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Up a creek: Gerritsen Beachers blast Belt Parkway drainage plan

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The city’s plan to drain rain runoff from the Belt Parkway into Gerritsen Creek has neighbors fearing for their waterway.

The storm water collection system now under construction will dump the parkway’s filthy runoff — along with all the road salt, leaked oil, antifreeze, and rubbish carried with it — directly into Gerritsen Creek, and locals are concerned about the effects, from flooding to pollution, it will have on their cherished waterway.

“That d--- thing is going to be dumping rainwater — anything off the Belt Parkway — into the creek,” said George Broadhead, president of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association. “We’re hoping to stop it before it’s too late.”

The drain, which is scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2017, is part of one of seven Belt Parkway bridges the Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct. The storm water collection system will drain three lanes of the highway into the water. But Broadhead is worried that the three-lane plan, which he fears may eventually include all six lanes of the parkway, is going to overwhelm the relatively small creek, and would be better absorbed into the much larger Jamaica Bay.

“Why not into Jamaica Bay, where there is so much more water to dilute it?” said Broadhead.

One community activist who has spent more than 15 years fighting to cleanup the local creek said that sending the water into Jamaica Bay is a more logical choice since it wouldn’t directly disturb a residential area.

“They’re basically putting the pollutants where the people live, swim, and play, rather than the larger open body that goes out to sea,” said longtime activist Michael Taylor.

The Department of Transportation said all of the storm water collection systems will gather, convey, and discharge rainwater from the roadways into the nearest body of water, and are designed and constructed according to the requirements of Department of Environmental Protection, which will monitor the storm water collection system after the construction system is completed.

One Gerritsen Beacher pointed out that a natural filtering system had long handled the rainwater runoff, and absorbed the pollution and debris that will now flow directly into the creek — and she said this change would definitely disturb the water, fish, and residents.

“It came off of the roadway and into the marsh, which is nature’s filter,” said Kelly O’Brien, who has lived in Gerritsen Beach for 20 years. “How could they be okay with gasoline and antifreeze and all that stuff dumping into the water and think that won’t affect the marine life?”

One longtime local, whose home looks out over the construction site, said it isn’t the sight of the massive drain that bothers him — it is the unforeseen consequences for the environment in Gerritsen Creek.

“It is not seeing it — it is the effect,” said Ray Schaefer. “There is more than meets the eye.”

Broadhead said caring for the creek is not about politics — it is about ensuring that the neighborhood stays safe for the next generation.

“I never expected to be involved with environmental issues, but I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and if we don’t concern ourselves with oceans, rivers, and creeks now, it may be too late for them to turn back the tide,” said Broadhead, who added that his daughter was thrilled with his new activism. “She said, ‘Good for you, Daddy, I’m proud of you.’ ”

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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