borrow pits or areas where material is either dug up for use at another site or used as a place to store excess material.
The other part would make it so that any dredged material that does enter the body of water meets the federal standard for toxic levels of contamination.
The bill passed both the Senate and Assembly in 2019 as well as this year. Addabbo previously told the Chronicle that the governor vetoed the bill in 2019 because the state Department of Environmental Conservation objected to the change in the toxicity standard. He said this year the pandemic had stopped the environmental agency from doing the work of assessing the consequences of the change in standard.
“Even though the Governor vetoed this bill again, I intend on re-introducing it next year and then continuing to negotiate with the state agencies,” Addabbo said in a prepared statement. “After seeing the incredible improvement of the water quality of Jamaica Bay — with advocates saying the bay is the healthiest it has been in decades — and with the reemergence of marine wildlife to the area, Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato and I believe that the sunset clause on this bill should be removed and it should be made permanent. With such a positive impact on Jamaica Bay, we also want to make the waters even cleaner by further improving the quality of dredging materials.”
“I’m looking forward to the restart of the legislative session so we can reintroduce this bill, and work with Senator Addabbo and the Governor’s office to finally get this through the finish line,” said Pheffer Amato, the Assembly sponsor of the bill.
Dan Mundy Jr., president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, has said that the federal contamination standard eliminates certain levels of metals or toxic chemicals that could enter the ecosystem through the bottom of the food chain. He worried that the state standard does not go far enough.
“Governor Cuomo needs to reverse his ill-advised position on this bill and lead the way to protect our only urban national park,” said Mundy.