Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Plum Island's Future

Officials in the Town of Southold, which encompasses Plum Island, are starting to plan for its future, and real estate brokers are speculating about its use and its value. reports:

...the town will be conducting a planning study over the next year-and-a-half to determine future zoning regulations. ...

Supervisor Russell asserted last summer and again this week that "no high end subdivisions" will find their way onto the island. "We have plenty of those in town," he said.

John Nickles, co-owner of Lewis and Nickles Real Estate, cited a resort development as the island's “prime use," though admitted the laboratories wouldn't be quite suitable for it. As far as a price tag goes, “Robins Island was the last island sold, for $11 million. Though Plum Island could be stigmatized," he added. On a per-acre analysis, adjusted for inflation, Plum Island's land value alone would compare to $32.3 million, not counting any infrastructure considerations or perception of ecological blemish.

“I'm curious to see what happens myself," Donielle Cardinale, of Cardinale Realty Group, commented. “It's hard to put a price on any kind of stigma that might be attached to the island, but you can't put a price on the uniqueness of the island either. It isn't that often that islands are sold around here. The market value will be determined by whoever comes in and puts a price on it, which will depend on the uses that they're looking for there."


Monday, March 29, 2010

Oystering on the Air

Leonard Lopate interviewed a couple of experts on oystering, from the Chesapeake area and New York, on his show last week. I listened to it via podcast on my way to work this morning and found it interesting.


Oyster Gardening

I love this program, called the Rhode Island Oyster Gardening for Restoration and Enhancement. Here's how a Massachusetts paper called South Coast Today describes it:

The program, known as RI-OGRE ... works by enlisting community volunteers, such as homeowners with docks and boat owners with mooring balls, to provide a secure temporary home for floating cages of baby oysters. The oyster floats, 3 feet by 4 feet wide, contain mesh bags with seed oysters that, when sufficiently large, can be planted around the bay. Oyster gardening seeks to restore water quality and permit oyster populations to become self-sustaining. There is no intent to harvest what is grown.

And this...

"Oysters have tremendous filter feeding capacities and they improve the water quality by filtering between 50 and 60 gallons of water a day," said Steve Patterson, the shellfish field manager at Roger Williams University, which operates the Narragansett Bay gardening program. "Oysters are a keystone species in estuaries in that they also provide habitat for creatures like silversides, mummichog and baby crabs that make up the beginning of the estuary food webs," he said.

Apparently it's been going on in New York:

The NY/NJ Baykeeper gardening program has been operating since 2000.

There, gardened oysters are planted on reef restoration sites in order to provide spawning adult oysters according to Christine M. Lynn, oyster program assistant with the Baykeeper program. But concerns about a potential health threat if gardened oysters are sold commercially have also become an issue in New Jersey, she said. "I think the oyster gardening programs in South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina are far ahead of us in terms of acceptance from regulators, but this is mostly because they still have relatively pristine waters to work in," Lynn said.

Since its inception around Narragansett Bay, oyster gardening has benefitted the environment and should be encouraged said Dale Leavitt, associate professor of marine biology at Roger Williams University.

"It's certainly obvious that the services the oysters provide make it worth putting them out there," he said. "As far as the disease issues that caused the demise of oysters in the first place, we're cleaning a lot of that stuff up now so there's a good chance for success in re-establishing these ecosystems they way they used to be. And there's a lot of value to that."

From a regulatory standpoint, the main obstacle remains the potential human health risk, Leavitt said.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

All of Connecticut's Spawning River Herring Seem to be in the Mianus River

Now that spring spawning season is here for anadromous fish (or diadromous, as they seem to be called now), two things are incredible:

1. there are so few river herring left in Connecticut that it is illegal to fish for them.

2 the Mianus River continues to get thousands of spawning river herring -- 33,000 last year (click here and scroll almost all the way down).


Friday, March 19, 2010

Assuming It's Not Contaminated With Highly Infectious Animal Diseases, Plum Island Would Be a Great Public Acquisition

While New Rochelle is reopening the discussion about developing Davids Island, the federal government is thinking about what to do with Plum Island, 100 miles to the east (and which I was surprised to see is 840 acres in size -- much bigger than I would have guessed). The feds operate a research lab for highly infectious animal diseases on Plum Island; it's off-limits to everyone except employees of the lab.

The New London Day reports:

No appraisal of the property has been done, Santangelo said. The agency plans to open an office in Southold, N.Y., where potential buyers can obtain information about the property, she said. Along with the lab, the island also has a lighthouse dating from 1869 and the remains of an Army base, Fort Terry.

