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New Top-Tier Research Institute, Conservancy Coming to Jamaica Bay

By Katie Honan | August 12, 2013 9:30am | Updated on August 12, 2013 6:16pm
	 The Jamaica Bay Science and Resilience will be a top-tier research institute to study climate change. 
New Jamaica Bay Resilience Institute Announced
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QUEENS — A top-tier research institute will use Jamaica Bay as a "laboratory" to study coastal protection and climate change for New York City and beyond, officials announced Monday.

The sprawling shoreline, as well as the peninsula's miles of beaches, will also be served by a new conservancy, which will use public and private funds to continue to maintain the coastline, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The moves came as officials announced a new $100 million grant competition that will fund projects that enhance wildlife habitat and protect the storm-battered coast from future storms.

The grant is funded through Sandy relief dollars and is being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the announcement about the Jamaica Bay Science and Resilience Institute along with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Peter J. Madonia of the Rockefeller Foundation and others at Riis Landing in Rockaway.

The institute — as well as the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, which was also announced Monday — is the result of an agreement made in 2011 between the National Parks Service and the city to manage the parkland around the bay.

“The new consortium we’re announcing today is an all-star team of research institutions and non-profits who will do important work to protect and preserve the urban ecosystems from development and from the effects of climate change,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

The city has made an initial commitment of $3 million towards the institute, the mayor said, and additional money will be provided through the Rockefeller Foundation.

The institute will study how to rebuild the coastline from the ravages of Sandy as well as how to protect the area, and others like it, from future storms.

The conservancy, like the one that helps fund Central Park, will also allow for continued fundraising to protect both the bay and the ocean, according to the Parks Department.

Jewell also called Jamaica Bay a “great laboratory” to find ways to protect New York, and other cities, as climate change continues to threaten the coast.

“Jamaica Bay is going to be a perfect, perfect place for the whole country to learn about resilience, and about science, and how these natural ecosystems, in combination with the man-made ecosystems, actually are going to act,” she said.

The team of scientists and researchers based out of the institute will be led by the City University of New York, and will include an “all-star team” of scientists from Columbia University, Cornell University, Rutgers University and other schools, the mayor said.

The city has not decided on a location for the institute, but Parks Department Commissioner Veronica White said they will begin research work as soon as possible while they look for a location.

A beach grass nursery is already underway in Floyd Bennett Field to grow some of the "green" protection that will be used along the water, Parks said.

The Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy will be lead by Tom Secunda, one of the founding partners of Bloomberg LP and a board member on the National Parks Conservation Association.

Fundraising done by the conservancy will hopefully help pay for some of the studies and efforts lead by community-based groups, such as the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers.

"These people, they get things done," said Dan Mundy Jr., president of the group.

"All the stuff that we've been fighting to do will be funded. They'll be able to study it better, and also for the local economy, you'll have an opportunity for people to come in and spend money."