Long-Awaited Gateway
General Management Plan Released

Release of the final Gateway General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (GMP/EIS) was announced on May 9, 2014. A 30-day public review period has begun. A summary of NYC Audubon's previous recommendations and the relevant final plan content can be found below.     

[b]Beach-nesting birds like the black skimmer, as well as migrant shorebirds, depend on strong protections for Gateway's wild places. [/b][br]Photo © François PortmannBeach-nesting birds like the black skimmer, as well as migrant shorebirds, depend on strong protections for Gateway's wild places.
Photo © François Portmann

In August 2013, the National Park Service released a draft of a new General Management Plan (GMP) for the Gateway National Recreation Area. After a period of careful review, NYC Audubon concluded that many aspects of NPS’s preferred plan would be detrimental to the birds and habitat of Gateway. NYC Audubon responded to NPS’s preferred plan by developing a set of recommendations and working through the fall and winter to build political and public support for their incorporation by NPS into the final GMP. Earlier this month, NPS released the final version of the GMP, which has been revised to include some of the recommendations provided by NYC Audubon.

During the public comment period for the draft GMP last fall, NYC Audubon submitted an extensive list of detailed comments to NPS regarding changes to the GMP. The following is a brief summary of NYC Audubon's three principal recommendations and what the final GMP includes:

Recommendation: Continue to restrict access to the islands of the Jamaica Bay and Staten Island units. NPS’s preferred plan called for opening several of the islands of Jamaica Bay for camping and for the construction of a dock on Hoffman Island, which would be opened for visitation. Regardless of the time of year, human intrusion on these islands had the potential to harm birds and habitat. Current NPS policy restricts visitor access to all of these islands, and NYC Audubon strongly recommended that this policy should be maintained.

Result: In the final GMP, NPS has decided to categorize all of the islands of the Jamaica Bay and Staten Island units as ‘sensitive resource subzones’, effectively barring all camping and visitation to those islands. A number of other critical habitat areas throughout Gateway have also been rezoned to afford them greater protection, including the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Breezy Point tip, Bergen Beach, Floyd Bennett Field, Great Kills Park, and Plumb Beach, where NPS has cancelled a major recreation program in order to prioritize the protection of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs.

 

Recommendation: Recognize wildlife as a ‘fundamental resource’ of Gateway. ‘Fundamental resource’ is a term that NPS applies to features and characteristics of a park that they believe are an integral part of the experience of that park. Classification of a resource as ‘fundamental’ affords that resource special consideration when NPS considers taking actions that may adversely affect it. For many reasons, including the fact that Jamaica Bay is a globally important bird area, NYC Audubon believed that wildlife should be considered a fundamental resource of Gateway.

Result: Ultimately, NPS did not decide to classify wildlife as a fundamental resource of Gateway in the final GMP. However, the final GMP does contain new language, citing facts provided by NYC Audubon regarding the significance of the wildlife of Gateway. While this suggests a greater internal understanding of the level of protection that should be afforded to wildlife and habitat, it does not guarantee that NPS will offer any additional protection of these resources.

 

Recommendation: Hire commissioned park rangers to patrol the Jamaica Bay unit. NPS’s preferred plan suggested that park attendance could be expected to increase by between 450,000 to 900,000 visitors, annually. Currently, the Jamaica Bay unit is patrolled by park and city police, who report to city enforcement authorities. Given the anticipated increase in visitation, NYC Audubon believed that it was imperative that the park should be also be patrolled by commissioned rangers, expert enforcement staff who are trained in the protection of natural resources. Additionally, commissioned park rangers would report to NPS authorities, rather than city authorities.

Result: NPS has not indicated that they will staff the Jamaica Bay unit with commissioned rangers.

 

The GMP is currently in a 30-day public review period. At the end of May, NPS will issue a record of decision, finalizing the plan. Additional information about the GMP may be found here. While NYC Audubon is very pleased that NPS has agreed to continue to restrict access to the islands of the Jamaica Bay and Staten Island units, we are disappointed that NPS has decided against classifying wildlife as a fundamental resource and will not be staffing the Jamaica Bay unit with commissioned rangers. We will continue to work to encourage NPS to adopt these changes, and you can join us in our efforts by contacting NPS Planner Helen Mahan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The release of the General Management Plan brings the potential restoration of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge's West Pond into the forefront of matters soon to be decided by the National Park Service. Click here to learn more about this important issue and read NYC Audubon's restoration recommendations.

NYC Audubon would like to thank all those that have supported us in our efforts on this campaign, including the offices of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, and Congressman Joseph Crowley.


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