Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted historic progress on three major projects at Gateway National Recreation Area that will make the park more accessible to New York City residents and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation and education as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative.
The projects, which are the result of an unprecedented partnership formed by Secretary Salazar and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2009, include the completion of the Jamaica Bay Greenway Trail, establishment of the Jamaica Bay Science and Resilience Institute, and the launching of the Career Technical Education Center.
"When I met with Mayor Bloomberg two years ago, we agreed that we would work together to make Gateway a model urban park that would be accessible and inviting to the people of New York, especially for young people," Salazar said. "Over the past two years, we've not only entered into an historic agreement to achieve these goals but we have translated it into on-the-ground projects that are transforming the park and demonstrating the true power of the partnership that the Department and New York City have forged."
Last year, Salazar and Bloomberg signed an historic Cooperative Management Agreement that spells out how the Department and the City will jointly manage and enhance more than 10,000 acres of city and National Park Service land in and around Jamaica Bay to create a seamless and interconnected network of improved recreation spaces."Secretary Salazar has been an outstanding partner in protecting New York City's precious natural resources," said Mayor Bloomberg.
"Most importantly, he has helped us write an exciting new chapter for Jamaica Bay. Our Cooperative Management Agreement will unify the many public parks surrounding Jamaica Bay into one grand public park and will bring tremendous benefits to the bay and the visitors who enjoy it."
Recently, Salazar and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced more than $1.5 million in new funding for the Jamaica Bay Greenway in Queens. The funding, which comes from the Federal Transit Administration's Transit in Parks program, will be used to construct a ferry dock at Jacob Riis Park, create additional public access points along the northern section of the Jamaica Bay Greenway, and complete a bicycle-pedestrian path which circles Jamaica Bay.
The completion of the dock and greenway access projects will make it easier for New York City's more than 8 million residents and 50 million annual visitors to reach and enjoy Jamaica Bay.
"Working together, we look forward to providing New Yorkers with amazing outdoor experiences just minutes from their homes in ways that will serve as a model for what is possible in urban areas across the country," said Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Linda Canzanelli.
An annual report released in February by the National Park Service showed that 7.7 million people visited Gateway National Recreation Area in 2011, generating $151 million in economic activity and supporting nearly 700 jobs.
In addition, the Cooperative Management Agreement resulted in the establishment of the Jamaica Bay Conservancy, a nonprofit organization created to support the execution of NPS and NYC's goals in Jamaica Bay.
The Conservancy's board has recently helped to advance a key initiative envisioned by the agreement: the establishment of a Jamaica Bay Science and Resilience Institute. The Institute will coordinate habitat restoration, research and resource management activities in the Bay and be a leader in work related to climate change and resiliency.NPS and the City recently selected a consortium of educational institutions and other partners, which is led by the City University of New York and includes Rutgers, Stony Brook and Columbia, to be the primary partner with the City and NPS in advancing the Institute's work.
NPS and the City plan, upon the successful completion of negotiations, for the Institute to be up and running and conducting projects by this summer.
"In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the work of the Institute will be even more important as it focuses on understanding the effects of climate change and sea level rise and how communities can adapt and be more resilient," said Will Shafroth, acting commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor.
The cooperative agreement also is facilitating the opening of the Careers & Technical Education School, a partnership between the National Park Service and NYC Department of Education. The school, named the Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship High School, will offer training in carpentry, landscape management, decorative finishes, and masonry to support the restoration of historic structures and landscapes.
Upon graduation from Mather High School, named for Stephen T. Mather, first director of the National Park Service, students can choose to enter the job market directly, join an apprenticeship program or go to college. The program, located in lower Manhattan and open to youth in all five boroughs, will hold its first class this September.
Meanwhile, the cooperative agreement has improved visitor experiences at city and NPS lands in Jamaica Bay and Staten Island in many other ways.
These include ensuring the availability of concessions for kayak and bicycle rentals and food trucks at the many parks that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, coordinating the deployment of youth conservation corps to places in greatest need for restoration, and pooling resources to educate the public on the many natural and historic resources in Jamaica Bay.