President's Letter

What Will It Take to Protect Nature 
and Open Space on Staten Island?

A summary of our environmental work shows what’s at stake. 

FOLKS ACROSS STATEN ISLAND MAY HAVE BEEN ON PAUSE these past few months but the natural world continues to flow through the seasons. And as we approach autumn, it is wise to reflect upon the year that was in preparation for the year to come. 

When summer arrived, City Hall was pressed to rework the city’s beleaguered budget. The mayor’s office initially defunded the Deer Impact Management Plan, the vasectomy program that led to a decrease in births of white-tail deer on Staten Island. In response, Protectors of Pine Oak Woods drafted a letter, signed by each of the Island’s environmental organizations, to reinforce the need for the vasectomy program. Funding for the program has been reinstated.

On a hot sunny day in July, Protectors joined with Borough Hall for an opportunity to visit and share the exclosures of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve with reporters from and the S. I. Advance. The print and digital versions of the story and video are available at and on our Facebook page. (If you are on Facebook, please “like” us and share our page with your “friends.”)

Just a week after that visit to Clay Pit (our first successful effort at preservation in 1975), we heard the dreaded news that a small population of spotted lanternflies was found at a location within the park The spotted lanternfly is a gorgeous insect with bright patterning in both the nymphal and adult stages of its life cycle. Unfortunately, the spotted lanternfly is known to inflict a heavy toll on trees and shrubs. The pupae survive on sap, which leave trees and shrubs vulnerable at best, and too often dead. Since July, Protectors has received reports and photos of the insect from across the Island. Everyone is encouraged to continue reporting the spotted lanternfly to Protectors, but more importantly, please notify the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation at

All the while, Protectors continues to advocate for the preservation of natural areas and open space during the ongoing efforts of the Staten Island Department of City Planning Working Group. Protectors board members have represented the environmental voice of Staten Island with a full-throated defense of open space at meetings with city planners, architects, local developers and the land-use chairpersons for each community board.

Similarly, and more specifically, Protectors has been pressing for the denial of waivers for the proposed construction of three, four-story apartment buildings at the foot of Nelson Avenue in Great Kills. Situated across from Seaside Wildlife Nature Park, this small parcel of land would be ideal for an expansion of the busy park. Through the years, State Senator Andrew Lanza has fought to prevent construction on this site, even causing a change to local zoning when he was in the City Council. Now, with his strong support, Protectors is working to have this property purchased and transferred to NYC Parks. There will be a public hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals sometime in October to discuss waivers requested by the developer that would allow the building project to move forward. Your participation at that meeting would be appreciated and Protectors will share more information as it becomes available.

Staten Island, our wonderful island of green, the Borough of Parks, is constantly under assault. Whether considering hungry deer, inconsiderate people discarding plastic bags—and now gloves and masks—in parking lots, or neighbors spraying a collection of chemicals ill-suited for close living, there is a sense of urgency to the work of Protectors. It is this urgency that brings us to Protectors, that inspires us to join, to share our membership with others, to get involved. 
As members of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods we champion the natural world on Staten Island and work to protect our borough for the future of our children and their families. Let us celebrate both our success during the year that was, as well as prepare for the many challenges we are sure to face during the year ahead.

—Cliff Hagen

Fall 2020

© 2020 by Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, Inc.