Open Space Preservation to Benefit from Bond Act
PROTECTORS OF PINE OAK WOODS has long championed the preservation of open space on Staten Island. So, when last November, the people of New York voted to approved the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act (EBA), we were hopeful.
This past August, when the borough president, at the urging of Protectors, invited the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to share their EBA presentation with Staten Island, we were encouraged. And when each of Staten Island’s elected representatives, along with a host of engaged community based organizations, including Protectors, gathered at the College of Staten Island with the regional director of the DEC, we were excited. It was clear, Protectors was out front, shaping Staten Island’s concerted advocacy for our share of EBA funding.
Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has been leading Staten Island’s effort to organize, strategize and support the Island’s consistent advocacy at the State level to maximize our portion of the EBA allocations.
Prior to the summer of 2023, Protectors had been calling upon the DEC, Economic Development Corporation and each of our elected representatives to mitigate the taking of open space, a land rush for the burgeoning wind farm industry staging along our shoreline. While nearly half a billion dollars were earmarked for wind energy infrastructure, not a penny was budgeted to offset the taking of acres and acres of open space for the development of this new industry.
Our efforts took root, began to grow and bore fruit, for this summer’s meeting with DEC was initiated in response to our calls for an offset to the cement and steel hued footprint of “green” energy on Staten Island.
Soon after DEC’s presentation, the Staten Island constituents gathered again to share concerns, to generate a list of ideas in search of funding and to identify priorities around which our State representatives could focus their advocacy in Albany.
The EBA was designed to address rather specific environmental issues. Each allocation will be shared in support of projects that fall within parameters set forth within the EBA language. Funding will be allocated to four program priorities: Advancing Environmental Justice, Mitigating Climate Change, Creating Jobs and Protecting Natural Resources. Here on Staten Island we could purposefully and responsibly spend a bulk of the EBA funding. However, we are competing with 61 other counties, other cities, other communities in need of relief from flooding and storm surge, in need of “green” jobs, sustainability and resiliency, so we will continue to guide and advise our State representatives and DEC administration with an expectation that Staten Island deserves a fair share of the available financing.
It may be a year, probably more, possibly a decade before Staten Island receives funding, but funding we shall receive. The borough president and our State representatives are forceful proponents of Staten Island. If, however, Staten Island is not too soon receiving EBA allocations for appropriate requests, then Protectors will be sure to step up and advocate with the strong voice of a thousand members for the preservation of open space on Staten Island.
—Cliff Hagen, Fall 2023