As part of the process, the public will be invited this spring to meetings in Old Saybrook and Southold to give input about issues that should be considered in the environmental study and the possible sale. Notices will be issued two weeks before the meetings.

Meetings will also be scheduled in the two towns this summer for the public to review and comment on a draft version of the environmental study before it is made final. The study would describe all the contamination issues so any potential buyers "have full information about what is there," Santangelo said.

Plum Island is part of the moraine left by the receding Wisconsinan ice sheet 20,000 years or so ago (I'm writing from my memory of chapter 2 of my book), the other parts around here being the north shore of Long Island and Orient Point, Great Gull and Little Gull Islands, Fishers Island, and the coast of Rhode Island.

I've never been on Plum Island but I spent a weekend on Great Gull, in May of 1987, and it is a wild, fully-exposed-to-the-elements environment. Depending on what the contamination studies find, it would be great if The Nature Conservancy or the Trust for Public Land could snap it up, when it finally comes onto the market.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Develop Davids Island? That Idea Is Being Floated Again? Seriously?

Now that the federal government has spent $26 million in taxpayer money to clean up Davids Island, the mayor of New Rochelle wants to develop it. Here's an excerpt from Mayor Noam Bramson's State of the City address last week:

Before concluding this discussion of development and planning strategy, I’d like to mention just one more site.

It is mere feet from the New York City border, yet a world away in its character. It is unique, and valuable in ways that defy standard measure. It is a nearly eighty-acre blank canvas that has stirred passion and debate for more than fifty years.

It is Davids Island.

Now, lest we forget, history tells us that Davids Island is a tough nut to crack. The myriad visions inspired by it are often incompatible – with each other, and with the hard realities of economics, politics, and environmental concern. One person’s dream of taxproducing high rises, is another person’s nightmare of sewage and traffic. For every advocate of a public park, there is a skeptic who asks: where is the funding or the demand to make it real.

In almost every prior instance, the City has reacted to a proposal from outside, based on someone’s else’s interests, instead of first shaping a plan based on ours.

And because the conflicts it generates have proven so intense and distracting, when Davids Island is on the front burner, it has a way of knocking everything else off the stove.

This history has, until now, made me hesitant to open a fresh debate about the island’s future.

But the time is right at last.

First, through the great work of Congresswoman Nita Lowey and the Army Corps of Engineers, we have benefited from a federal investment of $26 million dollars, resolving many of the surface environmental conditions that would otherwise pose serious impediments to progress.

Second, to be honest, the slow economy reduces the time pressures associated with our various other initiatives, and allows us to devote to Davids Island the necessary effort and attention.

Third, new design sensibilities and technologies give us options that did not previously exist, possibly resolving tensions between economic and environmental goals.

And fourth, the opportunity costs are low, which is another way of saying: what have we got to lose.

So I suggest that the City do what, on Davids Island, it has never done before. I suggest that we devise our own conceptual plan, not in response to a sales pitch from any specific builder, but as a basis for issuing our own request for proposals, aimed at achieving our own vision.

Tonight, I am asking the City’s development and planning staff, led by our new Commissioner Michael Freimuth, to establish a process for soliciting community, regional, and stakeholder input, establishing development criteria, and then selecting an appropriate development partner or partners.

And while it would be entirely premature to settle, or even raise, every question right now, I offer the following general principles as starting points:

Number one, our plan should include meaningful public access to ensure that the beauty of Davids Island can be experienced by all of our citizens.

Number two, our plan should fit within the dimensional envelope of the City’s Draft Local Waterfront Revitalization standards, which place clear restrictions on height and density, set open space minimums, and establish a preference for water-borne access.

And number three, perhaps most important, our plan should feature sustainable design of worldclass quality. We should insist on a product of global demonstration value, that befits the Island’s unique status and potential – visionary architecture, cutting-edge operation, and innovative approaches to energy use, waste reduction, resource consumption and conservation.

Let’s rule out right away run-of-the-mill, standard-brand construction that could be sited anywhere, anytime. And let’s find partners, reaching out to the very best in the field, who are just as interested in making a statement as in making a dollar.

The perpetual struggle at Davids Island has for too long pitted builders against environmentalists, local economic goals against regional planning models. A project based on and inspired by the concept of sustainability can at long last bring these objectives together.

There are no guarantees, and this road may prove as fraught with hurdles as those tried before, but let us resolve tonight to put aside our preconceptions and past positions, and with fresh eyes and fresh hopes, take the first steps together.
If we succeed, then people throughout the world who are interested in sustainable design and living will say to each other: to see the shape of the future, you must come to New Rochelle.


eXTReMe Tracker