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DEC uses Newtown funds for Dutch Kills waterfront

The state DEC named the rehabilitation of the industrial area around the Dutch Kills Basin as a primary priority, and $2 million in city settlement money could be used to acquire the land from private owners. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

Long Island City officials praised the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision in October to set aside $2 million of settlement money so it can be used to acquire land from private owners near the Dutch Kills waterway for improvements and a park.

“We see it as an opportunity to open up the waterfront,” said Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley.

Improvements near the Dutch Kills waterway around 47th Avenue between 27th and 29th streets placed third on a list of projects to be funded by $7 million of a larger $10 million agreement the city made to fund environmental projects in lieu of paying for deadlines missed in upgrading the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Projects were chosen on the basis of their distance to the plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the cost and feasibility as well as community input.

In a vote conducted by the nonprofit City Parks Foundation, which is overseeing distribution of the funds, improving the Dutch Kills waterway ranked first among residents of Queens and Brooklyn. On the list approved by the DEC last month, it is ranked third after creating a Greenpoint Boat House and Environmental Education Center for $3 million and rehabilitating wetlands along Newtown Creek on the Brooklyn and Queens sides for $500,000.

The projects will be developed in the order of their priorities and the foundation must find a revised cost estimate for each of the projects and verify their feasibility within the next five years.

A letter from the DEC said final commitments to purchase the land near the waterway and develop conceptual designs must be done within 60 days after Oct. 25.

Conley said any improvements that can be done on the project would be welcome. He said the project is important for access to the water and its potential for recreational activities in the community.

“It was always viewed as an opportunity to use it for something better,” he said.

State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) praised the DEC move in a statement, but said she wished the state agency had given a higher ranking to funds meant to help turn the former site of St. Saviour’s Church in Maspeth into a park.

These funds were placed on the DEC’s list of secondary priorities.

“I will be working with other elected officials to advocate again for St. Saviour’s. The destruction of the church and yard has been a tragedy that needs to be addressed,” Nolan said.

Conley said Dutch Kills was more appropriate as the St. Saviour’s site is more inland.

“We’re talking about opportunities around the affected area,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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