Flushing: A bay by any name would smell as foul

By Len Maniace

The name of the community at the end of the No. 7 train is an accident of history. Settlers from the Netherlands named their 17th Century settlement after the Dutch city Vlissingen, which was Anglicized to Flushing by  the British who soon followed.

FlusihngBay VintageMap

A vintage roadmap featuring Flushing Bay.

When it comes to the adjacent Flushing Bay, however,  the name seems like some perverse fate.  Despite progress in cleaning up most New York waterways Flushing Bay remains a foul-smelling holdout.

The problem, literally, is due to flushing, as in untreated household sewage. But there’s hope we may soon smell a difference in the bay’s characteristic aroma. New York City is under a state order to produce  a pollution-control plan for Flushing Bay and the nearby Flushing Creek which empties into the bay. The public gets its chance to help shape the plan Saturday, March 5, aboard the cruise ship Skyline Princess, which will be docked at the World’s Fair Marina in what’s billed as a Clean Water Community Meeting.

Like household liquid waste from around the city, the flushes that end up in Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek are supposed to be cleaned in wastewater treatment plants. Even moderate rains, however, can overload those plants, sending untreated sewage into local waterways. That’s because older cities have combined sewer systems that handle both household wastewater and storm water runoff that runs along curbs and into catch basins.

Since it would be too expensive to install another sewer system to separate the two flows, city officials have adopted a variety of strategies to either divert or delay the storm water that would otherwise overload the treatment plants. The city has built some underground storage tanks to temporarily hold rainwater and snow melt, but those are expensive, disruptive and usually not welcome neighbors.

Flushing Bay Photo

New York City is considering plans to address the troubled Flushing Bay. Photo credit: Tara Engberg, Daily News.

Increasingly New York is focusing on what’s know as green infrastructure, such as green roofs, permeable pavement and bioswales, which are curbside gardens designed to divert curbside runoff into the soil in these gardens that typically include street trees and perennials.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has submitted an initial plan for Flushing Creek that is likely to meet some criticism from environmentalists. It would not call for reducing the amount of untreated sewage entering the creek; it would require only the periodic use of a disinfectant at one of its major sewer outfalls. Also planned is the dredging of 17.5 acres of the bay on either side of World’s Fair Marina.

Though Flushing Bay is underused as a recreation area, its cleanup could make this a very different place. Just imagine the water cleansed and the bay fringed by grasses and wetlands; Not only would it be attractive, but it could also be an important habitat for wildlife.

The event is sponsored by Guardians of Flushing Bay;  S.W.I.M. Coalition (Storm Water Infrastructure Matters); Riverkeeper, and Skyline Cruises.

If you plan to go: Saturday, March 5th at 2 p.m. on board the Skyline Princess at World’s Fair Marina (the cruise ship will be docked for the meeting.) RSVP: facebook.com/GuardiansofFlushingBay or email GuardiansofFlushingBay@gmail.com
The marina can be reached by both transit and car. Directions.

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About lenmaniace

Award-winning writer and editor who has worked as a journalist and a corporate communications professional specializing in environmental sustainability and public health policy. Experience includes successful media outreach for a Manhattan publicity firm. Board member and president of a community-based nonprofit. Founder and leader of a series of successful park, art and environmental programs in Jackson Heights, Queens, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the nation’s most diverse city. * Executive Editor at Elsevier, a leading scientific and medical publisher. * Publicist, Media Advisor, Social Media Manager (part-time) at Monteiro & Co., a book-marketing company that specializes in business management, economics and politics. * Reporter (part-time) at the New York Post, specializing in breaking news in the world’s most competitive media market. * Senior Writer and Editor at The Journal News/LoHud.com, Gannett’s daily news outlet in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties. Specialized in health policy and environmental sustainability issues * President the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, a volunteer nonprofit civic organization in Queens, N.Y. Leader of its innovative environmental sustainability programs, including the Green Agenda for Jackson Heights.
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